“A Day in the Life” with Vancouver Abstract Artist Beth W. Stewart

Beth W. Stewart is an abstract painter. She also has a Ph.D. from the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at UBC and she fuses her academic life with her creative practice. Her art is inspired by social justice stories and her passion comes through in the bright colours and vigorous lines and brush strokes of her paintings.

Beth began painting when she was doing her Ph.D., but I’m told that before she had kids (she has three sons) she used to draw a lot. Her first abstract paintings from 2012-2015 were collaborations with the war-affected children in her research study to share their stories with audiences outside of academia. Now, while art is her main thing, she is also an award-winning educator and an editor.

Painting in her home studio, Beth is always accompanied by her sweet studio assistant pup named Bear. She lives with Bear and her three sons who are all very creative, too.

-Written by Bjorg Hjardardottir, friend

Beth W. Stewart
I love going to see my oldest son’s band, Farhaven (@farhavenmusic), play shows around town. I’m usually the proud mom off to the side or at the back. His musical creativity blows my mind.
Beth W. Stewart
In the summer, I spend as much time as I can in or near the ocean. My studio assistant, Bear, loves accompanying me.
My art is on the cover of numerous books. This is the latest, and I’m so in love with it—inside and out! It’s by the brilliant poet Otoniya Okot Bitek, called ‘Song & Dread.’
My painting, ‘Hope and Humanism’ (4′ x 4′), staged. I mostly paint large. The largest I’ve done is 4′ x 6′, which were commissions. I’d love to paint even bigger, but I will need a larger studio.
One of my most favourite things in the world to do swim in the ocean. Sometimes I’m lucky to get one of my kids to come with me. This is me with my oldest after a swim.
I used to be a runner but arthritis turned me into a cyclist and I love it. It’s my meditation, my escape, my time to sort things out and find new creative energy. It’s also my main mode of commuting. I’m on my bike a lot!
Beth W. Stewart
Me with two of my sons in Vietnam. Traveling is a real privilege. I prioritize it because it’s important to me that my kids experience the world beyond their immediate lives. It’s also profoundly rejuvenating for me creatively.
Beth W. Stewart
Me taking photos of a new painting. I like to photograph with as much natural light as possible to best capture the vibrancy of my colourful art.


Which ’hood are you in?

Kitsilano in Vancouver. I love my ‘hood. I can walk and cycle everywhere, I have the best neighbours, there’s a beautiful cycling loop for long rides, and in the summer I can easily swim or paddleboard at one of the nearby beaches. I grew up on PEI, so I feel most at home next to the ocean, but I also love being in the midst of the hum of city life. This ‘hood is just about perfect for me.

What do you do?

I create abstract expressionist paintings. I also teach social sciences/humanities (mostly history) at a local university, and I edit books and humanitarian reports about conflict and peacebuilding. Both my teaching and editing profoundly inspire my art. I actually started painting while doing research with children born inside a rebel group in northern Uganda. Painting was a means for me to express what could not be said with words—the simultaneously difficult and utterly beautiful stories of humanity during and after the war. These days, painting is a means for me to reflect on the stories of resistance that I encounter in what I teach and edit—stories of protest, confrontation, and resilience. The power of these stories translates into the vibrant and energetic paintings that I paint.
I also put a lot of effort into the emails I send to my list. They’re short, well-researched, and tell the stories that inspire my paintings. Stories like growing up in the Cairo necropolis called ‘City of the Dead,’ or about Jamaican soldiers who fought in WWI and died in Tanzania, or about gender-bending in pre-colonial West Africa. Everyone is welcome to join my email list (do so on my website).

What are you currently working on?

Right now, I’m working on a collection inspired by the stories of people who have challenged structures of oppression. I’m preparing to have them ready for several big events coming up, including the West of Main Artwalk (Vancouver, May 27/28) and the Seattle Superfine Art Fair (July 27-30). Also in the works is an online course that will take folks through the process of creating their own powerful social justice-inspired abstract paintings (stay tuned!).

Where can we find your work?

On Instagram, Facebook, my website and at ESPACE33 Gallery in Gatineau, QC.