Local artist Steffon Moody find a life making art
By Catherine Brown, Reporter & Designer
Since moving to the island 32 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri, local artist Steffon Moody has made a life out of his art. From living in Europe to teaching at Digipen Institute of Technology Moody has grown and transformed his art.
After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, Moody decided to travel to Europe for a few months. He spent much of his time visiting art museums, but eventually wanted to leave.
“I just got sick of [the art],” Moody said. “I just became a hippy and got a van.”
When Moody got to Vashon, he found a “cheap” beach cabin on the south end of Tahlequah. Moody spent his Saturdays beading jewelry at the farmers market, trying to support himself financially. Unlike many, he decided to continue to do art rather than spending his time “as a robot.”
“I couldn’t make all my living from [art], so I had to be a carpenter,” Moody said.
Moody took on various jobs around the island — he fixed small parts of houses, performed at small gigs, and made art by commision.
“[It] gets tiring trying to pretend you’re good at something completely new each month,” Moody said. “I was in that cycle for almost 20 years!”
In 2012 Moody started working at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, hired by fellow teacher Bill Jarcho to start teaching in the Fine Arts program.
Moody’s has spent time in the past, adapting as a performer and a carpenter, and thus problem-solving came to him naturally, as did teaching.
“The cool thing about teaching is that it’s kind of like performing,” Moody said. “You’re having to present information clearly, and … keep people’s attention, and keep the ideas fresh … so I sort of took to it naturally.”
Moody’s experience as a carpenter gave him valuable skills which he utilized in the classroom.
“I just started problem-solving on how to make the fine arts class better,” Moody said. “[I] just started doing what I would do at any gig, and I just started improving the program just by doing common-sense things.”
Yearly repetition of the curriculum allowed Moody to teach his students and himself small yet useful techniques on how to become a better artist.
“Teaching the same class for four years in a row — all of a sudden I really have a chance to get good at something,” Moody said. “I’ve learned more than any of my students. It’s made me such a better artist in general just because I’m always training myself.”
While teaching at DigiPen, Moody learned how to use only three main colors in his oil paintings: cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY).
“The thing with CMY is that you can get almost any color with those three and white,” Moody said. “You don’t just squeeze out burnt sienna or raw amber or yellow oak — you have to get there, and that helps to sort of turn you to color harmony in paintings.”
When Moody first started painting, he began with creating landscapes.
“The thing about landscapes is you can be fairly abstract with it,” Moody said. “You can get away with a lot of stuff.”
Over time, Moody wanted to find a way to change the focus of a painting and make the viewer think about his work.
“If you think about it, there’s still lifes or there’s portraits which are very object-centered, and they are still handling competition, but the landscape is environment-centered,” Moody said. “It’s the whole thing, and then you’re putting some objects in it, so it’s kind of a different sort of its reversing the focus of it.”
In Moody’s art shows, he likes to be diverse and incorporate all varieties of his artwork, whether it be his paintings, his inks, or his drawings. In early April, Moody had a show at The Hardware Store.
“I’ve only had four or five shows in my life because I started this about three-and-a-half years ago, and so now the ball is starting to roll, and I’m booked through 2020 [on island],” Moody said.
Along with displaying art, Moody loves to put on a performance, particularly character improvisation.
“I spent 10 years in the children’s hospital dressed as a clown in the most dire situations imaginable,” Moody said. “It teaches you to be very very present and also be very kind to yourself and everyone else.”
Moody has taken the lessons he has learned and flourished with Vashon’s mixed artistic community.
“The amazing thing about Vashon is that if you think of an idea, you can pretty much just do it.”