From the age of 4, Monica Stewart’s parents encouraged her artistic pursuits. While growing up in Oakland, California, this early parental patronage, as well as support throughout her school years, helped nurture her talent enough to get a four year scholarship to the San Francisco Art Academy. She later transferred to California State University at Hayward, where she majored in Art. One of the artists she studied under was Raymond Saunders, a very influential figure in her education.
Instead of getting her degree, she cut her studies short to become a flight attendant, and eventually raise a son. This left no time for painting, so her talent remained dormant. Some fifteen years later in 1990, with some time off from work, she had the freedom to get back into painting. Her renewed interest in art coincided with meeting a new friend and neighbor, best-selling novelist Terry McMillan. As Stewart recalls, “She’d come by and we’d talk about what’s going on with her. We’re around the same age, and I saw how she was taking what was a natural gift for her and making it work. She was the first one to see my pieces and say, ‘I’ll buy that!’