Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

April 3, 2014

Q&A: The artist who paints for God

Niagara Gazette — Lately, when Rev. Rex Stewart isn’t leading his congregation, he’s busy showcasing the work of his creator.

Stewart, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, is sharing his efforts at an exhibit that opened March in the Garden Gallery at the Niagara Arts and cultural center showcasing his oil paintings, pastels, watercolors, as well as his illustrations for a new children’s book, and some stone carvings.

The pastor, who recently started renting a studio on the fourth floor of the art center, recently described his NACC exhibit to Night and Day.

QUESTION: You and I have done interviews about a lot of other topics, but I never knew you were an artist. How did you get started?

A: I was a technical illustrator before God called me into the ministry. After that, on my vacations I would take art classes at Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian adult study center in Northern New Mexico that was once owned by Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s the way I connect with God. 

•••

Q:  How does the art enhance your spiritual life?

A: I like to draw and paint realistically because it’s a way of learning how to see — and seeing the beauty in the world. For me its a spiritual discipline, and while I’m painting or drawing I feel closer to God. I loose track of time. It’s a form of prayer for me.

•••

Q: You’ve been leading First Presbyterian for 20 years. Have you been painting the whole while?

A: I’ve been doing a little more of it since I found out a few years ago that — because my wife teaches at Niagara County Community College — I’m  eligible to take one class a semester as an auditor. For 20 years I didn’t know that. I only took advantage of it the last couple of years and that’s sort of helped me build some discipline. Often I would go months or years before doing any art. It kind of forces me to do the work.

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