"The Language of Silence"
I have always been inclined to let my work speak for itself, believing that should I need to explain it, I have perhaps
failed. At the same time, I am excessively aware of my own curiosity about where other artists’ (visual artists,
writers, composers, etc.) work is born and about the person who gave it life.
I was the second child of four born to a military family in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. At the age of four, my
family moved to an area that could only be described as very rural. I remember having an artistic talent as early
as my first art class at school, when my grade one teacher held my work up as an example to which the other
children should aspire. Despite my artistic talent I was determined to be an actor “when I grew up”. At the age of
nineteen, I moved to Toronto, Canada to study theatre at university. Four years later I graduated from university,
moved into my own apartment, and embarked on a career as an actor and, of course, waiter.
I remember feeling a strange sense of elation upon having survived childhood, a rural environment, education,
and the knowledge that made my sexual orientation, (which was never a mystery or problem to me personally),
would forever cause some people who never met me and would never know me, to hate me and others like me.
Life goes on. Within months of feeling this sense of peace (probably for the first time) a dinner conversation in a
restaurant introduced me to a new word that would forever change my life and the lives of so many others: AIDS.
Life would never be the same again, and the importance of life (my own and others’) would be changed forever
for me. I was surrounded by a plague that stigmatized gay people to a degree that actually exceeded that which
we had already suffered. An overwhelming and paralyzing sense of fear, anger, sadness, and loss enveloped my
life and the lives of so many others.
Being an actor suddenly meant very little to me. I felt powerless. I could not stop the dying or find a cure for the
insidious disease. Maybe, just maybe, I could help find a cure for the hatred, fear, and ignorance that surrounded
so many young men around the world as they lay in hospital beds and drew the last breaths of unfinished lives. I
started to paint.
Slowly, sporadically, and privately I taught myself how to paint (previously I had only drawn) and began creating
paintings about the things that all human beings share. Themes of love, attraction, hope, despair, loneliness, the
beauty of sky, the perfection of a horizon, the power of a person touching another were given life on pieces of
canvas. I created images that came from a place of truth. I tried to make sense of and give order to a world that
seemed to know neither.
It simply never occurred to me to paint about themes in any other context than that of my own life as a person who
happens to be gay. I had never had a problem relating to work created by heterosexuals in a heterosexual
context. Why should I create paintings whose context was anything other than the truth of my life as a gay man?
I started showing my early paintings in gay bars and restaurants in the gay neighbourhood of Toronto. From there
things moved very quickly. Within a short time I was exhibiting and selling my work in high end mainstream
galleries throughout North America, and reproductions of my work throughout the world.
I see my work as a documentation, an interpretation, a crystallization of singular moments rendered in line, color,
light, shadow, using a hundred brushes, a thousand colors, and a million brushstrokes. I strive to make people
stop, if only a moment, think and actually feel something. My paintings contain as many questions as answers.
I hope that in its’silence, the body of my work has given a voice to my life, the lives of others, and in doing so, the
dignity of all people.
May 25, 2000
This page is the first of several
pages of biographical information.
More to be added soon
Introduction written for 2001 calendar
Ten Years of Painting introduction written for 2004 calendar
I came very close this year to making this calendar a “Greatest Hits” compilation. For several reasons; Firstly, I
tend to think of my paintings as songs, with the visual impact being the music, and the inherent ideas and
content being the words. Secondly, I am aware because of verbal comments, written comments to my website,
and the number of sales of reproductions of particular images, that certain paintings are more popular than
others, thus “greatest hits”. Thirdly, I have been painting full time now for ten years and thought that a
“Greatest Hits Collection” might be a sensible and timely idea.
Ten years ago today, I was (obviously), ten years younger. I was painting madly yet with great sanity in
Toronto, Canada (my home since 1980),in preparation for my first solo gallery
exhibition, which was part of the Cultural Festival for the 1994 Gay Games being held in New York City. At that
time I was still (sporadically) employed as an actor, (the discipline I majored in at University), and as a waiter,
(the discipline I majored in between acting jobs). In the previous few years I had begun to paint a few paintings
a year, showing them in group exhibitions throughout Toronto.
My first paintings were born, in some way, from a sense of boredom and lack of employment. The economic
recession greatly affected the amount of work available for both catering waiters and actors (along with many
other people). The genesis of my career was also greatly impacted by the burgeoning AIDS crisis that marked
that period of history and those years of my life. My secret life as a painter was slowly, yet quickly, becoming
As a child growing up in a very rural environment south of Ottawa (the capital city of Canada) I was always
aware that I possessed artistic talent. To me it was just a fact of life, as was my homosexuality, which I was
aware of as far back as I can remember. Both things seemed to separate me from other people. On thing
seemed to make some people like me, while the other thing made some people hate me. It all seemed as
ridiculous to me then as it does now. Despite my artistic talent, I desired to be an actor and moved to “the big
city” of Toronto, when I was 18, to study theatre at University. I had anticipated that the theatre program would
attract many gay guys, and I was correct. I did not know however that each year a reduction of the amount of
students invited back would see a program of 240 students reduced finally to 16, of which I was the only gay
person. Alone again, naturally.
As an actor, I preferred theater to film or television work. Being part of a good production, of a good play, is an
exciting and gratifying venture. Yet in my opinion, an actor is an actor, not an artist. The artist is the playwright
and the director. The actor is used in the realization of their artistic vision. For this reason, the acting
profession was seldom a gratifying artistic experience for me. I remember very clearly a turning point. One
afternoon, as I sat in a small room at a Double Mint chewing gum commercial audition with 6 other actors,
watching an instructional video demonstrating the proper technique for “loading” a piece of gum into one’s
mouth, I decided it was time to concentrate more intensely on painting.
