Growing up sailing on the Columbia River, Steve Mayo has had a lifelong interest in ships, maritime art and history. As a youth he learned watercolor technique and composition from Charles Mulvey, a local Washington artist. Steve majored in art for two years at Idaho State University, one year at the San Francisco Art Institute and one year at Western Washington University. He worked for one year with a tugboat company on the Columbia River and was delighted to finally be a professional mariner. In 1965 he purchased WINDSONG, a 26′ Sea Bird yawl which he sailed for several years on the Columbia River. After selling WINDSONG in 1967 he moved to Bellingham, Washington and went to work on tugs for Foss Tug & Barge and started painting in earnest. In 1970 Steve began his professional art career selling paintings of tugs, ships and fishing boats in local Bellingham art exhibitions and galleries. That same year he bought a 1914 vintage 60′ tugboat SKUA and for 25 years he cruised the San Juan Islands and Canadian waters. In 1973 Foss commissioned him to do 12 paintings for their tugboat calendar. The next year they stared an annual Foss tugboat art competition for the calendars which featured Steve’s paintings for many successive years.
In 1975 Steve left Foss to pursue a full-time art career and became a featured artist at the Kirsten Gallery in Seattle, WA, where he has been featured in one-man shows annually and included in their biennial marine art shows.
Many of his illustrations have been featured on covers and in books on Northwest history. In 1980 he was awarded First Place in the Watercolor Division at the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT and in 1985 he won Best of Show at the Coos Bay Maritime Art Show in Oregon. His work can be found in private and corporate collections.
Having earned a professional master’s license in 1987, Steve was hired as a Captain of the 75′ oil recovery vessel WESTERN GULL based in Bellingham. Later he became a supervisor of the Bellingham Base operating WESTERN GULL, three other vessels and a 185′ oil barge. In 2005 he retired but he never stopped painting and exhibiting his paintings while he worked. Steve enjoys the challenge of creating historic paintings with accuracy. He wants the viewer to get a sense of the past to be there on a specific day to evoke the spirit and immediacy of the moment. His interest is mainly in steam and diesel tugs, fishing boats, steam freighters-circa 1915 to 1945 and the vessels used in the early exploration of the Pacific Northwest. In Puget Sound he used his own tug to visit locations where the early maritime explorers had been on the same day of the year and to record background details for his work.
Steve and his wife, Lynne, live in Bellingham, WA where he continues to paint in his studio overlooking the waterfront and the Bay.