Like many other artists, Plano resident Steve Defoe has a knack for turning his surroundings into a canvas, but one of the canvasses that he has most frequently painted on is an electric box.
Not exactly a conventional medium of visual art, but one that he has mastered enough to retain the town of Little Elm as one of his many clients.
But Defoe’s painting transcends public infrastructure. As he discusses in this profile, his art has taken him all over North Texas and earned him a clientele as diverse as his material palette.
What made you want to dedicate your life to art?
I've always found art to be very relaxing and almost meditative at times. Life is always throwing you curveballs you couldn't possibly predict or prepare for, so art has always been an anchor and a safe place for me. Whether it's creating a pet portrait that gets gifted to someone and becomes a sentimental treasure for an entire family; throwing a paint party where people come together again or meet for the first time in a fun environment and get to forget about their problems for a few hours or painting public art a whole community can enjoy, like electric boxes or large scale murals on the sides of buildings, it all just really fills me with an indescribable joy. I am very aware of how lucky I am to have these opportunities and the support that comes in the form of many facets from my friends, family and surrounding communities.
How did you venture specifically into electric box art?
The town of Little Elm asked me to do their big city mural near City Hall a few years back, and I guess they liked it! They floated the idea of having me paint a bunch of their electric boxes in their park and around their sandy beach shortly afterwards, to provide a few photo opportunities and feature a variety of topics that promoted positive ideas and aspects of the lake, nature preservation, sports, community and imagination, and I knew I had to jump on it. It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. So very few get the opportunity to actually display their art out in the open for the public to enjoy, and with such a positive message, I wasn't about to pass it up!
What are some of your proudest professional achievements?
I've been very fortunate to have been entrusted with some pretty prestigious tasks, and I've also had moments of good luck mixed in there along the way. My proudest moments though? Having been asked to help paint Lava Cantina in The Colony. That was the first time I got to go up in a large crane, stories high, to paint. I have my own line of shoes, which is pretty cool! I'm a huge sneaker head and that always seemed like a dream beyond reach, but right now I have about ten different shoe designs on tattoomyshoes.com, so I get to wear my own shoes! I've gotten to do business installs, chalkboards and music stages for about ten North Dallas businesses, including the stage at The Frisco Bar, Corky's Gaming Bistro, Olivella's, Stan's, Patriot Sandwich Company, Rix, Hula Hut and 3 Flights Taps and Tacos. I got to paint a keg for Shiner Bock beer that was to be displayed at the brewery in Shiner, Texas. I got to speak at a middle school for career day. I've gotten to design a few album covers. I’ve done a few art shows, gotten my art featured on the Nickelodeon TV channel and started my own paint party company.
Are you a native Texan? (Where from?)
Besides having been born in Chicago, and the few years I ran away to Austin, I've spent my entire life here in the greater North and East Dallas areas.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I'm a true music junkie, so my playlists are pretty all over the place. It could literally go from rock to rap, country to EDM. Primarily though I listen to fast-paced, pop/alternative music. Some of my favorite bands right now would be Portugal. The Man, Sleeper Agent, Dandy Warhols, Foo Fighters, Two Door Cinema Club, TV on The Radio, Sir Sly, Joywave, Spoon, Highly Suspect, Beck, 311, Missio, Atmosphere, Run The Jewels, Robert Delong, Death Cab For Cutie and the likes. If I'm listening to radio, it’s always NPR. You'd be shocked at how much new music you'd find there!
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
When I'm in Little Elm I usually pop in to Hula Hut to say hi to friends, but now that I live in Plano, our favorite local spot has become Senor Locos Tex-Mex. Chips and queso make my wife happy, and that makes me happy! Plus their margaritas and patio are legit.
Tell our readers about your family.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have recently married the love of my life! We had a wonderful, rustic, ranch retreat-style wedding out in the country just a month ago. I have a beautiful baby boy named Brian who is now 10 months old and a step son, Gabriel, who is about to be a teenager (duh, duh DUHHH!)
Just kidding! He's so much fun and the things that come out of that kid’s mouth have me laughing constantly. He's got such an original perspective and outlook on life that it's just fun to ask him what he thinks all the time. Putting my family and our new baby first has definitely stunted the amount of art I've been able to pump out the last year or so, but I wouldn't have given up a moment of it for anything. Being able to have this time with my wife and the boys right now and putting them first is far more important than anything I could ever create. I do look forward to being able to get back into painting more heavily again here in the near future, but I think when it’s the right time or opportunity, I'll know. I still have my best days ahead of me, both artistically and with my family. We also have a pit bull named Alice and a Russian tortoise named King Koopa. We call him Koop.
Tell our readers something about you they would never guess to be true.
Wow, where to begin! It's more like, what am I willing to admit. I've had a pretty crazy life!
Uh, well, I was once filmed for the pilot of a reality show, I've almost died several times, I’ve been held up at gunpoint (twice!) and have broken my back in a car wash. I can blow fire. I'm afraid of flying in airplanes. I was in band, choir and, of all things, a step team in high school. I'm also pretty good at voice impressions. I do a pretty solid Barney the Dinosaur and Ernie from Sesame Street. Spoiler alert – it’s the same voice!
What is art?
Simplest put, art is any visual expression. It doesn't need form, or talent. It doesn't need to obey rules. Art is a feeling, captured in a moment, with the crudest of materials. Art can be an impactful few gestures or require a patience and discipline that takes years to complete or perfect. Art is therapy for the soul, and everyone's journey is intimately their own.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Of course I would love to be immortalized and remembered through the art I leave behind and the people I'm able to touch that way along my journey. But as long as I'm remembered for being a good and kind man, a patient and loving husband a father and a fierce friend, then I'll be able to leave this earthly realm satisfied and with great peace.