John Norman Stewart Biography

View Art by John Norman Stewart

John Norman Stewart (1940 - 2022) Born in San Bernardino, California in 1940, John's family moved to the Los Angeles area (Glendale, CA) a year later. He developed interest in drawing at an early age and began art training at the age of twelve. He studied with the Famous Artist's Schools in 1956; Private study with various artists at his parents studio (1952 - 1959); received a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in 1958; and later attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles, CA.

He is a Signature Member of the National Watercolor Society (1976 - ), past member of The Los Angeles Art Association, and a past member of the California Art Club (1993 - 2006). Currently a member of "The Artist's Gathering" in Redding, CA (2010 - ).

Teachers and artists who influenced him were Robert Irwin and Bob Winquist. He also studied privately with Paul Souza and Mario DeFerrante.

He had a 25-year career as a Scenic and Portrait Artist for the entertainment industry with projects for television, motion picture and stage productions. He did portraits of Bette Davis, Henry Winkler, Brian Keith, James Brolin and others. He also did special art projects for Disney Studios, Disneyland, Disney World, Epcot and Animal Kingdom.

Exhibits include: Gallery Gianni (La Cienega district, 1962); Jackie Rosenberg Gallery (1966); Lakeland College, Lakeland, Ohio (1977); Horizon Show, NYC (1986); Carnegie Museum CAC show (1994); Morseburg Gallery, LA, CA (1994); Malaga Cove Library, Palos Verdes, CA (2001); Ferndale Repetoire Theater Gallery (2002); Red Bluff Art Gallery, various group and individual shows (2008-2010); 5 Windows Gallery "Predominately Landscapes", 1 man show (2010); special showing of assemblage pieces at The Red Bluff Art Gallery (2010).

Murals: Glendale YMCA (1957); Haliburton Restaurant (1958); Canter's Restaurant (1959); Joseph P. Bean estate, La Canada, CA (1962); Hilton Hotels (Reno, NV, 1985); Epcot (1984); Epcot (1996).

Prominent collectors include President Richard Nixon, actor John Wayne, and director Leo Penn.

John has always had a simultaneous life in music, playing piano since the age of seven. He has played various venues since the early 1960's and has written hundreds of songs. He has five cd's available on iTunes, Amazon, and others, that are mostly improvisational in nature. His musical non-de-plume is J. Norman Stewart.

Listings: Who's Who in the Entertainment Industry (1988); Who's Who in California (1989); Personalities in The West (1989 - ); Five Thousand Personalities of The World (3rd Edition, 1990); Who's Who in America (Special Supplement, 1993); Who’s Who in America (2003 – 2011); Artist's Bluebook (2005); (2000 - present).

Biography courtesy of John Stewart, 2011.

California Watercolor

Hollywood and John

I worked in Hollywood for 25 years as a Scenic Artist. Scenic Artists get to paint any art that you can see through the lens. This might include the framed Picasso, a Spanish Mural, or the entire city of New York as seen through a window. It also included painting portraits, which brings me to a highlight in my career. In 1977 I was interviewed for doing some special art work for a mini series for Universal that was to be shot on location in Mentor, Ohio.

It was to be titled: "Harvest Home" or "The Dark Secret of Harvest Home", starring non other than Bette Davis, David Ackroyd, Rosanna Arquette, Rene Auberjonois, John Calvin, Norman Lloyd, Michael O'Keefe and many others. I was hired to paint and draw art for David Akroyd's character "Nick Constantine", who was a transplanted city to country artist. They needed 60 or so pieces of art and they all had to be by me, so that it looked like it was done by the same person. There were two special oil portraits, one of Bette as "The Widow Fortune" and one of John Calvin as "Justin Hooke", that needed to be done. Also pencil drawings of Norman Lloyd, Rosanna Arquette and other characters in the film. It turned into about nine weeks of work.

Scenic artists work closely with Set Decorators, especially on this kind of project, to keep the art appearing at the right time and place, when the shooting begins. In order to do the portrait of Bette, I had to schedule a live interview to sketch her and take photos etc. Since she was the star, it wasn't easy to get time with her, but she consented to let me have an hour with her in her dressing room. I was very nervous, being both new to the game and in awe of her "Celebrity" and I stammered something like "Good afternoon, Ms. Davis". She told me to be seated on the couch that was adjacent to her couch so that I could view her properly.

I remember thinking that we had a lot in common - we both smoked a lot, but I was too busy and nervous to smoke. She, however, had one constantly going and, as I busily sketched, she told me about all of the famous artist's that had painted portraits of her. That didn't help one bit. She did 90 percent of the talking and when I really looked closely at what I had drawn, I couldn't believe how bad it looked. I didn't show it to her, but instead convinced her to pose for some photo's. She wasn't in costume, and I needed her to be, so we arranged for further shots on the set. The photos that I shot of her were with my new Polaroid SX70, so I took those back to my Ramada Inn room/art studio and proceeded to work on ideas for the portrait. The oil portrait came out fine, and everybody was happy, and the painting ended up in the collection of the director, Leo Penn.

When we had our wrap party at the end of shooting, Bette was in the banquet room and I asked her for an autograph (for my eight year old daughter). She came unglued and screamed at me: "I'm no better than anybody else on the crew, and I don't want this party to turn into something like that.........". I felt really stupid and when dinner was over I went up to my room, wishing that I could retract my words somehow. Someone showed up at my door and handed me a brown manila envelope with her picture and personalized note to myself. What a lady!

What impressed me most about Bette, was her serious, professional, attitude towards her work. She was always the first one on the set, pacing back and forth, thinking about her lines. (She reminded me of Henry Fonda, in that respect.) She also had the attitude that she wasn't any better than any other crew member and had a definite teamwork mindset. In later years, I was saddened when I heard about her stroke and later physical problems. But what a legacy she left to us!

John Norman Stewart

One from the Heart

1980 - I had an assignment to paint a huge profile of a TWA jetliner that would be mounted on a billboard with a dramatic sunset background. In this scene, a half nude Terry Garr is rescued from Raul Julia's apartment, carried away by Frederic Forrest and dumped into his convertible.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

"Attack of The 50 Foot Woman" 1993 - I painted this small backdrop (10 x 12 feet) for a out of the window scene in this sci-fi remake starring Daryl Hannah. I also painted some mountain profiles that went around the stage that had an entire town constructed in miniature scale.

The Addams Family

"The Addams Family" 1991 - I did a number of paintings for this production. The production designer, Richard Macdonald liked me and he had an eclectic taste in art. This mural was used in the Addams Family ballroom scene. The set was quite large and had 100 or so actors dancing and cavorting in it. I was given a free reign in painting it from a rough lay-out on a blueprint. I hired help and we actually did about 60 or so pieces of art for the film.