In the Studio with Fargo’s Exclusive Painter
Steve Knutson knew he wanted to pursue art as a career in the 2nd grade. Every week, his teacher would ask him to draw a poster that represented the “book of the week.” From that point on, he knew art would be a big part of his identity. As a kid, Knutson was interested in cartoons, comics and music videos and was generally pretty fascinated by anything that involved pop culture. “I loved the aesthetic of comic book illustrations and was especially drawn to the bold colors, variation in line quality and the way comics create a visual story that almost doesn’t need words,” he said. “That unique comic book aesthetic still inspires a lot of my work today. I’m still drawn to pop culture and I’m always inspired by the world around me—I find so much inspiration in music, advertisements, graffiti-covered train cars, brands and logos. I like everyday stories and I like to draw attention to the common and the sometimes forgotten things around us.”
“What Inspires You Matters”
Most recently, Knutson completed a handful of interior murals for local businesses. In 2017, he worked on a project for Doosan-Bobcat that included three 5-ft paintings for their North American headquarters. He was also commissioned by an Atlanta-based design firm to paint a landscape that produced 80 prints for rooms at the Klimpton Cottonwood Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. Like other artists, several projects were sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were some exciting collaborations in the works that might still happen. Behind the scenes, Knutson is attached to his sketchbook, working with bold shapes, architectural lines and perspective. Recently, he has been experimenting with new print-making approaches and the intersection between print-making and painting.
The Drive to Create
Knutson loves creating artwork that helps people find the unique beauty in things that might seem mundane; he loves people and the way they interact with the world around them. “I’m enamored with pop culture and the incredible things people can do,” he said. “Famous artists, authors, and athletes are so inspiring to me. I love a good sports championship story. I’m fascinated by architecture. So I’m driven by the human experience and portraying all the ins and outs of moments that might otherwise be forgotten.”
Although he wouldn’t say his work as a whole has a specific message, as an artist, Knutson wants to convey the message that everyone can be inspired by the world around them. It could be as simple as a road sign or as complex as the human experience.
Choosing Fargo as a Canvas
After the Minot, ND native graduated from MSUM in 2008, he entered the art scene with an excellent education and a lot of valuable experience. “What I love about the community here is that it’s always reinventing itself,” he said. “I’ve been teaching visual art in the Fargo public school system for 13 years and I love making an investment in young people and helping them find their way to art-making—they’re a huge part of this everchanging art scene and inspire me to keep working and honing my craft.”
When it comes to leaving a legacy, Knutson wants to be remembered for painting big things, taking chances and never saying “no” to new ideas. While he doesn’t expect his students to feel the same way about him as they feel about Jasper Johns or Vincent Van Gogh, Knutson hopes they go on to notice the everyday things and find inspiration around them and remember that he had even a small role to play in their development.
When it comes to murals, Knutson is meticulous when it comes to completing projects to the exact specifications of local business clients and helping them achieve their vision. When it comes to smaller studio-based projects, what he believes sets him apart from other artists is his passion for experimenting and commitment to evolving.
The Art of Family
Outside the studio, Knutson loves the outdoors. Bouldering is his latest hobby, and he’s been climbing at local gyms for the past couple of years and has really been enjoying it. He and his wife Kira have been remodeling their new “old” home since they moved in December 2021. They have watched more episodes of “This Old House” than they can count and hope to do their humble 1908 abode justice. The Knutsons have three kids, so they spend a lot of time walking along the river, attending their kids’ activities and getting caught up in living room wrestling matches and intense games of hide and seek.