Graduate Diploma Fine Art 2008 - 2009

Catharine Somerville

Artist

What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
I consider my biggest achievement at West Dean was to win the Chairman’s prize for my Graduate Fine Art work at West Dean. I spent an amazing year at West Dean College under tutors, Ed Winters and Marcus Rees Roberts by learning the advancement of my painting skills and thoughts. This led me to spend 6 weeks as a resident artist in Edward James’ magical garden, Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico. I made a series of work focussing on the flora and fauna mixing with the concrete garden that Edward James created. My watercolours are light and airy and wrap themselves around the concrete just as the vegetation intertwines with the art at Las Pozas.

Talk us through your career path since graduating.
I have continued to teach both in Canada and the UK. However, I now have the further education to teach in certified places such as the Women’s Art Association of Canada in Toronto. Graduating from West Dean has made me consider a more professional approach to my painting. I can honestly say that I have more of an understanding of the art business regarding exhibiting and teaching.

I now show my work through several galleries and through recognised art associations in both Canada and the UK. I am also showing in juried shows such as The Pelham Art Festival and the Queen Street Crawl in Niagara and Toronto, Canada and am about to show the Winter in Spain.

What projects are you currently working on?
I have spent the past two COVID years working on a series focussing on the life of a pond. I have painted several ponds from Midhurst, West Sussex, to Jordan Village at Twenty Valley Pond in Ontario. From the frog life, duck-life, Canadian beavers and fish, it is a fascinating eco centre. The stories are fascinating from people waiting for the duck’s eggs to hatch in the spring to witnessing the beaver dam being built in the wetlands, Northern Ontario. My paintings are becoming more abstract as I try to focus on my colour and the experience of being by the pond/nature/eco/biodiversity/climate change and the experience of the paint itself. Experience is something that my tutors kept emphasising.

Do you have any tips for recent graduates?
Try to keep focus and keep your instincts alive and free. It’s not an easy road and you have to really love what you’re doing. Find a gallery that you connect with and feel happy with and connect with artist groups that show their work together. This way you can move forward with support and feedback and learn to work with other artists in a group.  

How do you think studying at West Dean College prepared you for what you do now?
It gave me an intellectual understanding of the art world which has helped me connect with curators and gallery owners and successful exhibiting artists. I learned that different approaches to visual art intensified my appreciation and involvement with the arts/crafts and conservation aspects. 

What's your favourite memory from your time at the College?
I especially enjoyed the lectures and the teaching consultations with my tutors. It was difficult to get used to the studio spaces but in the end, I found the associations with other students very helpful and productive. Of course, the gardens and estate are magical and I spent many hours walking, plein air painting and just sitting and enjoying the spaces around me.  A real bonus and lifechanging experience was being able to go to  Edward James’ Las Pozas for six weeks during my studies. There, I met with his godchildren and actually hung out with them. Across the garden a local young man was in the process of creating his own Surreal garden where people could stay in concrete Teepees. It is called Casa Caracol. I spent every morning having my breakfast of handmade tortilla made by the cook, with flour that kept being passed down and revived from her great grandmother. Wonderful chats in the coffee bar that I didn’t quite understand as I don’t speak Spanish but enjoyed anyway. At the end of my stay, Zaira, the Museum Director, organised a show and the townsfolk came including the Major and the newspaper!

Did you receive any form of funding to study at West Dean?
I was invited to stay in Edward James’ Las Pozas as a resident artist and was treated with great respect and given a studio. This was funded by Las Pozas Edward James Foundation in Mexico. 

Did you have a different career before coming to West Dean? If so, why did you change career paths?
I’ve always been a painter. However, after graduating from fine art when I was younger, I was a Graphic Designer and worked on building a brand for various companies and communities. I also was a cook on a sail boat. While I worked and sailed around the world for four years, I never considered that to be a job, but more of an adventure.

PINK HOUSE 2021 #58. Oil on canvas
Catherine Somerville. PINK HOUSE 2021 #58. Oil on canvas
Catherine Somerville. Ice Dream 2021. Oil on canvas
Catherine Somerville. Ice Dream 2021. Oil on canvas.
Catherine Somerville. Weaver World, 2021, Oil on canvas
Catherine Somerville. Weaver World, 2021, Oil on canvas.
Catherine Somerville. 2020 Winter Sea.
Catherine Somerville. 2020 Winter Sea.
Catherine Somerville. 04 Fields of Gold, 2021
Catherine Somerville. Fields of Gold, 2021
Catherine Somerville. Ice Maiden 2014.
Catherine Somerville. Ice Maiden 2014.
Catherine Somerville. September Flight 2021
Catherine Somerville. September Flight 2021.
Catherine Somerville. Twenty Valley Pond 2021.
Catherine Somerville. Twenty Valley Pond 2021.
Catherine Somerville. Autumn Zinger 2021.
Catherine Somerville. Autumn Zinger 2021.