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Passions: Don Steele, MBA ’77

  • Brenda Bouw
  • |
  • Sep 3, 2019

Don Steele, MBA ’77, is Chairman and CEO of Pacific BioEnergy. He’s also an artist – painting and creating in his off-hours.

Passions: Don Steele, MBA ’77

I don’t view painting as a passion. To me, a passion is something that hurts and painting is something I just enjoy doing. It’s a complementary expression that fits very well with having an engaged professional and personal life.

I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. My mother did watercolours, so as a kid, I watched her turn a white piece of paper into something beautiful with deep blues, greens, and greys.

I took art throughout high school, then I stopped. When I graduated from Grade 12, I felt I had to make a choice – be a starving artist or go to university, get a degree, and maybe someday own a car and an apartment. Then life happened: a career, family, and travel.

In my 40s, I was encouraged by a business partner to start painting again, and I discovered that I can fit my painting in with an active business career. Ivey emancipated my thinking in the realm of business and probably assisted in giving me the confidence to try different things, including going back to school to study art. I attended Emily Carr University part time for 17 years, graduating with a BFA.

I see the creative process in business and with painting as the same thing. You have an idea, you work away at it and, eventually, you come up with something close to what you imagined. One difference is that in business, the cycle never ends. With a painting, I can sit down and take it from concept to reality and finish it off – perhaps even sell it. You actually have some control and closure.

Today, I try to paint pretty pictures devoid of deep intellectual constructs or meaning. People say my paintings are colourful and cheerful so I guess painting is an outlet for me as an optimist. I have sold about 80 works to date and donate the proceeds to art education programs for kids. I believe that all people – particularly kids – should be exposed to art. It energizes and opens your mind.

Photo: Matthew Sherwood
Art Direction: Greg Salmela, Aegis