Clevedon artist, Cathy Cowin admits it’s an ‘aeon’ since art classes at Pakuranga College first revealed a budding talent and although painting, in particular, took a back seat for many years, she tells HELEN PERRY it is now a driver in her life.
Cathy Cowin credits her 88-year-old mother’s prolific art portfolio as inspiration for her desire to paint, especially watercolours.
But if anyone should visualise a mature Cathy spending her days in the quiet Clevedon countryside, painting to her heart’s content, that would be far from the truth.
In between painting, overseeing a growing group of Clevedon Creatives (their gallery and shop) and teaching a weekly art class, Cathy manages to sandwich in a bookkeeping job and her role as a hypnotherapist. She also works in the family’s small textile company making haberdashery fringes.
Perhaps best known for her flamboyant, colourful roosters and more subtle florals, plus pen and ink work, Cathy says it is only in the past six or seven years that she has had time for painting. However, her artistic journey has embraced a variety of craft paths.
“I’ve sewed all my life and turned my hand to a number of crafts; anything creative – decopage, mosaics, fabric work and more. As a teenager I admired the pencil drawings sketched by my older, architect brother. More recently I’ve drawn on memories of his work and developed my own style, but my heart lies in watercolors.
“It was my mother, Mary Maxwell who really guided me back into painting. I always wanted to paint like her so when mum asked if I wanted to attend night classes with her at Te Tuhi in Pakuranga, I was up for it.”
Cathy says studying under Kohl Tyler-Dunshea was a revelation. “She didn’t just show us how she painted, she taught us technique whilst encouraging our own personal style. I’ve tried to adopt the same approach with the art group I now teach on Wednesday mornings in Clevedon.”
The [Clevedon] art classes are a natural progression from founding the Clevedon Creatives in 2019 when Cathy, together with fellow artist Helene Henare (Maraetai), discussed the idea of starting a weekly social group for local artists and crafters.
“It’s much like a drop-in centre where members can talk and work together,” Cathy elaborates. “Initially, there were four of us running the group – Helene and I, Elizabeth Ambrose and Emma York. We started in the Clevedon District Centre and grew quickly.”
Come their first Christmas, the ‘creatives’ were offered a former saddlery premises for a two -day pop up shop to display their work.
“We never closed; soon it was open five days and now it’s seven,” Cathy laughs.
Showcasing an eclectic range of art and crafts, the gallery-cum-shop is operated by an enthusiastic group of volunteers most of whom are talented artists or crafters in their own right.
Visitors will find everything from sculptures, paintings, quilts and glass works through to baby clothes, homewares, decorative wall art and much more.
However, in time work and family pressures saw some founder members depart on new challenges and just when Cathy was thinking she needed help, her daughter, Caitlin Sefton stepped in to co-manage the enterprise.
“That’s been wonderful; it’s given me time to run the weekly art class which I love. My hypnotherapy training has shown me that art can be an emotional outlet, helping people become aware of their own creativity. Many don’t realise how creative they until they try. They are then amazed.
“No one here has to be fantastic; they just need to enjoy what they are doing. Sometimes the idea of mixing with “artists” can make one feel apprehensive and that should never happen.
“We are community-focused and I see how much members’ confidence grows as they mix and learn from each other. What’s more, it’s important for me as a teacher to be patient and to not dominate with my style.”
When it comes to her own paintings, Cathy says although time to paint has often been limited, she remained encouraged by other artists and through former membership of the Howick Art Group.
“But, at last I am pursuing my own direction. I love painting roosters; they are fun, cheeky and have personality. I’d also like to do more botanical works. I’d like to achieve the more translucent effect which flowers often have; that’s my goal at present even though life is extremely busy.”
Clevedon Creatives and Co