New Yorker gives up Manhattan for art


It took Paige Steel a long time to decide to move to New York City. And while the 24-year-old illustrator has lived in Harlem and in a dorm in Manhattan and in a studio apartment in downtown Brooklyn and found her way to Central Park in recent years, she says she never quite found her “hometown.”

But when a friend offered to assist her move a few years ago, Steel decided to take the leap.

The 52nd Street apartments she’d been dreaming of didn’t quite seem to fit her lifestyle as a freelance artist and illustrator who goes back and forth between the city and her home in northern West Virginia.

“After seven months, everything felt really sad,” she says of that apartment, “and I would just wake up and go, ‘Oh, god, I just have to fix this.’ I don’t know why, because my apartment has this really dusty, messy, orange feel to it that I’m just attracted to.”

She doesn’t have room in her Manhattan studio to sort through all the belongings she’s accumulated and kind of likes that.

“My apartment reminds me of why I came to New York,” she says. “I come from a small town, and I have a big place and a bunch of stuff and I go back, and in West Virginia I would have just gone bare bones — i.e., laundry basket and dirty clothes — but I just realized my apartment represents everything that New York is to me. I have a college education, I like to eat out a lot, I love to paint and draw, I like to go to galleries, I like to write and be free, so it’s nice that I have this place where I am doing all those things simultaneously.”

During the two months of the academic year she was in New York, she took a two-year design course in class with Andree Terrano, an editor at NPR, and the instructor “begged us to keep our pieces in New York.” Steel’s pieces from that semester won special mention — both for being original ideas and for getting responses from people she really connected with.

“I love what I do,” she says, “but not having a creative space to work in can feel a little bit … claustrophobic. I sort of feel like I want to be known for the other side of my career.”

She says she’s considering “starting to write a webcomic soon, just starting to envision a whole new world.” Her work has been featured in The London Review of Books, and she received an honorable mention from the J.A. Mozaik Outstanding Humorist contest for her work on the NightmareLab series.

More of Steel’s work can be found on her website,


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