One to Watch

A Focus in Artistry with Ethan Stuart

Ethan Stuart explores the complex relationship between humans and nature by painting scenes that are inspired by his personal experiences and his religious upbringing. Approaching his practice with a focus in artistry, Ethan’s deep curiosity in understanding his surroundings and his purposeful painting process allows for viewers to interpret his paintings with a more complex perspective.

He received his BFA at School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, and then attended Pratt MWP, a museum sister school to Pratt Brooklyn. Ethan later transferred to SAIC in Chicago, where he developed an artistic style with a firm faith in the masters work and a deep appreciation in the art of painting. He currently lives and works in Santa Monica, California.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I don’t really approach art making thematically so much but I will say there is a “Man and Nature” feeling to a lot of the work I make. I’ve been working on a series that addresses my grandfather and his rodeo career, as well as his passion of being a pastor for the non denominational church. It all ties into a wrestling with nature, both trying to understand it and perhaps trying to tame it. The religious themes that play into my work aren’t as christian as they are spiritual. I found the true benefit to having been raised with religion was that it was an alternative way to try and understand nature.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

I think when I was a kid I thought that art was drawing and painting. So much so that when I came to understand that art was much more than that, it still took a precedence. Having worked seriously with the medium for nearly 15 years, it still challenges me daily. I’m a very confident painter yet everyday I fear I’ve been doing it wrong the entire time.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

My paintings have become more and more about my own experiences. In the past, I was trying to connect to viewers using devices to open the image content as to not exclude anyone. The image would have a fairly generalized theme with little object clues that would help the viewer build their own experience with it. Now I feel much more in charge of whats being revealed. Every time I made an image that was only about my experience with no compass on how to interpret it, the feeling and life it gave to the viewer was much more complex. I am after feeling when I make paintings now, narrative is not wrong by any means, but secondary.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

Every time I make a painting I think more about art in general than I do the piece that I’m physically working on at the time. What do I plan on achieving by making this painting? Why is making this particular painting important to the process of being an artist? What am I learning? If I can answer one or two of these questions in a positive way then the painting is in pretty good shape. If it feels wrong I start the process over and over, painting over the image. Most of the time I’ll do this 2-3 times before I come to an image with purpose.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be?

I’m a laborer at heart. I think thats what motivates my art practice. My family owned a landscaping company for over 50 years, originally opened by my grandfather. I would have carried that torch if it weren’t for art.

What are some of your favorite experiences as an artist?

I think that the pursuit of artistry has lead me to be generally curious and engaged with my surroundings. It’s a constant training in observation that is always rewarding.

About the Author

Monty Preston is the Assistant Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at