Steven Edgar Bradbury

View South from Yarnell, watercolor on Yupo, 4 ¾ x 6 ¾ inches. 2019 (Property of Vanessa Purdy).



with a micro-interview by Elaine Sexton


ELAINE SEXTON: Your watercolors give the impression, somehow, that they have been painted on glass, or under glass, achieving a fluid and stained quality, surprisingly fresh for what one might expect of an arid climate (Arizona). The literal scrape and sweep of the paint, the experience of looking is kind of organic, which suggests it is for the painter. Would you say a few words about your process?


STEVEN EDGAR BRADBURY: They weren’t painted on glass, but they were painted on a relatively glassy surface: Yupo, a synthetic paper made from polypropylene. I much prefer it to conventional watercolor paper because it doesn’t buckle and can be wiped clean.

The textures you see were produced with the various “applicators” I use to make watercolors: a sponge on a stick that carpenters use for trimming, a metal triangle, paper towels, baby wipes—whatever comes to hand. It’s all very intuitive and unplanned, but the great thing about Yupo paper is that if I don’t like what I’ve done, I can wipe it down and begin afresh.


View Toward Prescott, watercolor on Yupo, 4 ¾ x 6 ¾ inches. 2019.


ES: Since there are only a few of your very recent work done in watercolor, we’d like to include a handful of your landscape drawings, graphite on paper, in this portfolio.  What makes you choose one medium over the other, if you can say. Is it based on the geography of one over another?


Payne’s Prairie Off 441, graphite on Quattro Artist’s Blank, 3 ½ x 8 ½ inches. 2018.


SEB: When I returned to art four years ago, I gravitated to graphite in part because I love to draw but also because I didn’t know how to use color. (I only took up watercolor a few months ago and am still very much a novice.) But I was also drawn to the medium because of its rich darks and silvery sheens, which remind me of film noir and my favorite hour of the day—twilight.

Electrical Easement at Twilight, graphite on Moleskine paper, 7 ½ x 9 ¾ inches. 2017.


In fact, many of my plein air drawings were started shortly before sunset and not finished until it was too dark to see the page, a practice that adds an element of chance. But now that I am using color—to answer your question—the decision to go black and white or color is less about geography than it is about the time of day.


Sunrise at Sean Sexton’s, graphite on Quattro Artist’s Blank, 3 ½ x 8 ½ inches. 2018 (Property of Gail Davis).


Steven Edgar Bradbury grew up in South Florida, studied art briefly at Cooper Union in the seventies, Chinese painting and calligraphy in Taiwan in the eighties. He then dropped art to become, among other things, a Chinese literary translator and English literature professor, the latter for almost twenty years. In a leap of faith, he quit his job and returned to Florida in 2015 to pursue art full-time. He has since had his work included in many national-juried shows around the country. He lives in the small town of Melrose and spends much of his time in the woods.