Shrinking a lifelong compilation of nearly 4,000 sketches down to 20 was an arduous task for Toronto, Canada-based designer and educator, Ian Stewart. These final 20 pieces of artwork that survived the scrutiny of Stewart and other design professionals, are on display in Shippensburg University’s Kauffman Gallery, titled “Drawn to Form: Doodles, Drawings and Dimensions.”
Stewart’s education in design began in the 1970s when he graduated from design school with a diploma in design arts, and subsequently received his master’s in environmental studies, with a focus on design.
However, Stewart’s initial interest in art and design came from home.
“I was exposed early on to Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging through my mother and woodworking and fabrication through my father,” Stewart said. “Both of them are very creative and encourage me to this day to explore my ideas through various medias.”
Stewart’s professional career has also led him to encounter and create formal ties with individuals who are now instrumental contributors to his growth and outreach as an artist.
William Whiteley, a professor of art and design and department chairperson of the art department at SU, met Stewart when the two were colleagues teaching graphic design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Working alongside each other, Whiteley and Stewart became fast friends who shared a mutual admiration of the arts and common desire for personal artistic progression.
“During Professor Whiteley’s visit to Toronto in the summer of 2016 we discussed my drawing work and the ways in which I might share my work with a wider audience,” Stewart said. “It was Professor Whiteley’s suggestion to apply to the Kauffman Gallery with a proposal to exhibit my work at the gallery.”
Stewart stepped out of his realm of comfort with his current exhibit, and is excited to share the journey of “Drawn to Form” with gallery goers.
“I think the underlying theme is to present drawing not just as an end in itself, but as an integral part of any creative process,” Stewart said. “I also hope that the exhibition encourages emerging artists and designers to embrace the idea that drawing is a tangible way to document their ideas and creative processes in any and all mediums of expression.”
To Stewart, doodling is more than just putting a pencil to paper. Rather, doodling communicates a deeper thought or idea.
“I think we all doodle as a means of communicating with ourselves first and foremost,” Stewart said. “For me doodling is the starting point for my design process.”
Stewart embodies the progression that can stem from one-dimensional drawings in his exhibit by displaying not only sketches, but the three-dimensional sculptures that are a tangible product of his sketches as well.
“I wanted to show the role drawing can play in the design and communication of ideas, from initial concept to working out the details, so that the object can be fabricated three dimensionally,” Stewart said. “The drawing viewer sees the relationships and scale of the components, and reaches a fuller understanding of the design.”
While Stewart’s exhibit demonstrates that drawings and sketches are stepping stones, they are not concrete. Stewart believes that in any medium of art, an artist should be open to the idea of additions, slight alterations or even erasing the entire piece and starting from scratch.
Among Stewart’s detailed sketches and sculptures is an unfinished piece. Equipped with colored pencils, electric sharpener and sharpies, Stewart began with a scant sketch and encouraged those who visited the exhibit to breathe life into the drawing by adding on to it.
“If you listen to some of the jazz greats, the musicians will often enter into a ‘call and response’ mode, trading ‘licks’ back and forth, building the piece through exchange of ideas, and the collaborative doodle is a way in which students can do the same,” Stewart said. “I view the work shown in the exhibition not as ‘fine art,’ but as part of a continuum of representation of ideas — that the drawings are works in progress.”
“Drawn to Form: Doodles, Drawings and Dimensions” will remain on display in the Kauffman gallery through Sept. 23 during gallery hours, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or by appointment.
Stewart’s exhibit will also feature a closing ceremony on Sept. 23 from 1-3 p.m. at which Stewart will address attendees and open the floor for questions.
“My talk will focus on ‘Where do ideas come from — Where ideas come from!’” Stewart said. “The removal of the verb ‘do’ changes the question to a statement.”