The Man Behind the Murals | Kyle Steed for Matters.com

As an artist, illustrator and designer, Kyle Steed is a well-acclaimed creative with many talents. While we know him from these emotionally stirring art installations and photography, many don’t know the man behind the murals. The Matters team sat down with Steed to discuss what has mattered most to him. Embracing the tensions where risk meets responsibility, quality meets imperfections and faith meets work were a few of the perspectives shared. Read a snippet of the conversation after the break with the full story’s release to come soon.

Matters: There’s a quote that I absolutely love. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” In your life, whether that’s work, family or another, where do you see yourself coming alive? What makes you passionate and excited to go and do and accomplish?

Kyle: I think a lot of different things. I love the challenge of trying something different or new with my work. Every day is challenging raising kids. I like the feeling of satisfaction that comes when I can step back and look from a piece that I’ve done from just something on the wall. I struggle through the process so much because I feel it’s not going to turn out right. And kind of having to work through those thoughts and feelings about why I strive for perfection when nothing is perfect — so embracing the imperfections without sacrificing the quality. I think quality is important, and that’ll shine through in the end.

“I believe it’s important to give a little nod to the imperfections and rather than cover them up, further embrace them.”

That is exciting to me because I think so much of our culture now has prided itself on being perfect. You meditate more, you do yoga, you work out, you do the right diet, you have the right lifestyle or you wear the right things. All of these things are constantly marketed and pushed in our faces for how we can be better … how we can be perfect. And all the while on the inside, we’re slowly dying.

“I think we get caught in the middle so much. And I’ve been caught in the middle a lot in my life of believing a lot of that, believing the marketing and feeling if I just had this thing. It’s always the unattainable.”

It’s always, “If I can just get there or just have that.” Even if you could, there’s always “the next thing.” I think finding contentment in your current state is incredibly difficult to do.

Matters: What would you say are a few tradeoffs you made to pursue what’s mattered to you?

Kyle: A steady paycheck, insurance and all of the things that come with a 9–5 job. I’ve definitely sacrificed those. Every month and every year is a different approach to how we are going to budget, how we are going get new clients and how we work with those clients again. The Lord’s totally been good to us and has continued to provide. If He calls me to something else, I trust that He’ll let me know. Otherwise, I trust Him that He’ll continue to keep this ball rolling. I trust Him with all things: our health, our finances and our kids.

“As my kids get older, there are more and more things that I become financially responsible for and these require me to make certain sacrifices.”

Its been crazy because ever since I went out on my own, it has just kept going up. It’s a really weird feeling. But it’s kind of amazing at the same time.

Matters: When you said the word “up,” it triggered thoughts about aspirations and goals. Things like learning new stuff, getting better at your craft, going broader with your craft, etc. Amidst these aspirations, you’ve also touched on responsibilities and contentment. How do you pursue all of these?

Kyle: Honestly, a lot of it comes down to scheduling. That’s been such a huge theme in our family’s lives the past two years. I mean, it isn’t like you turn 30 and, bam, you automatically grow up. Personally, I’m more wired to be just off the cuff. I don’t like planning. I feel constrained by that. My wife is very much the opposite of that though. She likes to know what’s going to happen, which is the perfect reason why we’re together. But now we’ve grown to become more on the same page — having our calendar planned out and knowing what has to be done each week.

We have a family calendar so she knows what I’m doing and I can be transparent with her. We have conversations all the time about what we’re doing. I think that responsibility kind of anchors everything else. If I’m not being responsible with my time or money, then I think the other two are going to start to waver. Or if they take the place of that, then my responsibility will waver.

M: What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue their own ideas?

Kyle: Before I made the jump, we put about three or four months of savings in the bank. I think that’s one of the best ways if you’re considering stepping out on your own. You have to be financially responsible. There’s no way around it. You can’t be a responsible, respectful citizen without paying your bills. I think that was one of the smartest things and the most practical things we did. We obviously prayed a lot about that decision. We felt that I was at a good enough point of building up work to make the jump.

“But it didn’t just happen overnight. It took years of building up enough work. I think a lot of people want that overnight success.”

In the full story to come, we’ll get to hear more about how Kyle…

  • Prioritizes his family while freelancing
  • Wrestles with the intersection of faith, hard work and planning
  • Holds on to some things while letting go of others