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, “I’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 artwork”, Steve explains.
The thing that stood out in the 38-year-old’s mind wasn’t a particular player or game but ‘the hedge’. “It’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 hedge”. As he worked on his artistic impression of ‘the hedge’ Steve got to thinking about other grounds and what quirks they may have.
“I finished the picture of ‘the hedge’ and felt that I had my eye in for a style so I went to social media and started to follow clubs and supporters sites”. After asking fans to provide him with their favourite images from their teams’ stadia Steve was delighted with the response. “I ended up talking to a number of fans, the one thing about football fans is that when you get them talking about their team it’s hard to shut them up, I loved it”.
The next ground to get Stewart’s artistic touch was Links Park, home of League Two side Montrose. “A good few Montrose fans got in touch and they all mentioned the same thing, ‘the dynamo’. “I hadn’t heard of it before but it was the one thing they all mentioned and it sounded good”. 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: “I had guys living in the USA coming to me with memories of their old home grounds, one in particular hadn’t been in Scotland for thirty years, he still spoke with real fondness about his former home”.
The love of the game in Scotland really shone through in Steve’s interactions with supporters: “some 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 inspirational”.
Not all of the suggestions Steve received were useful, however; “pies, I can’t do anything with pies, the Killie fans in particular were proud of their pies”. Some supporters even made suggestions on their rival’s grounds although not from a loving point of view, “Hibs fans mentioned another ground more than anyone, more of them spoke about Tynecastle than Easter Road, they kept telling me about the Tynecastle rust”.
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 wasn’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.
“As well as the pies, Killie fans all talked about the walk to the game, the ‘walk up Rugby Road’ was mentioned more than a few times”. As well as the walk to the ground there were also landmarks on that journey finding their way into Steve’s work: “The band-stand at Stranraer was a popular one for their fans, it’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-day”.
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. “That’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 haven’t spent the same time going to and from them as with the older grounds”.
So, once the set is complete, what will Steve use as his next subject? “Maybe international stadia. I’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 really”.
Steve’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; “A lot of the coverage of our game talks it down and I think it’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. “People are immensely proud of their teams, community and town, I hope my work captures that”. I’m sure those who have viewed Steve’s unique work will attest to that.