Stressie Cat debuts at local arts festival

Lucia Stewart creates ‘art to make you smile’

Lucia Stewart works on her latest painting.
Lucia Stewart paints and creates art fulltime to sell on her site stressiecat.com.
“The Clowning Crows,” written and illustrated by Lucia Stewart, features her reoccurring characters: the four crows.

Participants and visitors of the Alpharetta Arts Streetfest will be seeing a new face this year, and she wants to help everybody smile with her work. Local artist Lucia Stewart will bring her Stressie Cat originals May 27-29 to delight the whole family with whimsical acrylic paintings of cats, dogs, birds and other animals.

“I hope to put just a smile on somebody’s face,” Stewart said. “Whether it’s to touch them in a soulful way or to just make them smile, then my job’s done.”

The works are inspired mainly by her pets, but the bright and cheerful style of Stressie Cat did not evolve until a few years ago.

Stewart, a life-long artist, originally started her career painting realistic portraits of people in the United Kingdom. Originally from South Africa, she began cultivating this work as a way to find a niche for herself during her family’s frequent moves.

“I had to find something while raising the kids that I would enjoy, and I could move with me to any place,” Stewart said. “I found that in painting.”

It wasn’t until the family had adopted Memo, the original Stressie Cat, in 2004 that Stewart developed her whimsical style.

“It all started with Stressie Cat - Memo,” Stewart said. “I was doing a portrait of someone, and it was all messy, so I just painted over it.”

But some of the paint still showed a little underneath on the canvass. According to Stewart, the resulting shadowy figure looked a little like a cartoony cat, like Memo, and she ran with it.

“That was the first painting of Memo that I did,” Stewart said. “I really felt something real about that painting. It felt right.”

She put it online to sell, but Stewart wasn’t prepared for the popularity that painting would bring her.

Soon after the original Stressie Cat painting sold, Stewart received multiple emails from interested customers asking if the painting had already gone and if she was planning to make more. That good feedback helped kick start what would later become her brand, Stressie Cat.

“I had had a little bit of a tragic incident around that time, and I just stopped painting,” Stewart said. “I just stopped. I realized that there was so much bad out there in the world that I couldn’t just sit there and paint the ‘perfect’ picture of somebody. By the time I got back to painting, this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to put some happiness in the world.”

In that first year alone, she sold over 4,000 Stressie Cat paintings.

Stewart has since created a host of reoccurring characters in this line of work, including a pink dog, the little mouse, a pair of whimsical birds and the crows. These characters also show up in her other products, including greeting cards, pillows, T-shirts and the book, “The Clowning Crows.” The book is now taught as part of the lesson plans in some Luxembourg schools.

Stewart will be at the Alpharetta Arts Streetfest, set for May 27-29 this year. This will be her first time in any arts festival.

For more information about Stressie Cat and Stewart’s works, visit stressiecat.com. ■


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