Buzz Stewart - From Sign Painting to birds, oceans, rivers and mountains

Buzz Stewart, our featured artist for February, has been a member and a regular at Life Drawing since PBAA’s earliest days. (Buzz evolved from “Berz”—the way his little brother pronounced Bruce, his real name.)

Another interesting tidbit: Buzz didn’t become interested in art until the Navy, where he started doing illustrated hand lettering. This motivated him to attend art school after discharge, and he applied to the Seattle Design School.

“I didn’t know too much about mediums at the time so submitted pencil drawings for examples of my art. Most work in those days was done with charcoal, brush and pen,” he reports.

While in school, Buzz became very proficient doing illustrations with brush and ink (a major technique at the time); joined many outdoor painting sessions; and started developing many of his own art pieces using pen and ink.

After graduation, Buzz used his enhanced drawing and lettering skills to win a job at a Seattle ad agency, then, after a move to Tacoma, to work at a photo engraving firm, where he did lettering and paper box designs for various products.

Brookings later beckoned, and starting in 1959, Buzz found lots of commercial art work here: letterheads, brochures, stationery designs and advertising for KURY and KCRE radio, as well as brochures for the Azalea Festival (till 1972).

Then, after setting up his own sign business, Buzz created designs for logging trucks and Brookings police cars, as well as hand-painted highway billboards, which he produced for several years.

During on-site lunch breaks, Buzz would sketch in pen and ink, sometimes on colored paper. One day, sign painters from Coos Bay saw his sketches and told a Gold Beach gallery owner, who, with an artist from Pistol River, bought all of Buzz’s sketches. Buzz continued to sell his art in the gallery until it closed in the early 1980s.

According to Buzz, “I then began drawing and painting more intensively and, with my wife Pat who did pine needle baskets, marketed art up and down the Oregon Coast. I also started doing little acrylic paintings on redwood drift-wood. Someone from Muir Woods wanted 100 paintings a month. But that was too much, though he did buy from me for several years.”

After Pat Stewart opened Words & Pictures in 1988, Buzz shut down his sign business and displayed most of his work there until Pat’s death and the gallery’s closure several years ago.

Today, Buzz mostly shows his work at Wright’s and continues to find inspiration in nature while hiking and birding, using his camera to capture special places and things. And while he still does some plein air painting, he works mostly in studio, calling his painting approach, “planned.”

Buzz adds, “Light, depth, contrast and design are the elements that I constantly strive for, often succeeding, often not.”

433 Oak Street, Brookings, OR 97415  *  Mail to: PO Box 2568 Brookings, OR 97415

Pelican Bay Arts Association at Manley Art Center & Gallery   *