BY MARK GORDON – @TheMarkGordon
In an attempt to stem his homesickness, Steve Stewart turned to his love of art to bring life to his memories of growing up in Brechin. What followed was an artistic journey across the football grounds of Scotland, from a fans point of view.
Living in London and working in finance, Stewart found himself thinking about his home-town of Brechin often. As images of where he grew up ran through his mind the longing grew and Glebe Park was at the forefront of his reminiscences, â€œIâ€™ve always been interested in art, I was feeling a wee bit homesick living in London and was thinking about Brechin so decided to use my memories for some artworkâ€, Steve explains.
The thing that stood out in the 38-year-oldâ€™s mind wasnâ€™t a particular player or game but â€˜the hedgeâ€™. â€œItâ€™s pretty much an iconic part of the Glebe. If you ask any Brechin City fan about the ground they will tell you about the hedgeâ€. As he worked on his artistic impression of â€˜the hedgeâ€™ Steve got to thinking about other grounds and what quirks they may have.
â€œI finished the picture of â€˜the hedgeâ€™ and felt that I had my eye in for a style so I went to social media and started to follow clubs and supporters sitesâ€. After asking fans to provide him with their favourite images from their teamsâ€™ stadia Steve was delighted with the response. â€œI ended up talking to a number of fans, the one thing about football fans is that when you get them talking about their team itâ€™s hard to shut them up, I loved itâ€.
The next ground to get Stewartâ€™s artistic touch was Links Park, home of League Two side Montrose. â€œA good few Montrose fans got in touch and they all mentioned the same thing, â€˜the dynamoâ€™. â€œI hadnâ€™t heard of it before but it was the one thing they all mentioned and it sounded goodâ€. The dynamo is how the Montrose fans refer to their shed stand behind one of the goals.
As time went by Steve received more and more requests from all over the country and farther afield: â€œI had guys living in the USA coming to me with memories of their old home grounds, one in particular hadnâ€™t been in Scotland for thirty years, he still spoke with real fondness about his former homeâ€.
The love of the game in Scotland really shone through in Steveâ€™s interactions with supporters: â€œsome of the fans of smaller clubs in particular were brilliant, they spoke with so much passion about their team and their ground, the pride and love of their club were really inspirationalâ€.
Not all of the suggestions Steve received were useful, however; â€œpies, I canâ€™t do anything with pies, the Killie fans in particular were proud of their piesâ€. Some supporters even made suggestions on their rivalâ€™s grounds although not from a loving point of view, â€œHibs fans mentioned another ground more than anyone, more of them spoke about Tynecastle than Easter Road, they kept telling me about the Tynecastle rustâ€.
After just two months of starting his Twitter account @Fitba_Stadiums Steve had received numerous suggestions of iconic and quirky parts of Scottish football grounds. It wasnâ€™t just parts of the stadia that people had a fondness for; the walk to the ground also found a place in the hearts and minds of those who go to watch their team.
â€œAs well as the pies, Killie fans all talked about the walk to the game, the â€˜walk up Rugby Roadâ€™ was mentioned more than a few timesâ€. As well as the walk to the ground there were also landmarks on that journey finding their way into Steveâ€™s work: â€œThe band-stand at Stranraer was a popular one for their fans, itâ€™s nothing to do with the ground but because the stadium is in a public park the band-stand is something everyone saw on a match-dayâ€.
As the suggestions and communication with fans flowed, so did the production of the art; indeed, at the time of talking to him, Steve only had 9 stadia to go to complete the set of all Scottish League clubs. â€œThatâ€™s the idea and I will definitely have at least one print of every ground eventually. Some grounds and suggestions are harder to produce than others, the newer grounds are tough as fans havenâ€™t spent the same time going to and from them as with the older groundsâ€.
So, once the set is complete, what will Steve use as his next subject? â€œMaybe international stadia. Iâ€™ve made one of La Bombonera in Argentina, I was lucky enough to go to a game there whilst on holiday and I just loved the place. I did that one for myself reallyâ€.
Steveâ€™s digitally produced prints can be viewed and bought online at his website scottishfootballstadiumprints.com. As his initial exercise in relieving homesickness has snowballed, Steve has really been buoyed by his interaction with Scottish football fans; â€œA lot of the coverage of our game talks it down and I think itâ€™s unfair. There is a lot to be positive about and the passion and love that people spoke to me about their clubs was really refreshing. â€œPeople are immensely proud of their teams, community and town, I hope my work captures thatâ€. Iâ€™m sure those who have viewed Steveâ€™s unique work will attest to that.