Artist / designer / muralist
Photos by Brooke Mainord
Kyle Steed is a Dallas based artist who’s on a constant journey of figuring out self trust and nurturing a sense of curiosity about himself. And it’s likely that this curiosity has led him to become a renowned artist over the past years.
Learning to blur the lines between his work and personal life, discovering how it all connects, and transparently sharing his thoughts along the way, Kyle has landed amongst one of the most inspiring creative minds the world of art has yet seen.
Last week, Kyle welcomed us to a mural he recently finished for a quick chat. It was an honor getting to meet the man whose work is so widely admired around the city of Dallas.
In the following interview, he discusses with us how he’s learned to find confidence through trial and error, how our weaknesses are often under appreciated, and his strong belief that in order to be awake in our work, we have to be fully awake in our souls.
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Firstly, can you tell me a little about yourself and your journey into becoming an artist? Oh man where to even start, or rather, what to say that hasn’t already been said before a hundred times online already. Instead of telling you about me and my journey and blah blah blah (because you can read said story here and here), I’ll tell you about where I’m at right now.
I’m currently 34 years old on the outside and somewhere between 6 and 65 on the inside. There are times when I feel like a child. Scared and unsure of myself. Then there are time I feel wise and older than myself. Like the way I can sit with silence and watch the wind blow the leaves. Time is a very fickle thing we live with. We strap it on our wrists yet we’re constantly looking for ways to hide from it. To be honest, most of my days are squeezed between the pressures to be honest and true to my work, and good and faithful to my family. My studio and living room are only 10 steps away. There is a line that gets blurred in this season of life. And figuring that shit out ain’t easy.
But all of it is learning how to appreciate what I have and not wishing for anything more. Although let’s be honest, I wish I had more time in the day to work longer. Leaving things undone, for another day, is a hard one for me to accept. When I start a project, I don’t like to come up for air until it’s finished. But all we have is today. So I have to be okay with what I can do with that time.
“Time is a very fickle thing we live with. We strap it on our wrists yet we’re constantly looking for ways to hide from it.
Well I imagine it can become a real test of patience when you’re working on a project that could take weeks to complete when you’re a muralist. Are you typically happier when you’re finished with a project than you are when you’re in the middle of it? I wouldn’t classify my emotional health in a project as happy or not, but satisfied. There are things in every project I like and dislike. But satisfaction is a strong current surging through me at every level. It doesn’t come easy, I have to work for it, and I’m still learning how to leave work for another day and still be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished.
I keep up with your writing from time to time. So much of your personal thoughts are shared on the same platform you share your professional work. Why is it important for you as an artist to have both areas of your life intertwine? What other way is there? Show me a man/woman who can cut themselves open and leave one part of themselves here and another part of themselves over there. I am of the belief that our wholeness is dependent on us being whole. Meaning that in order to be fully awake in my work, I have to be fully awake in my soul. Same goes for my family. If I’m not going to be curious about myself, then who is? I am learning how to see everything is connected.
“I am of the belief that our wholeness is dependent on us being whole. Meaning that in order to be fully awake in my work, I have to be fully awake in my soul.
I’d love to dive a little deeper into the statement on your About page. You touched on the topic of trusting your gut and ‘getting over yourself’. Talk to me about your personal experience with doing that—was the process of learning to trust your gut a difficult one? How were you able to finally clear that hurdle? It all comes down to learning confidence. Trying and failing is the only way I have learned to be confident. I didn’t grow up with a father figure or someone to teach me how to trust my instincts. Not that I blame my father (anymore) for my lack of confidence. As I’ve stumbled my way through trial and error and, more recently, through therapy, I am able to identify those areas in me that are weak and those that are strong.
Strength is not greater than weakness by the way, they are both necessary, complimenting each other. But we in the West refuse to be seen as weak. We thrive on being #1, the best, the strongest, the fastest. But it’s all a facade. It’s all bullshit. Weakness isn’t over-rated, it’s just under appreciated.
Trusting my gut has taken a long and hard road. Plenty of self-denial and self-pity have paved the way in my past. I feel like I’m ripping up that old road now. Learning to trust my gut and get over myself is a process that I go through time and time again. It’s a path that always leads me right back to myself, and I get to choose if I will take a step into the unknown or shy away and play it safe.
Let’s shift the conversation backwards a little bit from learning to find confidence to learning to take responsibility. What helped you understand that it was ultimately your job to do something about your lack of confidence? I don’t know if I could put my finger on it specifically, but I’ll give a large chunk of the credit to my marriage (i.e. my wife). For a long time, probably too long, I would use God as a crutch. Not to be disrespectful to the God I love, but it was an unhealthy form of religion I was holding onto and a fake form of faith. Saying “everything will work out” is a far cry from reality. That’s a nice thought though. It’s like buying a lottery ticket every week while you can’t afford to put food on your own table.
But I digress, I go back to my marriage and how much work we’ve put into this damn thing for 12 years now. And it really hasn’t gotten to the good stuff until the past year or so since we’ve been laying all our cards on the table (so to speak) through therapy. I can even trace it back to the day I decided to quit corporate America. It was my wife who gave me the courage to put my two weeks in and face the unknown. Small steps is what it takes. Giant leaps and bounds are for the movies. Real life is more like the slow aging of a good bottle of wine.
“Strength is not greater than weakness by the way, they are both necessary, complimenting each other … Weakness isn’t overrated, it’s just under appreciated.
What are some of the current challenges you’re facing in your work? How are you finding it best to simplify these challenges? Scale continues to be a topic of conversation recently. How do I grow my business when what I do is so dependent upon me individually? Also, an assistant would be nice. I haven’t figured out how to navigate this area yet. I’m still too much of a control freak to let someone help me. And book keeping. Keeping up with receipts and payroll and taxes is a real pain in my ass. So I’m currently looking for someone that can help keep my financials in order.
Everything else just depends on me showing up and putting pencil to paper. Looking to be inspired is exhausting. Nothing ever really fits until I work through about a dozen bad ideas anyways.
I always get excited about interviewing fellow Dallas creators. How involved are you with the creative community here? What are some of your thoughts on the current state of creativity in Dallas? I mostly just keep to myself and do my own thing. I like it that way. I’m familiar enough with the going-ons of the creative community, but to be honest I feel like it’s still lacking. I want to keep my head down and focus on making things.
I’m not sure I can speak to the current state as a whole because I believe there are still those amazing people who have yet to reach the surface. However, for the most part, what I’ve seen being presented on the public stage is still spiraling upwards. Meaning, we’ve still got a lot of work to do but it’s headed in the right direction.