Russell Stewart’s piece, In Search of a New Spring, is one of the more recent works that will be showcased with In My Garden: A Russell Stewart Retrospective, which opens at The Gallery at The Guild in Charlottetown, on Wednesday, July 16, 7-9 p.m.
©GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MARY MACKAY
With decades of producing art behind him, Russell Stewart of Charlottetown never quite knows when he will suddenly be reunited with pieces from his creative past.
“They keep popping up,” remarks this longtime artist, graphic designer, illustrator and art educator, who will be reunited with many of his past works with the exhibit, In My Garden: A Russell Stewart Retrospective, which opens at The Gallery at The Guild in Charlottetown,Wednesday, July 16,
The exhibit, which will feature close to 30 pieces, was curated by his son, Dave Stewart, and will showcase the Island artist’s career, including commercial work, design, illustration, painting and sculpture.
Born and raised in Charlottetown, Stewart’s talents were in demand even when he was a young student at West Kent School in Charlottetown.
“I used to be the one they picked out of class to go draw the Easter Bunny on all the classrooms in the school,” he laughs.
He started out in Charlottetown doing graphics for CFCY-TV in the 1950s. This launched a multifaceted career that spanned the decades. It first led him to Ontario where he worked in advertising and display and then to Nova Scotia where he worked for an aviation firm for 20 years as a designer and technical illustrator.
“It just happened. It’s a thing I fell into; one thing led to another and it took me from one place to another,” Stewart says.
After returning to P.E.I. in 1970, Stewart embarked upon a teaching career in Holland College’s commercial design program where he remained until 1992.
Through all of this time, his love of art popped up in his off hours.
“When the spirit was moved I would be inspired. If I had an idea I would go to work (on it),” he smiles.
In addition to that, people requested that Stewart do projects for them in his spare time, so he was always designing brochures or doing signage or logos.
Over the years, his work has appeared in some unexpected places, such as the cauldron and hand torch for the first Canada Games that were held in Halifax and Dartmouth in the summer of 1969.
“What I did was I designed 12 maple leaves to go around the flame to protect it from the wind. They were made of brass and the idea was to represent the 10 provinces . . . ,” he remembers.
Stewart also designed the P.E.I. Award of Merit medal and created the character logo for the Dixie Lee Chicken chain of restaurants.
“In some places it’s still in use and in some places they’ve got chicken and fish dancing
“She was called the Dixie Lee Maid. She had one of these French maids outfits and the little thing on her head. She’s sexy,” he grins.
Over the years Stewart has had other unexpected reunions with pieces that have long since been sold to others.
“I was watching television one night and they were interviewing this guy in his office and there on the wall was a painting I’d done 35 years ago. I had no idea where it had gone,” he laughs.
Another piece he’d put in an art show years ago, which was his interpretation of Dead Man’s Pond in Victoria Park, came calling in a different way.
“A year later some lady phoned me to tell me how happy she was to have that painting because her father could relate to it with the same feeling that I had for it. The mystery of it — growing up as a child. You know, ‘Dead Man’s Pond; there’s no bottom to it, there’s somebody in there’ — all that kind of stuff,” he chuckles.
“Knowing that somebody else had the same feeling for it, those kinds of things are better rewards than money.”
AT A GLANCE
In My Garden: A Russell Stewart Retrospective launches from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 16, at The Gallery @ The Guild in Charlottetown.
The exhibition will showcase the Island artist’s career, including fine and commercial work, design, illustration, painting and sculpture.
Stewart’s work can also be found in Prince Edward Island’s provincial art collection, and in numerous private art collections. Prior to In My Garden, Stewart has most recently contributed to Something to Crow About (Details Past & Present, Charlottetown; 2012), and Arthole (The Gallery @ The Guild, Charlottetown; 2013). In My Garden runs until July 27.
For more information about In My Garden, visit The Gallery @ The Guild online at www.TheGuildPEI.com.