I began teaching myself how to paint several years earlier. Since childhood, I had essentially drawn and
illustrated, yet never really painted. My exposure to a vast amount of European painting while backpacking
through Europe in 1987 was a great inspiration to me. Producing only a few paintings a year with no intention
of showing or selling them, I taught myself the realistic style of painting that I use to this day.
The themes and ideas came from my own life, my own experiences, and that which I observed around me. I
never considered disguising the truths of my life as a gay man in my paintings, in order to gain wider
acceptance in the art world. I have long believed that opening a person’s mind to one idea allows many more
to ideas to flow in. I thought that it was a valid artistic venture to portray gay people as people and not the
“things” that society has always tried to see us as. The style of my painting comes from a general distaste for
the abstraction so prevalent in art of the last century. I would not find painting in such a style challenging or
gratifying. Friends eventually discovered my paintings and convinced me to start showing them. From the very
start, I had no problem selling my work. There was a chain reaction of galleries “discovering” my work in other
galleries and wanting to represent me. I have had many solo exhibitions in cities such as New York, Montreal,
Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Key West, Florida. I travel often to many different cities to sign reproductions
and meet the people who collect my work. I have sold over 98% of the paintings I have created. Since
beginning to paint full-time, I went from producing a few paintings a year to producing approximately 40 per
In 1996 the company Quest Art was created to publish my work exclusively (in calendars, greeting cards, and
prints). These reproductions are carried in stores throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and beyond.
At the same time, Quest Art began to develop my internet website www.stevewalker.com At that time, I knew
nothing about the internet, websites, or computers. I soon realized the vast potential for a worldwide audience
that my website afforded me. I could never satisfied having the only people able to experience my work be
those who saw if on the walls of a gallery or owned an original piece in their home. Considering the relatively
small number of paintings that an artist can actually produce in his/her career and the prohibitive cost of that
work, for me, it was very important to make my work available to a larger audience at much less expense. The
website allows anyone in the world with a computer and an internet connection to experience my work with no
expenditure. I receive beautiful letters from people across the world who have been touched by my work and in
turn, touch me with their words.
As I sit here writing this letter on a restaurant patio beneath the beautiful mounts of San Jose, Cost Rica (I
have been living and painting here for the last three months), it all seems somewhat overwhelming and
surrealistic. The “it” being my life and career. Immeasurable hours spent in solitude with brushes and paint,
countless decisions made listening to only one voice (my own), the faces and thoughts of thousands of people
I have met in distant cities, the myriad of paintings I will never paint, the models I want to forget and the others I
will never forget, and the knowledge that the life of my paintings might escape the mortality of our own lives. I
guess that you can see that I decided against making this calendar a “Greatest Hits” compilation. Perhaps, in
the future. Most of the paintings included here are very recent. Some of the paintings that I’ve created here in
Cost Rica will be included in next year’s calendar. I hope that 2005 brings with it happiness, peace, and love
for all of you, and that we all try to bring the same to each other.
Notes for 2004 calendar "Still Lives"
“The idea for paintings comes from everywhere. From that which I have personally seen or
experienced, to things that are a more universal part of the human condition. I tend to be able to
look at life as a whole, made up of individual moments. I may think for years before making a
specific painting, while another idea may become a painting days after the initial inspiration. I
constantly make notes and sketches of ideas, for fear that I may forget them.” 2003.
“I think of my paintings as songs. The visual impact of the painting is the music, and the actual
content (what is happening) is the words. Of course, for many people, the words do not matter,
and for others, vice versa.” 2003
“It simply never occurred to me to paint about these themes in any other context than that of my
own life as a person who happens to be gay. Why would I create paintings whose context was
anything other than the truth of my life as a gay man?”2003
“The guys who model for me are a very important element of my work. They are like actors are to
a director. They come from all walks of life. As I live in Toronto, Canada, all of the guys have lived
here when I worked with them, although most have origins in places far from Canada. Most have
never modeled before. Many models seem to like to send reproductions of the paintings they are
in to their mothers." 2003
“I see my work as a documentation, an interpretation, a crystallization of singular moments
rendered in line, color, light, shadow, using a hundred brushes, a thousand colors, and a million
brush strokes. I strive to make people stop, if only for a moment, think and actually feel
something. My paintings contain as many questions as answers.” 2000
“I have never pretended to represent, depict, or even understand every homosexual or the sub-
cultures within a gay culture. No heterosexual has ever represented all heterosexual people or all
of their life experiences. It would be both naïve and false for me to even attempt to do so with gay
“Love, Light, Loss, Life.
Touching, Watching, Thinking.
Yearning, Reflecting, Fearing.
I paint about life, mine and yours.
My sexual orientation is unapologetically,
Simple part of that.”
“I have worked within the confines of a realist painter, depicting moments. I think my paintings are
far more about the experience of life, than “gay life”.” 2002
“Realism, Classicism, Romanticism…I really do not think too much about what “style” I am painting
in. I taught myself, so I guess it is my own style. I’m sure that I have been greatly affected (both
positively and negatively, both consciously and subconsciously) by everything my eyes have
seen. My mind processes this information into an image, and my right hand creates a painting. I
hope that my paintings inspire, entertain, provoke, challenge, and in a small way make this world
a more beautiful place to live. I hope that they live on long after all of us.” 2004
with "The Blue Pyjamas", Toronto, 2008
The end...for now