ST. GEORGE —One man’s craving to explore and paint diverse landscapes across the U.S. resulted in a cross-country road trip, complete with an SUV doubling as a mobile home and paint studio. He mapped his travels on canvas and ended up in Washington County, a place he now calls home.
Artist Steven Anzardo told St. George News that he grew up in Homestead, Florida. He said during his childhood, he never had the opportunity to travel and see different places. He only knew what summertime and fruit trees looked like but longed to see the diversity that other parts of the country offered.
“There were pictures of me drawing before I had memories of me doing that,” he said “It was always something I wanted to do.”
Anzardo said he was awkward growing up and found art to be a channel in which he was able to dig and create instead of being anxious about the external world. He said in high school he had amazing art teachers who made their entire livelihood with their art and showed him that it was possible.
With Florida being a fruit haven, Anzardo said he always loved trees and climbing them. Devoting more discipline to the mentality of the art, he started painting outdoors and became obsessed with painting landscapes.
“I’m playing all sorts of compositional games, like I wanted to tilt warm and pull the viewer this way, you know, soft spirals, curves and angles,” Anzardo said. “Pretty shapes and pretty colors, that’s my entire lifestyle, hunting down pretty shapes and pretty colors.”
Anzardo said he had just gone back to school when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He lost his job teaching painting classes – a job that he loved. He was ready to travel the world prior to the pandemic, so he saw this as an opportunity to head out across the country to witness the various landscapes and seasons he had never seen before.
He decided to trade in his Ford Taurus for a Kia Sportage, transforming the SUV into a mobile home, complete with a built-in bed.
“Then I just hit the road without a plan,” he said. “I just wanted to see everything I hadn’t seen before.”
Driving across the country, Anzardo said he went through the Carolinas to Virginia, up to Wisconsin, then headed west. He said Wyoming was amazing and spent three months in Montana, which he found to be one of the coolest places on the planet.
With the ability to see everything from majestic mountains to pristine beaches, Anzardo said he captured his travels visually in multiple sketchbooks, filling the pages with paintings that captured each captivating scene he was able to experience.
“Painting is a really special way of journaling because a lot of these paintings are so hyper-vivid of an experience,” Anzardo said. “If you’re locked in staring at the way light is affecting something for four hours, you’re in such a heightened awareness.”
As the seasons changed and the cold of winter set in, Anzardo said it was the first cold winter he had ever experienced. He specifically remembers crawling out of his tent and stepping into his first white-out conditions, seeing icicles all around him and being in awe of the drastic change in weather.
“This is the first time I saw snow in my life,” he said while pointing at a painting he did of a snow-covered mountain.
Initially, he said he thought it was neat to experience two days in a row of 20-degree weather, but the following day, temperatures plummeted to 5 degrees, which is when he decided it was time to head out, traveling to the rainforest area off the coast of Washington.
While painting at different scenic locations, Anzardo said he met a variety of people who would approach him, giving him suggestions of other places to explore and paint, with many even taking him personally to see those areas. Anzardo said that his entire cross-country trip came from those recommendations and expressed how thankful he was for those he met and connected with along his journey.
“My goal with my art is to bring out some sort of poetic newness, with a new perspective and way of looking at it,” Anzardo said. “I simplify this and play up that feature. I think that the goal of a good landscape painter is to be a medium between the infinite complexity of nature and the completely uninitiated observer.”
Anzardo said he then traveled down to San Diego, where he had an unfortunate experience of having his bike stolen. He said the incident happened around 2 a.m. one morning when he heard scratching noises outside of his car. He said he watched a man ride off on a bike, with one hand on his handlebar and another holding Anzardo’s bike.
He said he ran after the thief barefoot and in his underwear, screaming. Although he was unable to catch him, he ran so fast and so far that he suffered from blood blisters all over his feet for months. He said he felt angry after that experience but realized that holding onto that anger would not do him any good and headed to a nearby park to relax and paint, instead.
While Anzardo was in San Diego, he said he met a great friend, Eric Neilson, who ran DharmaDen Sessions, an individual who gave local musicians an opportunity to come to his recording studio while also doing PR and holding venue events. Anzardo said that Neilson invited him to his house and they hung out for two days.
The day Anzardo was going to leave San Diego, Neilson asked him if he wanted to join him up at a scenic overlook one more time. Anzardo said that this was right after the new year and that Neilson had told him about his resolution to quit smoking. He said as they got to the overlook, Neilson started rolling a cigarette. When Anzardo questioned him about his resolution, Neilson said, “You’re right,” and tossed the bag to him.
Anzardo said he then headed through the Mojave Desert in California, then over to Arizona. He said he loved Arizona so much that he thought he was going to stay there, but something kept pushing him forward.
“I wanted to get to Kolob Canyon, particularly because when I was like eight years old, my grandfather gave me this book of canyons and one of them had Kolob Canyon and I had drawn that scene so many times,” Anzardo said.
Heading straight to Kolob Canyon, Anzardo said he smoked the last cigarette Neilson had given him while painting the scenery in front of him. He said he then googled smoke shops in the area to purchase more. He said he ended up going to Mojos in St. George, then up to Dixie Rock, where he met his now-roommate Brady Iverson, for the first time.
“He said something cute and I said something sassy back, then he invited me over here to his house,” Anzardo said.
There was a big party at Iversons’ house, where he met many new friends, including Iverson’s other roommates. He said that almost everyone he knows now was someone he met on his very first day in St. George.
After two weeks of bouncing around Washington County driving for DoorDash for income and painting supplies, Anzardo said he decided to visit the art department at Dixie State University. He said that as he traveled, he often visited universities to see what their art programs were like and see local artists’ work, considering attending these schools and getting a feel for what it would be like to live in the area.
He spoke with professors at Dixie State who liked his art, drive and curiosity. Around that same time, Iverson asked if he wanted to move in with him and his roommates. Realizing he already had great friends in the area and he wanted to attend the university, Anzardo happily said yes. He is now working on a bachelor’s degree in fine art, with his degree being completed by next fall.
Many of Anzardo’s roommates are also artists, including Iverson, who is a photographer and musician and Ty Andersen, a photographer known for chasing waterfalls. He said that all four of his roommates also work at Station 2 Bar by Zion Brewery and that they got him a job working there as well.
“I got an awesome job, met the best friends of my life on day one, school is awesome and this place is absolutely beautiful,” Anzardo said.
When asked what some of his long-term goals are, Anzardo said if he could trade his art for value, then trade that monetary value for land, that would be his dream. He said he also plans to travel more when he’s ready, with the goal of taking his next trip with a more idyllic van set-up.
“I came here for a cigarette and because I was cold. I’ve been here for almost two years now and I love it,” Anzardo said. “Life is perfect, it makes no sense. I just drove around the country looking for a home and I found it in a deeper way than I could ever imagine.”
For inquiries and to see more of Steven Anzardos’ art, visit him on Instagram. For in-person art purchases and conversation, see his booth at the St. George Downtown Farmers Market, which opens for the season on May 12.
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