Imitating Life: Posing questions to local artist Stuart Hamilton

“West Cumbria #89,” graphite on  topographic map

“West Cumbria #89,” graphite on
topographic map

Cory Bilicko
Managing Editor

As an artist, Stuart Hamilton believes the concept of age should be “irrelevant. “I’m mature but feel the art world wants to deal either with young, emerging artists at the start of their careers, or long-established, older” artists,” he said. “I was born in the ’50s.”
Originally from Manchester, England, Hamilton now resides in San Pedro, after moving to the Los Angeles area 30 years ago when he married an American and relocated to the States for graduate school.
He now teaches art and design classes at two community colleges in Orange County.

As for his own art, which he creates in a studio in San Pedro’s Angels Gate Cultural Center, he’s currently using graphite and organic pigments on paper and maps. “I worked in acrylics prior to that, and ink and watercolor for a considerable time before that,” he said. “I feel it is important to keep pushing myself to incorporate new materials and surfaces as I don’t want to feel like I could get into an artistic rut.”

Much of your work features rocks and rock formations. What’s the story behind this?

I still regard England as my spiritual home, despite the length of time I’ve lived in the U.S. As a child, I spent regular time up in the more remote areas of northwest England– Cumbria. I have very strong memories, as well as photographs, of time spent on a pebble-strewn beach when young. I go back there on every visit to “renew my soul.” I have a collection of pebbles gathered from there over the years. That was the start of my fascination. I’m still moved by locations in the American West, particularly Death Valley, and am beginning to work on a series of maps of that area– looking at the rocks, the basic geography and natural features as well as the maps.

Stuart Hamilton

Stuart Hamilton

You also create drawings on interesting paper, such as maps and journal paper. What inspired you to utilize these unorthodox materials for your drawings?
There are really two different reasons. For many years, I was producing small images surrounded by large areas of clean, white space. The more recent use of these other surfaces was, I think, partly a reaction to those works. The work I’ve been doing this year are highly detailed graphite drawings of rocks on top of topographic maps of the areas the rocks came from. Organic pigments, also from the same area, are then pushed into the surface of the map.

I first saw your work at the Catalyst Gallery in Westminster. How did you get involved with that space?
I’ve known the folks who operate the space for many years, and they offered me a show. I also organized a show of some of my students’ works there.

As a resident of San Pedro, how would you characterize the art scene there?

There’s a very lively San Pedro art scene. Angels Gate is a very active community, and there are numerous galleries and artists’ live-in studios in old downtown San Pedro. First Thursdays is the time for anybody unfamiliar with San Pedro to check it out.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Etching. I did a little many years ago and know the techniques would be appropriate for my work. I always liked the idea of producing multiple– hand-made– versions of the same image.

How does your artistic sensibility or skills help you in your daily life?

I’m not sure that it does (other than in my teaching).

If you met a 5-year-old who expressed interest in being an artist, what advice would you give him or her?
That’s not an easy question to answer. I always encouraged my own children to get involved in creative activities at an early age– without directing them to any specific discipline. I believe any creative outlet is an excellent way to develop the thinking process, skill-sets and a healthy outlook on life. So, I’d encourage them to try whatever they wanted– pick up a pencil, a paintbrush or a chunk of clay. It’s not necessarily a “sensible” career choice, but I have no regrets whatsoever.

“Wastwater Rings” Graphite over map

“Wastwater Rings” Graphite over map

To view more of Hamilton’s work, visit stuarthamiltonart.com .

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