← Back



Photo credit: Alex Stewart


It is human nature to leave our mark on the world. From the Pyramids in Egypt to Stonehenge in England, there are monumental displays of human ingenuity, creativity, and passion all over the globe. Preserve and Protect is a project that takes this concept of ‘leaving our mark’ and considers the impact it has on our natural environments. Creating art within British Columbia’s beautiful forests, [the artist uses] the environment as a canvas, adding to it with biodegradable, eco-friendly art.

The purpose of this project is to start a conversation surrounding the issues of sustainability and preservation by humanizing the environment. In a month-long process, emotive portraits are placed in the wild and documented during their decay. These portraits create a surreal landscape, providing a fanciful escape. Inspiring deeper thoughts about how we interact with our environment, from the positive to the negative, is ingrained in the artistic ethos.

Often, we are quick to take nature for granted. [The artists] placement of this bio-degradable art is deliberate: [they] want people to give pause, taking the time to see the wonder around them. Just maybe, it will inspire those who witness it to keep our green spaces safe. [1]

Alex Stewart is a Vancouver-based artist specializing in stencil art. Studying at the University of the Fraser Valley, he received a Diploma of Visual Arts in 2011. Stewart’s work focuses on creating a narrative for the continued efforts toward sustainability and environmental preservation. He creates in natural settings such as the forests of British Columbia in order to humanize our environment. The result is a merging of street art and plein air depicting soft, ephemeral female figures interacting with nature. Stewart’s public mural work also reflects these values by bringing the natural world into the urban. [2]

Combining moss, sugar, flour and almond milk or buttermilk, along with natural food-grade pigment in his kitchen blender, Stewart ran through a number of trial and errors before starting to fine tune the process. The resulting paste smelled horrible, he adds, so he would mix in vanilla extract to increase sugar levels and improve the scent.

Over the past year, he discovered a number of other companies creating and implementing eco-friendly practices. It was a learning process for him, he says, because these methods were never taught in art school.

Stewart figured out how to make a filter to separate plastic paint and his rinse water; discovered an environmentally friendlier epoxy to finish his gallery pieces; and started using paints comprised of just water, alcohol, pigment and a binder made from sugar cane.

For Stewart’s outdoor pieces, he experimented on stumps around the farm, creating a stencil first, putting it on paper and then pasting it onto dead stumps or decomposing logs—never a living tree. Expanding beyond his family land, he was conscious to be invited into a space to create art. He never wants to leave a destructive mark behind. He’s also refused to geotag his artwork because he worried people will add their own graffiti to the area without care or consideration for the environment.

Stewart has built a partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and a portion of his studio artwork sales goes towards the organization. In the future he hopes to build a partnership with Parks Canada to start a public forum about how everyone accesses nature yet most take the spaces for granted and assume someone else will care for them and keep them clean. [3]


[1]       “In Nature.” Enlife Studio. Accessed August 6, 2021. http://www.enlifestudio.com/innature.

[2]       “Watchful.” Abbotsford Arts Council. Accessed August 6, 2021. https://abbotsfordartscouncil.com/watchful/.

[3]       “’I Like Watching My Art Rot’.” Megaphone. Accessed August 6, 2021. https://www.megaphonemagazine.com/art_rot.

Additional information:

Gamage, Michelle. “This Art Will Self-Destruct.” Street Roots. Street Roots, July 10, 2019. https://www.streetroots.org/news/2019/07/05/art-will-self-destruct.

Project Title: Preserve and Protect
Artists:  Alex Stewart
Year: 2019

Place: Vancouver Coast, British Columbia (various locations)

scroll to top