Since I first met Stew Jones at Midtown Brewery, we’ve had numerous interactions, many of which I’d characterize as meaningful sound bytes between drinks and work. So when we talked about him doing the LIFE AU LAIT artist Spring residency, it seemed like the best opportunity to actually get deep.
Up front, Stew is cool and unaffected and, as I got to know him better, also opinionated and passionate. His work, however, speaks for itself, so we decided to embed the interview into a multidimensional collaborative work.
We met at Enid Grace Cafe in Wellington early Monday morning, grabbed coffees and set out on foot. The plan was for me to bring my camera and phone, shoot interesting bits of street and structure, then we’d go back to Stew’s studio and start the clock.
The idea of Stew painting-from-the-photo-I-took-of-him-taking-a-photo-of-a-scene-to-paint was so meta it made my heart explode, so we went with it.
I got the perfect shot at an old factory just off the Millenium Trail. Stew was a few feet ahead and stopped to take a photo and I snapped him in action. The idea of him-painting-from-the-photo-I-took-of-him-taking-a-photo-of-a-scene-to-paint was so meta it made my heart explode, so we went with it.
One Hour Limit
We would allow one hour for the whole execution in order to create a constraint within which we could test our limits. I texted the pic to Stew’s iPad and we started the clock.
The second he put brush to canvas I got my camera back out and snapped candidly around the gorgeous sunlit studio. It was filled with ephemera reflective of Stew’s total multifaceted-ness (did you know he’s also an accomplished musician, cocktail wizard and in the process of authoring a book of live music sketches?) My goal was to capture the experience in a rebellious approach to “video”—namely, photography.
Just to be cheeky and add one final bit of delicious depth to our process together, I would throw out a random interview question every several minutes to engage Stew’s mind as he got deeper and deeper into the work.
The video above captures our time together in the studio and here’s the gorgeous outcome of our interview and a deeper look at our own, Stewart Jones.
What’s your middle name?
SJ John McLean (Ed. Not McClane, as in Die Hard, but McLean, as in Don) after my Derry-born Irish grandfather.
Where were you born?
SJ At North York Gen in 1972 on the day Paul Henderson scored the most celebrated goal in hockey history.
What was your first painting?
SJ In high school, I painted Rodin’s “The Thinker” holding a Stratocaster.
SJ “Don’t Worry Baby”, by the the most important American band, The Beach Boys. That was also my first concert.
Favourite medium to work in?
SJ Pencil or graphite.
What do you look at when you’re on stage?
SJ The ground. I can’t see anything else behind the curtain of light.
Most memorable show you’ve played?
SJ Opening for Blue Rodeo at Massey Hall, with Cuff The Duke.
Monochromatic or colour schemes?
City or country?
SJ City. But not Toronto.
How did you get to the County?
SJ We came out here and pioneered. Who would’ve thought that selling our house in Toronto and moving to Wellington would be a good idea?
Where did you go to school?
SJ I got into York, Queens, Sheridan, and Ontario’s College of Art and I chose OCAD.
Lager or Stout?
An old drinking story?
SJ I came of age for drinking when I lived in Kingston. I had three friends and we used to sit around in each other’s houses, listen to Bruce Springsteen, and drink Labatt’s Blue in cans.
SJ ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ by Wilco (Ed. Rolling Stone also rated this album on their top 500 of all time)
Canada’s national sport?
Give us some painting wisdom.
SJ The key to a making a straight line in painting is locking your arm, moving your body, and rolling your brush to keep the paint flowing.
Wine of choice?
Dusk or Dawn?
What do you think that’s different from what I think?
SJ Nothing matters. (Ed. Everything matters.)
What’s the meaning of life?
SJ Knowing that the only thing you can bring with you is your reputation.
Last book you read twice?
SJ The Last of the Crazy People, by Timothy Findley
Socks and Sandals?
SJ Hard no. Open-toed shoes are a fucking aberration.
What’s challenging about this piece?
SJ Blues talk to each other, greens don’t like each other.
SJ “I don’t know where you pixies came from, but I sure do love your pixie juice.”
Home or travel?
How did you get into all of this?
SJ I met Rebecca in grade eight (she was in grade seven). 25 years later, she set me up in my own studio and got me painting. She’s the inspiration for everything.
Video by LIFE AU LAIT // Soundtrack “Boom” by Broken Bricks