Riverside Graff-Rat turned Mega-Art-Star
By Kimberly Johnson
The anticipated return of the Steven Daily
A young Steven Daily sits in the back of his parent’s family car as it pulls into Riverside’s Van Buren Drive-In Theater. The year is 1978, and Star Wars: A New Hope has just taken over the entire continent, transforming its wholesome youth from children to Jedi overnight. 5-year-old Daily, rightfully unaware in his barely post-toddler glory, is gazing up at one of his future boss’s directorial debuts.
30 years later, and Lucas Arts is just one of the many highly noted names and corporations Daily has worked as an artist for. HBO, Disney, Sony and Dark Horse Comics all lay within that archive, giving a sense of the variety and status associated with the kind of clients this painter can pull.
Daily’s artistic career began, as many So Cal art kids, on the street. Hoisted on crates and trashcans, reaching up for the next nearly unobtainable spot to spray his name, Daily has been dedicated to alternative art styles/genres for as long as he can remember. 17-year-old Daily was a self-proclaimed “skater-shithead-kid” and “graffiti-rat,” and it is this genre that influenced his art, helping it become the amazing, well-known work that has infiltrated our lives today.
He reminisces on days of running the Riverside streets with graffiti heavyweights Maxx242 and Jeff Soto. “The thing I miss most about those days is how incredibly fun it was just painting and innovating with my friends.” His experience obtained through years in the graffiti world ended up being a stepping stone into the more structurally cohesive realm of art exhibitions. “I actually showed one of the directors [for the Riverside Arts Museum (RAM)] my portfolio of graffiti on University Ave. She took me in and introduced me to the curator and they hired me on as an installer.”
14 years after landing a gig constructing the layout plans for other artists’ shows, Daily will be showcasing his own pieces in the annual Baby Tattooville event taking place at his former stomping ground, the RAM. “This will be my first year attending,” said Daily. “I am currently working on a series I call Forty Days and Forty Nights for this event; forty hand painted originals to be given to members and guests.”
In the days leading up to “Sideshow: Baby Tattooville,” Daily seems to save no room for quirky trivial activities like sleep. He is an art professor at Mt. Sierra College in Monrovia, teaching weekly courses in beginning drawing as well as life drawing. In between eyeing his student’s class submissions, he finds time to create masterful works for dozens of art exhibitions, like Orange County’s leading art bookstore, As Issued, whose 2nd anniversary group exhibition called “Present Tense” includes Daily’s work. Here, he showcases one of his eerie and surreal paintings, titled Vision, from his series Melchizedek. Between rapping up “Present Tense” and gearing up for Baby Tattooville, Daily has also been taking slow and steady jabs at a mural in Long Beach for Homeland Cultural Center.
After committing to embark on a four year long journey illustrating It Ate Billy On Christmas, a dark and fantastical children’s book by close friend Roman Dirge, Daily informally retired from the street art circuit due to his demanding schedule. Nearly a decade after the unceremonious departure, he is revisiting the uniquely exclusive art medium that launched his career from former skater-shithead-graffiti-rat combo, to professional painter, educator and innovator.
For more information on Steven Daily, visit him at www.stevendailyart.com.
“Present Tense” at As Issued is on view thru Oct. 22.
2930 Bristol St. #A104; Costa Mesa.