Cathy Stewart talks about the importance of patience and determination.
Stewart began painting in 2003, while she lived in Maple Ridge, and brought the skill with her when she moved back to the Island to retire in 2006. She is an Island native, having grown up in the Port Alberni region.
Stewart attributes getting into the art shortly after having read ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards. The concept of the book intrigued her, and from there she started to take drawing lessons.
“I was told that I could draw, why not learn how to paint?” said Stewart. “And I just loved it.”
She felt the same way many notice painters do in the beginning; that if she couldn’t produce a masterpiece right away, she ought to just “forget it and throw the brushes away.”
One of Stewart’s first self-portraits had been a pair of running shoes, and as a marathon runner, felt this was an accurate representation. She began running at 40, and within a year-and-a-half ran her first marathon.
“Which was really stupid,” Stewart said.
But she completed it, and ran many more after that. During her marathon days, she ran in Vancouver, Victoria, Newport and Portland, Ore., to name a few.
Her most important lesson from running, Stewart said, is learning that “with patience and determination you can do anything.”
“You have to just keep on keepin’ on… When people start, and they haven’t developed the skills yet, they forget that there’s so many facets to learn.”
Stewart calls it her “marathon lesson,” and was happy to prove herself right with learning painting as a new skill.
Her most recent works have been oil paints on canvas, as Stewart prefers oils over any other medium for the malleability and colour. Her only use of acrylics, she said, was during trips to northern Canada and were used “simply for the convenience because they dry fast.”
Currently, her focus is on seascapes and landscapes.
Her recent art at the Qualicum Art Supply and Gallery shows several depictions of the Ninstints, Skedans, and Haida totems.
Ninstints in the English name for a village site of the Haida Nation and part of the Gwaii Haanas National Park and Haida Heritage Site in Haida Gwaii on the North Coast of B.C. Ninstints village site is a World Heritage Site, and a National Historic Site Canada.
In Haida tradition, it is custom to allow the totems to succumb to the natural decay of the rainforest climate and return to the earth.
“The totems really are quite famous,” said Stewart.
She recalled an eight day boat trip she took so that she could get her own pictures.
“I couldn’t conceptualize, because they always put their totems in the village near the long houses at the opening.”
While admittedly not having a muse, Stewart “trusts in a universal creative energy.” When she is in the zone, she channels that energy and said “its just incredible.”
She works out of her backyard studio, and considers painting as a cathartic process.
“Getting into it, you lose all time, you just transcend it. It’s just a total retreat.”
There are currently two local exhibits in the PQB area that include Stewart’s work. The first being at Qualicum Art Supply and Gallery, until the end of October. The second being at the The Old School House Arts Centre for their Federation of Canadian Artists 25th Anniversary Fall juried Exhibition until Dec. 17.