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The Baja Western Onion - News For Baja California Sur
Sunday April 24, 2011


Charles Stewart is considered the founding artist of the growing colony of artists who live and work in Todos Santos. He died April 9, 2011, at the age of 88. Readers of The Baja Western Onion have contributed stories and photos in this special edition dedicated to the renowned artist and well-loved member of the community.

He and wife Marylou bought their sprawling house in the historic district in the mid 1980s. Their home was also their gallery where Charles continued to create new works of art well into his 80s.

He first studied art in the Toledo Art Museum, and painting and sculpture at the Art Students League in New York. In Taos, New Mexico, he studied at the Taos Valley Art School.

Charles has been cataloged by The Smithsonian in Houston, Texas, and has been included in two books on art and artists. The list of private collectors includes Anthony Quinn, R.C. Gorman, Vincent Price, the Wurlitzer Foundation and Sammy Hagar.

Charles summed up his work in an article that appeared in the TodosSantosGuide.com:

"Painting is life: It is for the artist to make paint and canvas live. It dies not matter whether it be recognizable in concept but in execution, the work must come alive. On this plane every one can understand; can feel. To me, theories, paint, brushes, canvas textures are merely a mean, not an end."
Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy Frank Hills

Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy Judith Farber

Remembering Charles

Like many people in this town, I lived with Marylou and Charles for awhile when our house was being built. Of course, in no time I had become one of the family, and went from tenant to trusted ally of them both. After one of their dustups I would wag my finger at Charles; I knew he enjoyed yanking Marylou's chain. He would chuckle and claim innocence and go back to his studio, painting for hours.

He was always glad to see people; a warmer welcome you were unlikely to get anywhere else. Over the years I enjoyed bringing him ice cream; he appreciated the smallest gestures. I will remember Charles as a man of great sensitivity and humor, kindness, humility, and warmth. And no small mischevious streak! --Laurel Taub

Farewell Charles

My husband Mike and I met Marylou and Charles in the late 1980's. Even though we had a place in Cabo we found ourselves frequently visiting Todos Santos. Eventually we decided to locate permanently to Todos Santos. We bought some land and began building our home. Like so many of us here in Todos, we rented the guest casita from Charles and Marylou. Over a period of time we met lots of friends through them and were included in their social activities.

In those days, television antennas were the large alien looking disks that took up a goodly portion of a rooftop. The TV in the casita was linked to the TV in the main house, which means that whatever Charles and Marylou were watching, we also "had" to watch.

Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy Judith Farber

No matter what Charles was doing, painting, carving, etc. he would stop in the middle of the day to watch his favorite soap operas - "All My Children" and "General Hospital." He would not stop to talk to tourists or gallery patrons - watching General Hospital was HIS time. In the evenings he was a sports addict. No matter the sport, he would watch it. Eventually, after lots of bickering Marylou bought Charles his own TV and the second guest bedroom became Charles' studio/TV room. He would disappear into that room for hours where he would watch his "soaps" and sport shows and, of course, paint.

Once our home was completed, Charles and Marylou were our first dinner guests. Charles brought a beautiful house warming present - a large retablo of Adam and Eve painted on old weathered wood. However, always the boyish teaser, Charles painted the retablo with the title Eve and Adam, placing Eve first. During dinner he told my husband that the success to a long marriage was to always put the wife first, always agree with her, say "yes dear", no matter what, and then simply do as you please.

Today Charles' retablo is hanging in a predominate place in our living room. It's a reminder to my husband to always agree with me, say "yes dear" and then do as he pleases. In reality it hangs as a reminder of the wonderful friendship we had with Charles and Marylou.

Charles, we will forever miss your puns, your sage advice, stories about WWII and conversations about the "Shadow Government" (well, not so much). But memories of conversations, your knowledge about so many subjects and your unparalleled artistic genius will continue to remind us of a dear friend lost to us and Todos Santos. --Mike and Linda Stobbe

Rubbing Elbows With a Genius

I was exposed, accidentally, to the genius of Charles Stewart on my first visit to Baja in 2003. A mutual friend took me by to meet Mary Lou. I didn't even see Charles, never mind get to be introduced, during our brief stay. It was of little consequence, as I was absolutely mesmerized by his paintings. I saw one that, particularly, struck my fancy and which I recorded.

Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy Judith Farber

As fate would have it, I made a rather impulsive return trip to Cabo a month later and booked a tour that would take me through Todos Santos. My initial thinking was that this diversion would take my mind off being alone on Christmas Day. But, I knew I had an ulterior motive. I planned, if at all possible, to slip away from the others in the van, just long enough to make my way back to their house and purchase the painting.

Seizing the moment, during the downtime while the others indulged themselves with margaritas at the Tequila Sunrise, I literally ran up through town, hoping against hope that I could remember the location. Mission accomplished. The painting was purchased, but, not delivered for another six months when my friend drove it back on his way home to Alberta via Vancouver. It remains a cherished possession.

On a subsequent trip, I had the extreme good fortune to be able to stay with Charles and Mary Lou for the Arts Festival week in that marvelous Victorian guest room, with the high-beamed ceiling and French doors. It was like being transported back in time to be able to experience this museum of exotic treasures collected from their travels.

When I absolutely had to visit the unique banos facility on the porch in the middle of the night, Charles would always manage to scare me half to death, as he appeared suddenly and silently. "Do you live here?" he would ask at every meeting. When I replied in the affirmative, he would add, "For how long?" I answered and off he went into the night, cigarette embers lighting his way. His cheery wave and signature catch phrase, "How's by you?" met me every morning. It was a memory I hold dear.

