Jessie Stewart stands behind a table full of her work while visitors look through a wide assortment of architectural, landscape, and other subject matter that she has painted over the years. Stewart, 87, of Madison, has been painting since she learned to use a brush in school. However, this weekend was her first time ever displaying and selling her work. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Jessie Stewart stands behind a table full of her work while visitors look through a wide assortment of architectural, landscape, and other subject matter that she has painted over the years. Stewart, 87, of Madison, has been painting since she learned to use a brush in school. However, this weekend was her first time ever displaying and selling her work. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
One local artist has painted a variety of scenes since she was a kid, yet just a few people knew of her talents until an art show last week.

Even though Madison resident Jessie Stewart shared her paintings with family and friends for decades, she displayed several works for her very first art show during the Madison Senior Center arts and crafts event recently. The art show in Bicentennial Park was the first time Stewart sold or showed her work to the general public since she began painting years ago.

"I probably wouldn't be here if Narci (Burress) hadn't pushed me and the kids hadn't picked it up," Stewart, 87, said.

Burress learned of Stewart's talents after wanting a specific painting at an event. The painting was a prize that someone else had won.

Stewart told Burress that if she had a picture of the painting, the painting wouldn't be a problem to recreate.

"I have to have something to go by," Stewart said.

Burress encouraged Stewart to show more of her works after learning of her talents, and Stewart allowed a few of her paintings to be displayed at the Madison Senior Center.

She wasn't really that interested in the art show idea at first, but Burress kept asking and Stewart's children offered to help her transport her paintings from her home to Bicentennial Park for the event.

Eventually she agreed.

Stewart began painting years ago just for the fun of it. She didn't have any specific training when she picked up a paint brush, but she took a few art classes in high school, she said.

"I just made up my mind one day (to start painting)," she said.

Stewart would often see photos in a magazine or find interesting landscapes she would photograph. Then she would try to replicate what she saw in the picture.

She used watercolors when she first started painting. Stewart eventually moved to oils and finally settled on acrylic paints because of the fast drying time.

Just as Stewart didn't have specialized training for her hobby, she doesn't have a special studio, to work in when painting.

"I paint at my kitchen table," Stewart said.

Sometimes, she'll be unable to sleep at night and paints in her bedroom. Her bedspread often shows specks of leftover paint from her projects, she said.

Stewart also uses the work as a therapeutic escape.

"It does relax me," she said.

Usually a painting takes only a few hours to complete, and she rarely does any touch-up work after her work is complete. She's ready to move on to the next project once a painting is finished.

"I'll never be good because I don't take time," she said.

Patrons at the art show - and Burress - beg to differ that issue. They think Stewart's work is quite impressive.

Still, there are a few painting techniques she doesn't even try to master after all of her years of painting. Faces have always been a challenge she chooses to not to try to recreate.

"I definitely can't do portraits," Stewart said.

She's never been a 'plein air' painter either.

Yet photos of landscapes and buildings - whether spring, summer, winter or fall depictions - keep her busy throughout the year.

Stewart also created several paintings of local landmarks and had several on display during her show.

But not all of her work showcases local spots.

Sometimes she finds photos in magazines. Other times, she sees something she'd like to create, photographs it and paints. Once in a while, someone will bring a photo or image they'd like her to paint - much like Burress did.

"I've had people ask for a certain (painting)," she said. "I just tell them to bring me a picture."