Friday Feature: Iain Stewart
|"Thurlow Dam from Fitzpatrick Bridge-Tallassee Alabama" 13"x9" original watercolor by Iain Stewart|
Iain came on to my radar about a couple years ago when we were both in the Louisiana Watercolor Society's International Show. I noticed that he also lived in Alabama so we became fb buddies and I got to meet him and his lovely wife in person in New Orleans at the LWS reception. Iain has a great sense of humor and of course does amazing things in watercolor. Iain also just won 1st place in Watercolor Artist Magazine and is in the Art of Watercolour, way to go Iain:)
How did you get your start? What’s your artist journey so far?
My father is a watercolorist. Muir Stewart. I’ve watched him paint all of my life. That being said, I do consider myself mainly self taught. I know that sounds strange, but my father was not big on formal lessons. I’ve had maybe two or three from him between the ages of 10 and 18. I didn’t start painting in earnest until University. I am trained as an Architect and quickly moved into architectural rendering after graduation. Presentation was always a strong point of mine. I had thoughts of doing gallery work, but found myself too busy. That all changed in the recession. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing on my end. I was able to commit almost full time to a serious exploration of how I really want to paint. If I look at work from even 3 years ago I feel that I’m light years past it now.
|"The Water house, Staithes, England" 14"x14" original watercolor on paper by Iain Stewart|
Where were you born?
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland.
If you could live anywhere where would you live?
I’m fairly happy where I am now, but if we’re opening up real dreaming here I’d have multiple residences and do sort of a migratory progression to each one. Still, Europe, is really high on the list if we’re choosing just one.
|"Santa Maria del Fiore" original watercolor on paper by Iain Stewart|
What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?
Cityscapes. No question. As an architect I’m drawn to the built environment naturally. Still, I think it has a lot to do with how different elements become layers in such distinct ways. The buildings themselves are static, but at street level you have this beautiful orchestration of movement and energy. I also find the depth that can be achieved by taking a view from the middle of the street fascinating, although taking reference photography can get tricky.
Could you talk about your painting techniques?
My style seems to evolve rather quickly so I’m rarely tied to a specific technique. I’m very willing to test new ideas and to a certain extent embrace the failure as much, if not more, than success. I tell my students if you’re going to muck it up then make it a spectacular failure. I try to hold on to that myself.
As far as actual technique goes I believe you must build from strong drawing skills. Real comfort with a pencil will naturally extend to your brush. In drawing interest is achieved by mixing line weight, stroke, and texture. This is the same with watercolor. If I find myself becoming too careful that is usually a good indicator that on the next pass I need to loosen things up.
|"5th Ave from Washing Square Park" 17" x 7.5" original watercolor on paper by Iain Stewart|
Do you always work from a sketch or do you use photo references?
Both. A camera is invaluable when time is limited or you want to document a lot of information. The problem that arises when only using a camera is I find that I don’t actually become immersed in a subject. I need to work on location to continue to learn how to simplify what I see and get at the heart of the subject. I don’t think this can be done by only referencing photography. The work I do on site is selfish and all about me and how I see things. I know it will rarely be viewed by others. It’s my favorite work.
How did you arrive at your current style?
This is where we do get back to my father. He likens my artistic education to that of a farmer’s son. The son watches the father milk the cows and bring in the hay, or what have you, and he learns how to do those tasks. I’ve watched my father paint my entire life and there is a huge amount of him in me. I think I’ve only recently begun to paint in what could be called “my style.” The breaking away from my father is crucial in claiming my own style. I think it’s safe to say I don’t paint like him now. You’ll always see a little Muir in my work and I’m happy in that, but it’s more important that you see me.
|"Sunlit Corner NYC No 1" 10" x 14" original watercolor on paper by Iain Stewart|
Do you have a favorite artist? Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Ok, these keep coming. Muir Stewart. www.muirstewart.com See what I mean?
What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist?
Drive. The need to paint. Taking joy in the process of painting and allowing yourself to be selfish without feeling guilty about it. That last one requires a very special partner in life. Painting time is my time. It’s my job, but it’s more than that. It changes how I view the world. Once you learn how to use your artist’s eye you can never go back. Most importantly you have to enjoy, and I mean damned well love, what you do.
|"St. Charles Line at 4th" 15.5" x 6.5" original watercolor on paper by Iain Stewart|
Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?
Winsor and Newton without a doubt. My go to colors are cobalt blue, burnt siena, french ultramarine, raw umber, yellow ochre, light red, alizarin crimson, and neutral tint.
What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)
Can you do watercolor in zero gravity? I made a 5 year plan 3 years ago. I’ve checked a lot of dreams as realized off of that list. I am unbelievably thankful for the direction my career is moving in. Quite simply I want to make a comfortable living doing what I love. I think that’s dreaming big. Ok, and maybe a few homes scattered here and there where I could have a sort of traveling artists colony thingy set up. Also a sailboat. A big one.
|"Tallassee Alabama No 2" 10" x 6" original watercolor on paper by Iain Stewart|
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?
Plastics my boy. There’s a future in plastics. Seriously though, don’t do it unless you love it and be prepared to do other things in support of it. Find someone who is abundantly patient and don’t ask them to look at your work as soon as they walk in the door. Most importantly, enjoy it. I don’t subscribe to the tortured artist thing myself. It seems to work for Morrissey, but I have to like what I’m doing.
What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?
Paint a sky a day.
Chocolate or vanilla? Both.
Sunny beach or rustic mountain retreat? Both- preferably one after the other and repeat.
Book or movie? Book before movie.
Favorite author? P.G. Wodehouse.
|"Dirty Santa" original watercolor on paper by Iain Stewart|
Favorite movie? At this time of year? Bad Santa.
Favorite ice cream flavor? Rocky Road.
Night owl or morning person? I’ve had a lot of fun over the years taking the night owl side on in to morning, but nowadays. Morning person.
Cake or Cupcakes? Both.