Steven D. Mikel

Mikel - (pronounced "Michael")

Born: 08/16/59 - South Bend, Indiana
Parents: Dennis and Mary Mikel
he has lived in
South Bend & Elkhart, Indiana
Addison, Michigan
Cleveland, Vandalia & Dayton Ohio
Lafayette, Indiana
Peoria, Illinois
Beavercreek, Ohio
Celebration (2001-2011) & Sarasota (2011-2015), Florida 

Currently resides in Coconut Creek, Florida.


 Read Steven's Artist Statement Here

Read Steven's Bio Here



A Little More Detailed History

The early years:

I was very young when I started painting (age 6). In fact, one of my earliest memories is that of watching my Grandma Mangus paint Christmas cards in her living room. I would stand and watch her hand paint each card, most of which were done in watercolor.  As I got a little older, I used an Instamatic 126 camera and took lots of pictures of clouds. Much to my parents' frustration, due to the fact that they were usually the ones paying for the developing.
Mikel cloud instamatic 126 circa 1970

Throughout elementary and high school I spent most of my time in the art rooms drawing, painting or developing photographs that I had taken, as well as, trying to explain much of my subject matter. I had developed a quirk of looking for unique "art" in the trash along the side of the road, broken down bits of things, or the inter-tangle of branches and leaves, etc. I was not concerned so much in the object itself but how it related to the space and form around it.
Mikel B/W Photo circa 1976
Mikel B/W photo circa 1976
Another facet of my particular approach to artist style is my relationship to analytical processes. Growing up the son of a Purdue trained Mechanical Engineer turned Systems Analyst, exposed me to computers and programming from the days of CPM and DOS. Hearing my father share his day at work often led to engineering discussions on “best case scenarios” and efficient ways of handling the relative problem.  I grew to enjoy analyzing and identifying business issues, as well as, how to link my artistic talent to the process in trying to effectively communicate those thoughts or envisioned solutions.

The Black and White Photography years:

Black and White photography served in those early years as a way to pursue my vision.  I was enthralled with the photos of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston and enrolled at the Ohio Institute of Photography in 1978, majoring in Commercial Photography.  During that same year, my family took our "BIG" vacation traveling out west. What an incredible trip. I took a cooler, a couple 100 feet of bulk black and white film, and all my camera equipment.
Old Church circa 1977
Old Wood Pile circa 1976
Barn Window circa 1978


Dabbling with watercolors overlapped all of my younger life but became more pronounced during my high school years, 1974-1977 at Vandalia Butler High School in Vandalia, Ohio.  I had a great art teacher, Nancy McGuire, and I spent most of my free time in her class area, with other artists and friends such as Craig Miller and Phil Benton.  As I mentioned earlier, I would be developing photos or working on sketches and ultimately watercolors.  I quickly realized that I saw my paintings in layers from white to black.  In other words, I saw things in much the same way a black and white photograph develops.  While in the "Dark Room" the photographer exposes the white photographic paper and then places it in the developer.  Within a few moments, the tones emerge and the picture gains contrast and detail.  I tried oil and acrylic paint but struggled to get my mind to fit the process.  I saw the world around me in layers and could look at a scene and imagine how many layers of tone it would take to get the detail in the shadows, but oils and acrylics, work from "Dark to Light" with the oil painter adding the highlights last.  My mind just functions in the opposite direction.
Hole in One

Other Paths, Focus and Sepia Tones to Full Circle

Life goes on.  OIP was an invaluable experience,  but needing to take care of a young family at a very young age shifts your priorities. I tried photographing children with PCA in Kmart's and quickly developed (pun intended) a distaste for the "Professional Photography" business.  I found myself working as a "line cook" for one of the local restaurants and recognized I had a knack for it. However, 12 years later I was a professionally trained executive chef running 2 flagship restaurants in Peoria, Ill. with a suffering marriage, and wondering what had happened to the dreams and goals I had when I was young. During the 12 restaurant years, I had occasionally put some watercolor on paper, literally having to write down the names of the paints I used, because 6 or so months might pass before I would paint again and I would forget which colors I had used.  
Knowing that I needed to find a profession with more normal hours, and wanting to try to incorporate my lost artistic passion, I gathered up the 2 or 3 watercolors that I had painted over the last 12 years and went door to door at art and advertising agencies around the Dayton, Ohio area.  I remember sitting in O'Neil & Associates showing Jerry Tansky, the Art Director, my work and asking him to give me a chance.  A few days later I was working on photo renderings and Illustrated Part Breakdowns.  I was in the Art industry as a Jr. Illustrator!  
Over the next few years, I gained experience and opportunity and ended up holding the position of Sr. Illustrator for Monarch Markings Technical Documents dept.  Unfortunately, for many reasons, not much watercolor painting happened during this time.  As well, my past experience with dad's computer programming put me in a position to shift into application development. And so the next season began, starting as a computer programmer and progressing to a Sr. Systems Analyst.  
Study in Stucco
In 2001 my wife and I moved to Celebration, Florida.  I was now the owner of my own business solutions company living in a town surrounded by kindred entrepreneurial spirits.  It was during this time that the passion to paint again began to build. However, I was still dabbling a few hours every other month or so. I was able to get eight or nine paintings framed and was accepted into the Celebration Spring Arts Festival. Over the next few years, I painted a little more but still was only able to get at it enough to keep me current and to be juried into the Celebration Festivals.  One of my paintings took third in watercolors, and I won the "Patrons Award" which gained me access to Disney's Festival of the Masters, for which I was accepted and participated in.  I had also introduced my "painting with coffee" at the Celebration festival, and so continued to showcase the Dark Roast Watercolor technique at the Festival of the Masters.
Backgrounds: Why do I paint with coffee? See "Background: under "About Steve"
Old Residences

Morning Lift 

You can also read an interview on here