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Cows on Canvas Dorset Arts Week

PUBLISHED: 16:49 22 May 2012 | UPDATED: 04:26 10 February 2013

Cows on Canvas Dorset Arts Week

Cows on Canvas Dorset Arts Week

As Dorset Art Weeks opens across the county, we meet the Sherborne-based cow artist, Jackie Spurrier who is opening her studio to the public for the event.

Cows on Canvas



As Dorset Art Weeks opens across the county, we meet the Sherborne-based cow artist, Jackie Spurrier who is opening her studio to the public for the event.




Jackie Spurriers career didnt really start off with an artistic bent; she had originally trained as a doctor but gave up her job as a GP when children came along. "I was never very happy being a doctor I didnt enjoy the pressure or thrive in that sort of environment," says Jackie. "Having children just brought my life into focus why carry on doing something that doesnt fill you with joy?" Instead Jackie turned to her lifelong passion for art and decided to forge a career as an artist. "Im lucky that Im married to a hospital doctor, so my decision to stop working wasnt financially crippling for us. Now, if my kids need me the cows can wait; real life patients are a bit trickier to work around!"


Jackie completed an Art Foundation at City of Bath College when she was "having a wobble" about following medicine as a career. It was an enlightening experience which, as Jackie says, allowed her to shake off the "conservative with a small c" tendencies that had previously typified her artistic endeavours. "Prior to the Foundation Course, I hadnt painted anything larger than A4 size, suddenly I was allowed to go large really large using implements that you didnt buy from an art shop like feathers, bits of wood it was amazing," she enthuses. Her final show featured paintings of large human heads splattered with ink from a stepladder. "I really came alive during that year and realised what made me buzz as a human being."


So why cows? Apparently it all started with a meaningful chat with a Hereford cow over a barbed wire fence during a holiday in Norfolk, as Jackie recalls: "The cow snorted sweet breaths at me as a globule of spittle dangled from her whiskery chin. I determined then that I would paint her and one cow led to another and another and another..." It was also the interest from the public that spurred Jackie on. "So many people that saw my first cow painting genuinely wanted to buy it from me." In fact, Spike, the first cow painting, still resides at Jackies house.


Inspired by peoples enthusiasm for her work she decided to paint a whole exhibition of cows for an Open Studios in 2004 "and they all sold!" Since then, the cows have gone from strength to strength; Jackie now runs a website selling prints and cards of her most popular bovines. She has had orders from cow fans from all around the world and supplies many farm shops and art galleries with her work. Perhaps her most unusual outlet is in a small town in Germany. "Its a shop called Scotland House, which sells an array of Scottish products and my Dorset cows!"


A lot of Jackies cow portraits are from models that live close to her home in Sherborne. "Ive got to know a few local farmers who have let me lurk on their farms talking to the cows in the sheds, trying to persuade them that they want to put their head at a certain angle, because it would be better for the portrait!" she laughs. Jackie says that cows are pretty vain and curious beasts. "They always come over for a photo shoot if you stand there long enough with a camera. I prefer to have a gate or a hedge in between me and the cows though they are very powerful animals and I have copious respect for them."


Once she has taken her photo, Jackie returns to her studio over the familys garage. "We completely renovated the house two years ago and part of the plan was to give me a lovely new studio. It is so much lighter and more spacious than my previous one, which was essentially a cold, dark shed." With her children now at school, Jackie has more hours to devote to painting and has subsequently broadened her artistic ambitions beyond Dorset. "Im exhibiting for the first time at the Animal Art Fair on the Southbank in London in May, which features 40 prestigious animal painters including other cow artists. Im hoping that my London Cow collection will capture the spirit of the time, celebrating the capital city in this Olympic and Jubilee year. All the cows have a London slant on them some posing next to landmarks such as Battersea Power station, others next to tube station signs."


For Dorset Art Weeks, which starts on 26 May, some of Jackies cows have had a Dorset makeover next to the pier in Bournemouth and at Sherborne Castle. "I know its a bit wacky, but it just makes me giggle to think of the cows posing for their photo like tourists on their holidays. I hope people see the funny side too! Today Dorset, tomorrow the world! I think my cows will be jetting off somewhere rather more exotic than Bournemouth next time..."




Where to see Cows on Canvas




Dorset Art Weeks, which runs 26 May-10 June, sees artists from across the county open their studios to the public. For more details visit dorsetartweeks.co.uk. Jackies studio is Venue 243, Field House, Bradford Road, Sherborne DT9 6BP. To see more of her work visit cowsoncanvas.com or follow on Twitter @cowsoncanvas. The Animal Art Fair runs from 17-20 May at the Riverside Walkway, South Bank, London. For more details visit animalartfair.co.uk.


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