WELD Artist of the Week: Kyle Steed

Career: Professional Doodler  |  Creative Director at Over
Website: kylesteed.com
Mantra: Work Hard. Trust God. Enjoy Life.
Interview by: Kristin Read

The fact that your About page shares THE perfect crispy bacon recipe instead of about yourself, speaks volumes of your awesomeness. Let’s just start there.

I don’t remember where I learned that trick from, but it’s just so delicious I had to adopt it as my own. I’m a bacon enthusiast through and through. That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever turned down pure, simple bacon cooked to perfection. But the kind dipped in chocolate? Not so much.

Did your mom and dad just lock you in a room with crayons as a child and demand you create? How in the world did you become a master illustrator?

If anything, I remember my mom having to push me out of the house in the summers to go outside, because I would lock myself away and get wrapped up in my imagination. I felt more comfortable while playing or creating with G.I. Joe’s or toy machines. A recently aired episode on NPR’s Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! validated my thinking that kids today don’t have time to be bored. (Kids are so consumed with schoolwork, soccer practice, and video games.) And it really worries me, because research shows that boredom allows us to develop our sense of imagination and creativity. So I guess I would consider myself fortunate to have been born when I was, because I wasn’t continually distracted by things competing for my attention. Sure, I grew up with Nintendo, but I wasn’t a slave to the controller. Moreover, my favorite class in school was always art. Duh!  My mom always encouraged me to create and still proudly displays some of my earliest work in her home. And, in high school, I had a great art/design teacher that really believed in me and pushed me to do better. Having that support is/was a huge confidence boost to me as a teenager.

Will you ever teach your penmanship traits?

Over the past year I’ve had the chance to speak at various conferences, and I’ve realized that most people are mainly interested in one thing: My process. That has grown my desire from just talking about myself to wanting to try my hand at teaching. It seems like the next logical step in a designer’s career path. I could keep doing the same thing over and over, but how much greater would it be to make my work less about me, and instead pass on what I’ve learned to help/inspire others?

If you’re interested I will be teaching my first workshop (aka Creative Lab) at WELD on April 20th from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. You can learn more about it here.  

What is your all-time favorite font, and was it your brainchild?

Helvetica. I know, it’s like saying that McDonalds is your favorite fast-food chain. But I love it. I think it’s one of the most versatile typefaces. Some might say it’s boring, but I think it’s timeless—If a font could ever be timeless. And out of the fonts I’ve created, my personal favorite so far is Clumsy. It is one of my first fonts, and I recently revised it for use in the app, Over.

You and I are both INFJ’s, which oddly enough, only makes up ~1% of the world’s population. How has that affected you professionally? Helped/hurt?

First of all, it’s important to note that I wouldn’t even know what an INFJ is without being married to my lovely ENFJ wife who introduced me to the Myers Briggs personality test. And it’s funny, because it just goes to show you that opposites do attract . . . To the original question, I feel like it’s taken me a long time to accept the way God has made me. Not sure if I can just chalk it up to human nature, or what, but my biggest weakness has always been self-criticism—To the point that I was extremely self-conscious of what others thought of me. I was afraid to make mistakes. I was afraid to look/act different. I lived much of my life in fear that others might not like me. That was until 2002 when a man spoke into my life, “God didn’t make very many like you, you’re unique—but it’s not something that you’ve done on your own, it’s just the way He’s made you.” As most of us do, we find ourselves in a job or career comparing ourselves to others, and convincing ourselves what we aren’t good enough. And I spent years trapped in that mindset. But as I continue to trust and really listen to the Father, I’ve realized that it’s okay to be confident in my work, even if isn’t cool or popular. And I can’t even begin to tell you the blessings that have come along with that.

Pad and pen, pencil, chalk, paint, marker, crayons? What’s your favorite tool?

There was a period of time that I thought using a pencil was cheating. And since then, I’ve realized how silly that is. A pencil is always a great place to start on any project. But honestly, I love the challenge of starting with ink. Pen and paper really forces you to commit to a certain line or stroke. It challenges me to mess up, and keep practicing. But I enjoy working with all types of mediums—chalk, brush, and ink. A lot of people ask what kind of pen/pencil I use, but I don’t think it really matters. I say use what you’ve got and over time you’ll find what works best for you.

Let’s talk Instagram, @kylesteed. Firstly, followers.

I’m a late adopter to Instagram. My wife and I are so 2007—we’re strict Verizon users—which means we had to wait a LONG time to own an iPhone. Once it finally became available, Instagram was the first app I downloaded. I finally had THE phone and THE app to share my photos with the world. The first I shared was a simple sketch on paper that said, “Hello, World!”. For a few months, I shared mostly random shots. But then I started arranging and taking photos of the outfits I’d wear on any given day. A couple weeks later, I was noticed and mentioned by a girl in Austin who posted a similar shot of her clothes (to a following of about 60-70,000 followers)—And that was the day that everything changed. For the next six months or so, my following grew, and I was placed on Instagram’s Suggested Users list without my knowledge. Now I feel like I’ve finally hit a plateau with my following, and I’m okay with that. It’s an honor and blessing to have a platform to speak truth into and inspire others around the world.

Secondly, your newest venture (@over).

Within the last month, I’ve accepted the Creative Director position at Potluck (the parent company). Together, we made an app called Over, which makes it easy to add beautiful text on top of your photos. Without going in depth about the decision I will say this; I wanted to make smart investments now that will continue to be a support for years to come. (Side note: I am open to talking in depth about this decision, or anything faith/design related over a cold beer on a warm evening.)

Where have you found that you complete your best work?

I focus and create my best work alone and without distraction. For me, the creative process is best when I have little visual distractions and I can get my head into my work. However, I find inspiration, and ultimately my best ideas, when I’m not looking for them—when I’m resting or just waking up. Like most artists, I tend to spend hours on end wrestling for creative inspiration, and feel stuck. And over time, I’ve come to trust the act of taking a break—Stepping back from my work, allowing my brain, my soul even, to rest and recuperate. Leaving room for God to mysteriously work His magic . . . That’s when my best work is completed. You may be asking yourself, why work out of WELD? While I may get my best work done when alone, I thrive off of the creative atmosphere of working alongside other artists. It’s truly a blessing to be able to step outside my office and mingle with/be inspired by other creatives. 

If you’re interested I will be teaching my first workshop (aka Creative Lab) at WELD on April 20th from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. We will be covering basic hand-drawn skills and a tons of other fun stuff… You can learn more about my workshop here.

You can keep up with Kyle’s work on Instagram and Twitter.

Doug Klembara