We bumped into local artist Cate Townsend at a networking function a few weeks ago and we were so impressed with her work, we asked her to share her story with FOCUS.
How long have you lived on the Coffs Coast?
I have lived in Coffs for about 17 years.
What do you love about living here?
The lifestyle. I love the fact that you have both the rainforest and the coast – such wonderful inspiration for an artist. Boambee Bay is only a short walk and Sawtell is only a few minutes’ drive, and the views from the headland are stunning. I spend a lot of time at Sawtell with my teenage sons in summer, and my camera is always with me.
When did you first get into art?
I’ve always felt that I was an artist, although I didn’t seriously pursue art until 2002. After successfully completing a business course through TAFE, one of my teachers, Caroline Fletcher, took me aside and advised me to apply for a design course that TAFE was running.
Caroline felt that I had taken to the design aspects in the business course extremely well. I didn’t even have a decent portfolio, but still managed to be accepted into the design course.
Did your family support your artistic side?
My family did not consider art as a viable career choice, so I worked in the government for many years in secretarial and clerical roles.
I received a great deal of support from my Visual Art teachers, Margaret Ackland and Ray Rixon. I had the privilege of two great mentors in Margaret and Ray.
Ray gave me the opportunity of exhibiting at Lake Russell Gallery in 2009 as a student. The owners of Lake Russell put my work in a prominent position and made it clear that they felt I had a lot of talent. As a result, my work Ophelia 09 is hanging at Martin Giles Sports Physiotherapy, 82 Albany Street, Coffs Harbour.
Are there any other artists in your family?
I think all my children are artistic to some degree. My daughter Jessica leans more towards graphic design, while Peter is involved in industrial design. Shaun is a carpenter, and my younger sons Joshua and Daniel have artistic traits.
Some people say you have to be born with artistic talent. Do you agree?
I think if you have a true passion, it comes through – whether you are born with it, I can’t say. It seems that an artist looks at things in a different light. An example: an artist looking at a patterned tile, a stain, rust marks, will most likely see faces, animals or some kind of abstract art form.
Have you had any formal training?
I have studied Design and Visual Arts through North Coast Institute of TAFE.
How would you describe your style of art?
Every time someone asks, “What is your style?” Or, “What do you do?” I struggle with an answer. When I was first studying design, I did a major work on Art Nouveau and the whole movement really influenced me as an artist. It was the fact that the artists of the time didn’t want to be categorised … it was a time of great change and to me it was like a light was turned on in humanity … so many inventions. Artists started to look outside the square, and architects designed cutlery, as well as clothes for their wives.
This is how some of my peers have described my art:
“Deep with emotions and beauty is your style …come what may be a person, nature, a flower, emotions, expressions … you look for the element which speaks from the core of your art … looking at your art makes one catch the wonderful element of depth.” Dr. Suresh Saraswat Rajasthan, INDIA.
“Cate, your work is feminine, deeply passionate and from your heart. You are expressive, impressionistic and modern … a joy to view your work. Your work comes from deep inside yourself.“Elizabeth O’Connor, Timmins, Canada.
“I’d describe your style possibly as contemporary and figurative, with certain influences. I’d describe your feminine or female works as figurative. Cate, your work is exquisite; I don’t like to box you in. You are unique and your work is of a superb quality. You have a lovely sense of style and design too. It all shows through in your concept development, which is fascinating in itself. I love the way you develop a painting and gather ideas.”Karin Taylor, Lennox Head, NSW, Australia.
What mediums do you work with?
Most of my work is designed in Photoshop – it’s kind of like my visual diary, only a computerised version. I will scan images of my drawings, paintings, photographs into the computer, and then it’s a process of development which could take days, weeks or months to reach a place that I call “When the magic happens”, and I have a composition I’m happy with.
I don’t always work this way; sometimes I just let the paint talk to me on the canvas, by throwing around colours and an image will appear, such as Ophelia 09.
When I paint my composition, I use a lot of mixed media – acrylic paint, pastels, ink, charcoal, colour pencil. I even put a feather in one of my works and paper doilies in another. If I’m drawing, I prefer to use charcoal or graphite pencils. Sometimes I will just use pastel to complete a work.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
When I was 13, I was introduced to the work of Pablo Picasso, and he has been my major influence. Inspiration comes from many places, and I am always seeking beauty. Women, Asia especially Japan, France, Morocco, Gaudi, Dali, Klimt, fashion, lace, fabric, architecture, nature, periods in history, myths, legends, stories, different cultures, the ocean … other artists.
Some Australian Artists I admire are Norman Lindsay, Brett Whitely, and Aboriginal art and artists and legends from the dreamtime are a very strong influence on my work. Dennis Nona’s work is contemporary and amazing; I am very fortunate to have an original artwork Spirit Sisters by Colleen Bird Wallace Nungurrayi from the Northern Territory.
Have you received any awards?
I have won two design awards while studying Design and Visual Arts at TAFE.
Where do you exhibit your artwork?
I have exhibited work at Lake Russell Gallery at Coffs Harbour, Big Sky Gallery in Bellingen, and I have been part of five group exhibitions over the last two years at the Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst, Sydney.
What are you looking forward to in the next few months?
I have had an offer to exhibit in Sydney, this time alongside artist and curator Lesley Dimmick. I have also been doing a vast amount of research in preparation for a solo exhibition that will possibly be in Sydney later next year.
Where else can people view your work (or find out more)?
I currently have an artwork Magic Carpet Ride on exhibit in North Sydney at G26 The Atrium Space in The McGrath Foundation for Breast Cancer. A percentage of proceeds from the gallery are donated to The McGrath Foundation.
I am also part of an art site on the internet called redbubble. You can buy prints, cards, calendars, and T-shirts of my work on redbubble.
For commissions or any inquiries, you can phone me on 0413 464 819 or