Steve Caldwell – Painting for Real

Wirral Life talk to Wirral artist Steve Caldwell about his work, influences and what it was like to collaborate with British design legend, Wayne Hemingway MBE.

Drawing of Wayne Hemingway by Steve Caldwell.

Award-winning Wirral artist, Steve Caldwell is known for his meticulously realistic portraits. His sitters have included a design icon, a Wall Street financier, actors, dancers and underground musicians.

Following studies at Wirral Metropolitan College, he trained as a medical artist at Glyndwr University. This led to a career in book illustration, fine art and a current period specialising in realist portraiture.

Steve’s paintings have been widely exhibited and he has displayed work with The Royal Society of Portrait Painters, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and at The National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award Exhibition.

The Bebington-based artists tells Wirral Life about his work, influences and what it was like to collaborate with British design legend, Wayne Hemingway MBE.

What led you to your current specialisation in portrait painting?

I thoroughly enjoyed working as an illustrator and having the opportunity to paint a wide variety of subjects such as books for children but painting people has always fascinated me most of all. Now that I specialise almost solely in portraiture, I can fully concentrate on scrutinizing anatomy and texture in great detail and hopefully produce artwork that has the realism of a photograph combined with the texture of a painting – a form of heightened reality.

Tell us about your recent portrait of designer Wayne Hemingway.

I’ve admired Wayne’s work since I was an art student. He is a multi-disciplinary designer with a social conscience and is sincere about producing design which improves everyday life for people. Whether that is product design, interiors, branding or architecture. I was keen to paint a notable figure in the design industry as that is where my interests lie. Also, he is visually strong and I was delighted that his portrait was recently selected for display at this years Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition at The Mall Galleries in central London.

As an artist, who are your main influences?

I enjoy most styles of painting from hyper-realism to abstract expressionism but I am drawn to figurative painters such as Andrew Wyeth, Lucian Freud and Norman Rockwell. I admire the intensity of their work and the struggle to paint more than just a physical likeness. Contemporary painters such as Philip Harris and Lewis Chamberlain also inspire me to work harder and use painted detail and texture to describe in depth the personality and identity of my sitters.

How do you select your portrait sitters? What do you look for when painting a portrait?

I am fascinated by all kinds of people and I see lots of faces everyday that I would like to paint. Occasionally, I will approach a prospective sitter in the street, give them my card and ask if they would be kind enough to allow me to paint them. Thankfully, their reactions are generally very positive. Luckily, sitters also approach me with requests to have their portrait painted. I enjoy taking on portrait commissions and have been very lucky over the years to have received commissions from private collectors, advertising agencies and book publishers. I was recently asked to paint Wall Street financier, Larry Fink of BlackRock for Bloomberg Media in New York which was very interesting.

To find out more about Steve’s work, visit