Three years ago I stopped in to see Mary Lou. During the course of our conversation, she instructed me in an exasperated tone to "go find Charles and tell him to start painting something." I was quite speechless. I had never dared to think about invading his inner sanctum ... didn't even know where it was, exactly. "Oh," she waved a hand behind where we sat, He's out there... but, he hasn't done anything for 6 months. Go tell him to get to work."

So, being caught between a rock and a hard place, I gingerly tiptoed down the steps. There he sat, cigarette burning down, staring rather complacently at a painting on his easel. "Hello," he began, "I'm Charles," to which I added, "Yes, I know." "I've almost finished this", he said, turning the canvas to my line of sight. "Would you like me to tell you its story?" Well, you can imagine what a thrill this was for me. So, tell the story he did, using his cane as a kind of magic wand to identify the figures and elements.

Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy Darlene Harris

"It's a circus", he explained. "This is the harlequin, the clown," he added. The canvas was, to my thinking, one of his finest creations. It was alive with shapes, patterns, and over-the-top colour. I almost had to force myself to make a request that had been foremost in my mind during this, unexpected, special interlude.

"Would you let me take your picture?" I asked very quietly. "Certainly," he responded, donning his cap. "Here, how's this?" Our brief time was over. I left amid profuse thankyou's. I never saw the painting again, but I am very certain it was purchased almost before it was dry.

I am even more grateful now, given the circumstances, that I had the extreme pleasure of presenting Mary Lou with copies of the photos the last time I saw her, the last difficult months that preceded the beginning of the end.

"These are lovely," she said, and tears welled up in her eyes. "I appreciate them so much."

Two years ago, a friend and I sat at the gate during the Historic House Tour, feeling rather redundant to inform disappointed visitors that, regretfully, the house was not open this year. I didn't know it at the time, but I got to say my "goodbye" during those hours. I recall taking one slow nostalgic walk round the encircling porch as if committing it all to memory. This year, I must force myself to even pass by. It does not seem real or right. Everything and everyone is on a timeline, we know it, but we are all diminished by this loss. It is the end of an era for Todos Santos. -- Darlene Harris

Fondly Remembering Charles

It was the search for Charles and Marilu that brought us to Todos Santos in 1996 when we were vacationing in Cabo and mutual friends asked us to drive up and tell them "Hello." Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy M. Gluss and TodosSantosArt.com They remained a part of our lives for the next 15 years. We lived in their casita off and on through years of visits and eventual construction and Harry and Charles spent many hours revisiting various wars and historical events while Marilu and I preferred to focus on less weighty topics.

We quickly learned that although Charles was a fountain of information, a consummate story teller and was never timid about sharing his opinions, he had a unique sense of humor and generous heart as well. When I fell in love with one of Charles' larger paintings and had no hope of paying for it, he put it on the wall in the room where he sat to eat and watch TV and let me pay for it poco a poco. A couple of years later he proudly helped me hang the finally paid for painting in the first casita that was completed at Serendipity. We are grateful for the friendship and memories we shared over the years and celebrate a life truly well lived and expressed. -- Sharon And Harry Morris

Charles and his "Pink Poodle" Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy Linda Stobbe

Charles was very proud of his classic pink convertible that he drove to Todos Santos from Taos, New Mexico. He spent a lot of time keeping it clean and classy looking. On special occasions he loved to drive around town in the "Poodle". One evening he was stopped by the police for an "infraction". They took Charles' drivers license and told him he could pick it up the following morning when he went to the police station to pay his fine.

Anyone who knew Charles also knew that he had a stubborn streak -often the fodder for humorous stories. When the Police took the drivers license, Charles refused to move, stating that it was against the law to drive without a license. He was prepared to spend the night in the convertible and was simply not going to budge!! The local police didn't know what to do, so they finally drove to his house and talked to Marylou who had to come and drive Charles home. Needless to say, Charles felt he had outwitted the police... but for days Charles didn't hear the "end of it" from Marylou!! Eventually the story of this incident took on a life of its own - but these are the facts as I recall them. --Linda Stobbe

Charles Stewart Video

Here is a Short Video of Charles discussing some of his art work and technique. If the link does not work, you can download the video here:

www.bajawesternonion.com/CharlesStewart.m4v (QuickTime Format)

www.bajawesternonion.com/issues/CharlesStewart.swf (Windows Media Player Format)
Thanks so much to Judith Farber for sharing this wonderful little gem with us. --The Baja Western Onion

Charles and his wife Marylou had been living in Taos, New Mexico this last year. Condolences can be sent to Marylou at:

Marylou Stewart
414 Camino de la Placita #4
Taos, N.M. 87571
Marylou would also welcome your calls at 575-751-4213, or via email at marichasart [- a t -] yahoo.com

More Memories of Charles Stewart Here:

Online Biography at: www.stevensfineart.com/bio.php?artistId=3178&artist=Charles%20Stewart

Charles Stewart Gallery and Studio

Photo of the Front Door at Charles' and Marylou's Gallery in Todos Santos - Courtesy Jay Fitzgerald Photography

Charles' 85 Birthday Party in Todos Santos

http://www.todossantosart.com/artists-4.htm (scroll down the page)

Charles Stewart, Todos Santos, Courtesy AskArt.com
Charles Stewart Oil on Canvas, "Buffalo Ceremony, Santa Clara," 24" x 40"
Photo courtesy www.asksart.com

" Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. " ~ Oscar Wilde

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