What Jr. High School student would use his minimal allowance to buy a book on Michelangelo?
And what 14 year old does a charcoal drawing of Michelangelo's "David"?
...sets up an easel in the family room to begin painting portraits?
...chooses to not take art classes throughout Jr. High and High school because the assignments weren't challenging enough?
The young Jeff Stevenson.
However once Jeff realized he wanted to study Medical Illustration in college (a "respectable" profession for an artist), he realized a High School art class would be important. His teacher arranged for an exhibition of Jeff's work in the lobby of the school, the first exhibition of Jeff's work in 1979, that resulted in his class voting him "best in art", graduating class of 1980. The Emmaus Green Hornets knew what they were talking about.
Portraits have always been central to Jeff's work.
The human face is the most expressive subject
to communicate human experience.
Jeff attended The Ohio State University and enrolled in general art foundation classes to prepare for the application to the Medical Illustration program that only admitted 6 students each year. During these years the desire to be in the Medical Illustration program overshadowed the very real studio artwork that Stevenson was creating. "The Death of Gaul" (right) was created under the instruction of Professor Hall and was an early exploration of collage imagery as it relates to painting. Of course it was enjoyable to be creating paintings, figure drawing, figure sculpture, short films, technical drawings, and studying art history, but all of it was seen as a stepping stone for the larger goal of the Medical Illustration program.
It wasn't until after being in the Medical Illustration program that Stevenson began to see that his talent was much better suited to the expressiveness of fine art, rather than the technician role in the illustration program. Whenever time or an assignment allowed, Jeff would find a way to be creative with his work, something not often looked for in technical illustration fields. The Medical Illustration Program required its students to also attend The Columbus College of Art and design, specifically for the figure drawing instruction of Dennis Drummond.
Once Jeff graduated from OSU in 1984, and his applications for illustration jobs didn't result in anything, he took a job at a bank to pay the bills, did some free lance display and logo design, and began taking evening classes at Columbus College of Art and Design.
Initially these classes were intended to enhance illustration skills (air brush and watercolor), but eventually Stevenson found himself in figure painting classes with James Moore.Several ways of working emerged during this time. Working with models, both in the classroom and with a few other artists who met in Jeff's apartment in Columbus Ohio, and from photographs taken by Stevenson all around the city, some clear themes revealed themselves.
Stevenson was also making collage compositions and painting from those. For better or worse, most of those images came from commercial sources, fashion magazines, and popular media.
In 1986, The Art Institute of Chicago hosted a traveling exhibit of John Singer Sargent's work. Jeff and his artist friends made the journey to see the show. experiencing Sargent's work in person was of tremendous influence in Stevenson's work. Specifically the bravura paint quality: the paint remains paint, brush strokes are evident, and yet the image is convincingly real - a theme that would be explored in different ways throughout Stevenson's career.
Jeff Stevenson was accepted into the MFA painting program at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio in 1988, after being rejected from several other programs applied to the previous year. The four years Stevenson worked on his portfolio for graduate school were full of self discovery and yet the conflicts between sexuality and spirituality/religion persisted.