Learning to see from a different angle

Qualicum Beach artist recently taught students to paint in Guatemala through local charity

Painter Cathy Stewart’s totem poles and west coast scenery are for sale at the Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply.

Painter Cathy Stewart’s totem poles and west coast scenery are for sale at the Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply.

Once Cathy Stewart understood how to paint what her mind was seeing, she began creating her sought-after oil pieces of totem poles, and now she has passed that knowledge on to her students in Guatemala.

The Qualicum Beach artist became inspired to create art while working on a fundraising committee for a transitional house in Vancouver. There was a project where 10 artists painted for four hours while people milled around enjoying string music and appetizers, and then the pieces were sold at auction.

“I think it was that whole atmosphere of watching people produce and seeing what they could do that really got me inspired,” she said.

About 10 years ago she read a book that explained how to transpose what’s in your mind onto canvas and she said now she can’t help but paint.

“Once I learned that painting was about learning to see, I realized you can paint just about anything,” she said. “It’s an incredible process.”

Her work is currently hanging for sale at the Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply.

Stewart grew up in Port Alberni and said she has always been fascinated with the First Nations culture. When she moved back to the Island from the Lower Mainland eight years ago, she took a class with Canadian artist Lloyd Major who helped her perfect her totem poles.

After selling a number of those paintings, among her other stunning pieces of the West Coast, she took a trip to Haida Gwaii to photograph the heritage sites and totem poles for future work.

Stewart also photographs the landscape and scenery in Tofino and Ucluelet to inspire her work and she is represented at the Reflecting Spirit Gallery in those districts.

As an enthusiastic volunteer for a number of causes, Stewart recently offered to assist local charity Aldea Maya. Founder Louise Sosa asked if she’d consider teacher art to the students in Guatemala.

“I didn’t know what I was walking into,” she said. “She wanted me to do some depth perception stuff, well I’m not an art teacher but I amazed myself.”

Stewart said the students were fantastic and they had an incredible time creating art together.

The paintings created by the students during her four-week painting program will be sold at Aldea Maya’s next local fundraiser.

The website is www.aldeamaya.ca and the organization welcomes volunteers.

Stewarts career in mental health and addictions for the past 45 years has had her taking numerous trips to Nunavut for the past eight years. Although she photographs the landscape in that region and has done some acrylic work there, she has yet to sell those pieces. But it’s on her “To do” list.

“I’d like to do a show someday on some of the Northern scenery because it’s just so different.”

The Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply is located at 206 W. 1st Ave in Qualicum Beach.