Basketball in still life | Brooke Stewart painting an artistic career at William & Mary


Brooke Stewart always had trouble sitting still. She needed some kind of preoccupation, no matter how mundane it might have been.

Running up and down the basketball court was a great release and she ultimately enjoyed a high school career in her native Massachusetts with multiple player of the year awards. But sitting still in a classroom or similar setting? Doodling and coloring killed time — and set the stage for her academic career.

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Over the last four years at William & Mary, Stewart has had the best of both worlds. The senior guard is in the stretch drive of her college basketball career and has applied to graduate programs to further her education in the art world.

Students, faculty and visitors to the Williamsburg, Va., campus have likely seen one or more of her works displayed in a library or other common area.

“I have always liked to color and I was very interested in art history, how things are made,” she said. “Coming into (William & Mary) I could not really sit at a desk. I had to be doing something, so I chose the art world.”

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It seemed to be a natural thing for Stewart to pursue in college. After all, while earning plaudits for her talent on the court in high school she was also being recognized for her artistic abilities, including awards from the Boston Globe and Rhode Island School of Design.

“It was kind of shocking I won those awards,” she said. “I was not expecting to, but it kind of helped in regard to what I wanted to do in college. It confirmed I had the ability if I wanted to continue with it.”

Stewart has spent much of her time at William & Mary focusing on oil paintings and woodcuts. That is when she is not practicing her shooting and defense.

Because of Stewart’s field of study she cannot bring her work on road trips. The team bus is not exactly a place for an easel and canvas. Hence, homework is something that cannot be taken on the road. Alas, game planning and experience have allowed her to smooth the bumps that were a burden earlier in her career when it came to fulfilling classroom requirements.

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“My freshman year was really hard, I struggled a lot,” said Stewart, who is on track to play in her 100th career game Sunday at North Carolina-Wilmington. “Now that I am older I know to plan out my day. I always look a week ahead and find out what time we are leaving if we have a road trip and plan around that. I have had a lot of late nights. Sometimes if I am too tired to stay up I will get up early and paint, but my professors understand I will always get my work done. Sometimes I have gotten it done early and sometimes late, but I have been lucky in that my professors at William & Mary have been very flexible with me.”

Stewart prefers still life and has painted a variety of things, including her car, the attractive older structures that dot much of the William & Mary campus and cakes and pies, which she also loves to bake.

“I have done a lot of etchings and landscape paintings of William & Mary,” she said. “There are so many beautiful buildings here and all you have to do is just walk outside and it’s right in front of you. The buildings and the architecture are gorgeous.”

Four of her works have been displayed around campus as part of the President’s Collection of Art, an endeavor that according to the school’s web site was “created to support the efforts of the many artists who work within the College of William & Mary community by acquiring and exhibiting their work.”

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The school’s history department purchased one of her pieces and Stewart has donated some of her work to auctions that have benefited athletics.

Yet with all she has done at William & Mary within her academic discipline it is basketball that has, ahem, painted the picture of the person she is.

“Basketball has taught me everything in regard to life and how to handle good and bad situations,” she said. “I feel that without basketball I would not be who I am today especially with all the experience it has given me.”

Stewart, who in her career with the Tribe (13-7; 4-5 CAA) has averaged about nine minutes per game and has drained more than 50 three-pointers, is hopeful that experience can be extended come the CAA tournament.

“I definitely think we have all the pieces to the puzzle,” she said. “We just have to put them together and when the tournament comes around it is like a different season. You never know what can happen.”

You also never know when you might someday come upon artwork by Brooke Stewart.

Above: Brooke Stewart has found a balance between her artistic and competitive side at William & Mary. (Courtesy William & Mary sports information)
Middle: Artwork courtesy Brooke Stewart
Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.