Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 13, 2005
Painting lets his soul sing
Marian Centre director Patrick Stewart uses God-given talent to serve others
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
When Patrick Stewart is not serving hot stew to the poor at the Marian Centre, he is in the centre's studio or in the countryside capturing God's creation in paint.
Stewart, a member of the Madonna House Apostolate since 1990 and director of the Marian Centre for the past three years, is a prolific portrait and landscape painter, a gift he developed in high school.
Art and God
"Art and God are two continuous threads that connect the days and years of my life," the 52-year-old artist says. "I started looking for God when I was seven, I began to draw when I was 12."
His passion for God and for painting grew over the years and today both define his life. "Painting for me is sort of like oxygen, or food, or water," he says.
"It's one of the basic necessities in my life. If I don't paint, it's like I'm starving to death, suffocating. It is a gift that God has given me and it is a gift that I have to use."
Stewart, one of nine members of the Madonna House Apostolate who operate the Marian Centre, has several large portraits and landscape paintings adorning the centre's walls. He also has countless photos of paintings, icons and illustrations he has done over the years.
Born in a military base in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1953, Stewart was raised in Fayetteville, N.C. He began painting in high school and then perfected his skill through training at the University of North Carolina. He also studied with two prominent North Carolina artists and did additional training at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I.
Before joining Madonna House, he was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and for a time considered becoming a priest.
He did his first serious painting project while in senior high school 33 years ago. It consisted of copying a portrait done in the late 1800s. His teacher liked what Stewart was doing and taught him the basics of classic portrait painting.
"That's how the portrait painting began," he said in a recent interview. "I was really a portrait painter most of my life until about 10 years ago when I started landscaping and I put those two things together; so I like to paint people outside."
Stewart paints portraits in the large Marian Centre studio or out in the fields. He does most of his landscapes on location, although sometimes he paints in the studio with the help of a photograph.
"I love landscape painting because I can just go out to the country - in the fields, up to the mountains - by myself and just be alone with the paint, with God, with the beauty of nature."
Stewart estimates he has probably done about 150 paintings since his high school days.
"I have done 80 since I've been here in the last seven years," he says. "I had a few very prolific years; I painted 25 paintings in 2001. And then since I became the director of the Marian Centre (in 2002) my life is much busier, but I still paint; I've painted probably 10 paintings in the last year. I'm a very fast painter."
When he gets stuck, it can take months to complete a painting. He started a portrait of Mary Magdalene last year and had to stop when he realized it wasn't going the way he wanted. "So I just put it aside for a few months and I went back to it. I was painting other paintings along the way, but I went back to it and then I finished it."
But when Stewart is on location, he'll paint a landscape in just two hours. "You have to paint fast when you are on location because the sun is moving and the sky is changing," he explained. "And if I'm working in the studio, I usually take 15 to 25 hours."
Stewart's art has been exhibited in galleries in the U.S. and Canada over the years, but when he became Marian Centre director "my life really got too busy to take that on."
"I sell from here and people commission me to paint from here," he said. "I do a lot of commission work-portraits and some landscapes, but mostly portraits and mostly children portraits now."
He might sell a painting anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000 but usually around $1,000 for a portrait. "But that's very reasonable for a painting. My top range is about $6,000."
Fees to the missions
All the money from the sales goes to missionary work in the Third World. "None of it goes to me or to the Marian Centre," he said. "It goes over to the foreign missionaries around the world. Mostly it goes to individual missionaries in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America - people with whom our community has made contact over the years."
Painting is a contemplative experience for Stewart. "When I am painting, everything else goes away," he says. "I don't have any concerns; I don't have any worries, any responsibilities, any distractions. I'm very focused on the painting and on what I see and I lose all sense of time, all sense of hunger or thirst."
Stewart paints because painting thrills his heart and because it depicts the beauty of God's creation. "When I paint a landscape or a portrait, I try to discover, as far as I can, the deepest beauty of the person or the landscape that I'm looking at and capture that in paint so that others can share in the beauty that I see of God's glory."
His favourite paintings include a 2001 portrait of his mother in the countryside in France and a double portrait of his family doctor's son and daughter. "That's probably my best painting."
Stewart has also done some icons for churches and watercolour illustrations for spiritual books.
He's also a gardener and recently put together a beautiful garden at the centre's front yard so the poor can enjoy the flowers. "Most of my painting is all winter and early spring. And in the summer, I'm usually engaged out in the garden."
As director of the centre, Stewart also spends time in the kitchen, in the office and in the dining room visiting with people. "I don't watch TV. I love to read, but I don't read much. I made a commitment in my life to the painting and the TV has no room in my life. I was addicted to TV as a child; I watched enough TV for 12 lives."
Those who want to see Stewart's art should visit him at the Marian Centre, 10528-98 St., or you can email him at email@example.com or go to MadonnaHouse.org where there is a page with his paintings.
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