Pacific Art League

A passion for art and community since 1921


Steve Curl

Steve Curl

Curl Watercolor.jpg
Travel sketching Curl.jpg

“My role as a teacher is to help people discover themselves through a particular medium, in my case, Watercolor.”

Read about Steve Curl, one of Pacific Art League’s longest standing and most inspirational teachers. Steve is passionate about art and passionate about community. His enthusiasm for all things creative is infectious, and is a walking, talking example of why being creative is such a positive force in life, at any age, with any (or no) experience.

1. How long have you been painting? Could you talk about your first inspiration as an artist?

Steve has been painting & drawing ever since he was a kid, though he was more interested in baseball & other sports at that time to give much credence to art. It was later as an adult, dissatisfied with work in corporate America, that he went back to art school at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. He started drawing professionally as a cartoonist & illustrator, eventually becoming the Editorial Cartoonist for the Palo Alto Daily News and now focuses on painting.  He says “I always loved the fresh beauty of watercolor painting and have turned my attention to developing that way of expressing myself. My greatest influences have been Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Mark Adams, and currently, Charles Reid”.

2. How would you describe your paintings beyond the material and the structure that you use? Does it reflect your own personality?
Steve is inspired by what he describes as “spiritual moments" in nature. “Lighting is the key, I know my painting when I see it”, he says. “I suppose it does reflect my personality, as I've always been drawn to the outdoors & the beauty of the natural landscape, and it opens me up when I experience it again”.

3. What is your favorite subject matter for your paintings and why?
Lying behind Steve’s evocative paintings is always a moment, a moment of visual inspiration. It is an approach that anyone can identify with and use as a creative starting point in any media. In his own words: “The important thing is to open up your mind & pay attention, especially as the light is changing, because nature will deliver moments of majesty that make you reverent & glad to be alive. If you are in Yosemite texting Erica & Fred about next Thursday's management meeting while the sun is setting & dialing up Half Dome to a rosy alpenglow...well, you've missed it.”

4. Why do you think being creative is important in life?
“Being creative allows you to express that one-of-kind, unique package of traits, skills, & vision that is YOU. Essentially, it allows you to become yourself and give your gifts to the world,” explains Steve, “it is why we are here.”

5. What is your approach to teaching and why should someone take your class?
“ I love to see how each student's unique vision & personal style of painting is expressed”, says Steve. “Especially when it is different from mine. It is wonderful to see students’ "lights come on", and they are driving their own train”. As a teacher, Steve is committed to help his students build a series of skill sets so they can find their own unique artistic voice. Starting from the fundamentals of using Watercolor, his more advanced classes focus on confidence and risk taking so that each person can find their own style and have the confidence to express themselves individually.

6. What do you think PAL has to offer both artists and the community?
“PAL offers that specific place where you can go to focus on your creative interests without the interruption of all the other "stuff" of your life.  Our teaching staff offers students the opportunity to learn something new (often something they are afraid of trying) by taking a defined class with experienced & supportive guidance. The weekly and workshop structures help students focus, practice & gain competency, and GROW. PAL also is a vibrant and fertile social community where classmates share ideas & techniques and often become good friends. Frankly, the world needs a whole lot more of this... WAY better & cheaper than therapy. ;-)”.

You said it all for us, Steve! Thank you for your dedication and commitment to our work and the community. It does not happen without teachers like you.

Want to find out more about Steve? Visit his artist Web site at