Steve Hartman Turns His Favorite Memories Into Works of Art

This article is re-posted with permission from The Prairie Land Buzz Magazine.

Written by Nicole Plegge.

Steve Hartman Turns His Favorite Memories Into Works of Art

The most incredible memories can be created in the most ordinary of moments. For those of us who grew up in small-town Illinois, a bite of frozen custard or a night out at the drive-in can tug at our heart strings and take us back to a special moment in our lives.

It’s this feeling that Edwardsville artist Steve Hartman has been able to bring to life through his art. Hartman has captured on canvas the local places and experiences that resonate with his family and strike a chord with his fans.

The simple joys in life have inspired Hartman’s work, both in his photography and his paintings, and gained him accolades in the art world. “My work is truly about the moment. Each thing I paint has to move me somehow and be meaningful to capture as far as the experience. It’s typically a scene I’ve taken a photo of. From a visual standpoint, if there’s a dynamic angle or color, that visual interest paired with a special moment is something I would want to paint and what moves me the most.”

The story behind an artist

Growing up in Edwardsville, Hartman always loved painting and was inspired by his teacher and mentor at Edwardsville High School, Dennis DeToye. While attending Eastern Illinois University, Hartman put his love of painting on the back burner as he concentrated on his BA in Graphic Design.

Since entering the communications field in 1992, Hartman has become revered in the graphic design and advertising industries for his award-winning work, having been featured in design publications nationwide and serving on the national board of the AIGA, the professional association for design. Today, Hartman is creative director for Falk Harrison, a brand communication agency in St. Louis.

While his work life has focused on graphic design, in January 2013, Hartman decided to give painting a shot once again. Hartman had long encouraged others to find time in their busy schedules to let their inner painters break free and finally decided to take his own advice. Already an avid photographer, Hartman began transforming his favorite photos into oil paintings, celebrating his love of food, his love of family and his love of the community.

 “Most of the pictures I’ve taken just happen to be food-related or experiences I’ve had with my kids and family. I took a picture of two of my boys at Northside Dairy Haven as they waited for ice cream and immediately thought – wouldn’t that be a great picture? Other paintings show businesses with a strong history in Edwardsville – like Eaker’s Barbershop where my family gets their hair cut or the butcher shop across the street, which touches on my love of food.”

Other muses for Hartman have included the Litchfield Drive-In Theater, Stagger Inn and the Chain of Rocks water intake tower. In addition, his food-themed pieces, such as Slabs of Bacon and Trinity, have made an impression with both art fans and foodies alike.

Almost immediately after picking back up his paintbrush, Hartman began showing his paintings at galleries and art shows across the community. Since January, Hartman’s work has been featured in juried shows at both Jacoby Arts Center in Alton and the Edwardsville Art Center (EAC), while his professional graphic design work has continued to flourish.

Said Hartman, “I’m pretty blessed with my career in graphic design, and happy that my career can afford me the time and ability to paint.”

A supporter of art, an advocate for the community

As recognized as Hartman is for his talents, he’s equally renowned for his support of the Edwardsville community, both in terms of promoting the arts and elevating local businesses.

For the past 10 years, Hartman has served on the board of the EAC, joining other artists and creatives in an effort to bring local and international art to residents, foster Metro East artists, and advance arts education in the region.

“In the future, I see EAC become known more for its involvement in schools. Our goal is to have more traction in the community to get people to understand how creativity and art play a role in learning and business and to build a positive cultural atmosphere. Without that, we don’t have a fully robust community. Our hope is that the community continues to embrace us and understand the importance of art in our everyday lives.”

In addition, Hartman was instrumental in the 2013 Once Upon a Town social media drive to help save Once Upon a Toy, the beloved locally-owned toy store, from closing its doors. By immortalizing the store sign on canvas with his piece, Once Upon a Town, Hartman not only commemorated the legacy of thousands of people who came together to raise $75,000 for a community landmark, but also created a remarkable piece for art lovers who love paintings with an incredible backstory.

Once Upon a Town, along with other pieces from Hartman, are currently on display now through November 29 at Sacred Grounds Café in Edwardsville as part of Gogh-Getters, the restaurant’s display of local and national artwork. Hartman’s show at Gogh-Getters also coincides with the 16th annual ARTEAST, a self-guided tour of galleries, studios and exhibits across Madison County, showcasing the incredible work of the region’s talented artists.

Talented artists like Steve Hartman.