At the Station House this month take a tour through a vegetable garden as you’ve never seen it before with Cathie Allen’s colourful pastel paintings.
Allen has lived in the Cariboo for close to 40 years and said she’s been doing some type of art all of her life. However, she owns a five-acre market-garden, Mackin Creek Farm, along with her husband so art has largely taken the back seat until now.
Growing up in North Vancouver, Allen said her artwork and love for art was really influenced by her family as her great uncle was an artist in Ireland during the 1920s while another grant uncle did stained glass in the Philadelphia area. This led to her being interested in art from a young age and picking up the pen throughout her school career, though she added that she’s received no formal training outside of workshops.
“It’s something I think I just started doing and I’ve always had a real love and passion for it,” Allen said. “I find it a challenge, especially in the medium I work in and I just love creating what’s in my head and then my will comes out on paper.”
Primarily, she enjoys painting with watercolours for their “magical” effect they have when they mix together and the skill involved in getting the painting right the first time. There is no white paint to fall back on, Allen said, which provides her with a consistent and enjoyable challenge.
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Now that she and her husband are slowing down on their garden some, she is hopeful she’ll be able to devote more time to pursuing her art.
This show took three years to put together and is called The Unsung Beauties of My Garden, Allen said, and was somewhat born out of envy. Some of Allen’s neighbours have these absolutely “drop-dead gorgeous flower gardens” with eye candy everywhere you look. As Allen tends to more of a working garden, she’s unable to plant such colourful floral arrangements.
One day, however, while she was weeding a row of carrots, Allen noticed a beautiful flower on the potato plants. Upon closer inspection, she realized they’re absolutely gorgeous up close and started looking for similar flowers on her other vegetables. As she found more of them she became inspired to start painting these seldom noticed spots of natural beauty.
“Working with green was the most challenging because I really have trouble with that when it comes to paints,” Allen said. “I’m kind of happy how it turned out. It’s kind of a happy show, like all my job has been with gardening and it’s a happy job. It reflects my life and that’s a really cool thing.”
She hopes this show encourages people to take a closer look at hidden beauty in their own lives and gain an appreciation for all things. Art, Allen thinks, really helps liven up life as without it existence would be all gray and focused on work.
“Art can say a lot about what’s happening to you or your community. It’s a way of communication and I think it’s really important,” Allen said.