Buzz Stewart shows painting that was part of Watercolor Society of Oregon show. The Pilot/Submitted photo
Mention Bruce Stewart as a longtime Brookings-Harbor artist, and few people will recognize the name.
“Because my little brother pronounced Bruce as ‘Berz,’ I ended up being called Buzz. This is what people have called me throughout my entire life,” Stewart said.
As a child, Buzz didn’t have much to do with art work. It wasn’t until he was in the Navy that he began illustrating letters by hand.
“I always had it in me to go to art school, so when I got out of the Navy, I attended the Seattle Design School,” Stewart said.
To gain acceptance in the school, examples of work had to be shown.
“I didn’t know too much about mediums at that time and submitted pencil drawings, Stewart said. “I did know they drew in charcoal and pen. A lot of the illustrations at that time were done with brush and ink and I got quite adept at that.”
While in school he began creating art pieces on his own and occasionally the instructors took students on paint- outs. He would do black and white sketches in pen and ink.
Since there were no computers, hand lettering was important. The markets were looking for people who could do this and he was skilled in this area. For a short time he worked in Seattle at an ad agency and then moved to Tacoma to work in a photo engraving company where he did hand lettering and design, creating many paper-box designs and illustrations for different products.
After relocating to Brookings, Stewart quickly became busy doing letterheads, brochures and envelope designs and advertising for KURY and KCRE. It was in 1959 that he also began designing the Azalea Festival brochures. The last one he designed was in 1972.
He also was one of the West Coast Professional Artist Guild members, along with Peggy Mory, Liz James, and Jay Mosby.
Stewart set up a sign business and liked the design part best. One project was the designs on the Brookings Police cars; another was designing the logo for the Brookings-Harbor Pilot newspaper, which was changed to Curry Coastal Pilot. The logo was used until the end of 2004.
An advertising agency in Crescent City contacted him to put up big poster boards along the highway and he designed and executed them for several years.
During lunch break at his job making road signs, Stewart would often sketch in pen and ink and sometimes on colored paper. He met other sign painters from Coos Bay who looked at his sketches. They had done some work for a gallery in Gold Beach and told the owner about Stewart’s work.
“The owner, along with artist Al Schroder from Pistol River, came to my sign painting shop. Al was almost famous and sold most of his work in Florida,” Stewart said. ‘These two men bought every one of my sketches.”
From then on Stewart started painting for the Gold Beach Gallery using watercolor and acrylic and different things. He sold work in the gallery until it closed in the early 1980s.
“I began drawing more intensively and Pat (his late wife) and I marketed work up and down the Oregon Coast and I started doing little paintings on redwood driftwood with acrylics,” Stewart said. “Someone from Muir Woods contacted me and wanted me to do about 100 a month but it was way too much. He did buy from me for several years though.”
When Pat opened the Words and Pictures bookstore and gallery in Brookings, Buzz closed the sign business and showed his work there.
Buzz is greatly influenced by the wonders of nature. He enjoys hiking and bird watching. He takes a camera along to record special places and things. His work is planned and executed in the studio although he does some plein air painting which he uses to create a larger painting.
“The impressions are from the outdoors, oceans, rivers, and mountains. Light, depth and contrast and design are the elements I constantly strive for, often succeeding, often not,” Stewart said.
Stewart’s art can be viewed at Manley Art Center and Gallery, 433 Oak St., Brookings.