ArtsOhio Blog

The ArtsOhio Blog is the Ohio Arts Council's way to share stories that highlight the arts in Ohio, feedback from the field, interviews with artists and staff, and more. Sign up for the ArtsOhio newsletter to receive a curated selection of posts each month.

Governor’s Awards Artist’s Style Bridges Traditional and Contemporary

Columbus artist Carol Stewart is the 2018 Governor's Award artist. Photo by Tariq TareyNever starting her pieces with a white canvas, 2018 Governor’s Award artist Carol Stewart pushes a traditional art form to contemporary, colorful movement.

Stewart, who originally hails from Ontario, Canada, puts a splash of sunshine in her paintings because she believes that a still life does not have to be still.

 “I’m interested in creating movement,” she said.

Drawing inspiration from artists such as Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard, Stewart collects the items that appear in her paintings from antique markets, online stores, and friends. The color palette of Stewart’s paintings is influenced by these finds, as well as fresh flowers purchased from local stores or cut from her own garden.

“If you took the living elements out of the painting, it would be more static,” she said. “The stuff around me just comes into the work.”

Stewart’s studio is located at Milo Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio. As an observationalist painter, her studio is filled with plants and sunlight that streams in from her southward-facing windows.

“When the sun comes in here and falls on that table,” Stewart said, gesturing to a scarf-draped tableau overflowing with vases and antique trinkets. “That’s what inspires me.”

Stewart begins her work by laying down paint and mineral spirits on canvas to create a colorful background before she begins to paint.  

Throughout the process, she infuses traditional painting techniques with a colorful style that is all her own, building on the traditional art form.

“I just have to be true to myself,” Stewart said. “If I ever try to do something or be something that's not me, it never works out and the spirit is not in painting.”

Stewart’s work is included in the collections of the Hilton Columbus Downtown; Greater Columbus Convention Center; and the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, Missouri. Throughout her career, Stewart has shown in the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts in Frankfort, Michigan; the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center in Belleville, Illinois; Sherry Leedy Contemporary in Kansas City, Missouri; and the Toronto International Art Fair; among many others.

In 2018, Stewart’s work has been included in exhibitions at the First Street Gallery in Chelsea, New York; the University of Mississippi Museum in Oxford, Mississippi; and the John Natsoulas Center for the Arts in Davis, California.

Locally, Stewart is represented by the Hammond Harkins Gallery. Marlana Harkins Keynes, the gallery’s owner, said she considers Stewart “the consummate still life painter and a painter’s painter.”

“She is inspired as much by the surface of her canvas as she is the objects in front of her. Vases, patterned fabrics, garden plants, objects both humble and extraordinary, are reimagined via the artist’s sensitivity to color, light, shape, texture, and composition,” Harkins Keynes said. “In Carol’s painting, these elements of art and the everyday assume renewed life from a contemporary viewpoint.”

Last fall, Stewart was selected as the 2018 Governor’s Award artist, a position tasked with creating original artwork for the winners of the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio.

“When I think about Carol’s work, there’s this hidden story. They are just still lifes on the surface, but underneath is this history of Carol and how she pulls in her past and works of art that she loves to make something new and beautiful,” said Ohio Arts Council Executive Director Donna S. Collins. “I think that’s why I love her works so much. Her work is just so vibrant and bold and exciting, like the Governor’s Awards.”

Stewart said she is excited to present her pieces to the nine winners receiving awards this year.

“It's a huge honor. I was so surprised when they asked me,” she said. “There’s so much support for the arts here and the Ohio Arts Council has been great.”Carol Stewart in her studio

The Governor's Awards for the Arts in Ohio is a statewide program that showcases and celebrates Ohio artists, arts organizations, arts patrons, and business support of the arts. Individuals, organizations, and business will be honored for their contributions and commitment to the arts in Ohio. For more information, visit

For more information about Stewart and her artwork, visit and

Since its beginning in 1971, the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio has recognized individuals and organizations who have been vital to the growth and development of Ohio’s cultural resources. Each year, the public is invited to nominate individuals and organizations in eight award categories. The program is presented by the Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation, a nonprofit arts organization. 

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Kayla Draper, 2017-18 Social Media and Events Fellow

Comments are closed.


Sign Up for the Monthly Newsletter

From deadline reminders to artist interviews--sign up to receive the monthly ArtsOhio newsletter directly to your inbox.

* indicates required
OPTIONAL-Select additional opportunities: