2020 GWBS Poster

$20.00

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A creative ember smoldered in Cathy Turner, who is the 2020 Georgetown Wooden Boat Show poster artist, until the right wind came along to fan her spark into a hot career that enhanced the Waccamaw Neck art scene.

But first, she went to work at a young age.

Cathy was born in a suburb north of Detroit and grew up with her mom and dad and four sisters.  Her grandfather was known as an excellent woodworking artist, and Cathy’s dad, also a woodworker, recognized his second-oldest daughter was blessed with the family artistic gene.  He gave her a how-to-paint book along with the supplies to do it, and she enjoyed it as a successful hobby, even winning childhood drawing contests.

Cathy grew up with a deaf sister, and after high school she started on a degree as an occupational therapist.

“I felt that would be my calling,” she said.  “I felt I had the patience and the drive to do something like that.  I never pursued art, because in those days it was discouraged, because it wasn’t a way to make a living.  I came from a very lower middle class family with a lot of kids.  There were bills and no money for college.”

Cathy had worked at K-Mart, which at the time was a hugely successful and expanding company, since she was 15 years old.  She used her wages to finance a year and a half of college.  Then, at age 19, K-Mart offered a promotion she couldn’t refuse. 

“They offered me an incredible experience to go on the road and train bookkeepers,” she said.  “At the time they were opening massive stores across the country – that was in 1969 and 1970.  I went all over the country with opening crews and stayed in each store a week.  I trained people, and then was off to my next destination.  I could be in Staten Island one day, and then Wyoming the next.  At age 19, it was beyond my wildest expectations.”

While based in Atlanta, Cathy married, then moved to Louisville, Ky., and then to Washington, D.C., where she raised a son and a daughter.  Eventually she retired to the Waccamaw Neck, divorced, and then met and married the man who encouraged her to paint.

Her husband, Richard, was impressed by several half-finished paintings in the closet.  Cathy sold real estate at the time, but his comments about her obvious talent that should not be wasted stayed in her mind.  The turning point came when she had both of her knees replaced at the same time.

One of her surgeries wasn’t as successful as the other, and Cathy spent several years in rehab and enduring pain.

“Richard said, ‘Now is the time.’  You’re sitting down all day long except when you go to rehab.”

Cathy’s dad also encouraged her.  He was a wood carver like his father, and was “obsessed” with carving loons.  Her dad sat with Cathy and guided her until they were both satisfied with her loons, and she said to herself, “I can paint birds!  If I can paint birds, I can do something else too.”

That led to the Gray Man.

Locals are familiar with the Gray Man legend, whereby residents see a ghost that warns of coming storms and hurricanes.  Cathy was working on a landscape painting when a friend suggested she add the Gray Man.

“So I put a little ghost in it, and I gave the painting to a golf tournament auction.  The people at the auction were like, “Wow!’, and it really gave me a lot of confidence.”

Cathy painted more, and had a few pieces in local galleries.  When a gallery in Pawleys Island closed, she and her fellow artist and friend, Kelly Atkinson, formed a partnership and an LLC in 2013 to create the Island Art Gallery. 

“We got some other artists to join us – people that are not just the Sunday painters,” Cathy said. 

They ended up with eight artist-partners, and each person was also talented in different areas, like bookkeeping and marketing.  They all work at the gallery and take no pay except the selling prices of their art, and the artists cover shifts for each other when they’re out of town.  The gallery also earns income by renting out display walls for other artists, who go through a vetting process.  There is a long list of artists waiting for space to open up.

Cathy’s space features her landscapes and wildlife, and she is known for her depictions of the Gray Man.  As soon as she hangs a new Gray Man painting, it’s sold.

When she was asked in 2019 to be the 2020 Georgetown Wooden Boat Show poster artist, Cathy had a whole year to think about what her painting would look like.  She knew it had to be vivid and set in Georgetown, and after looking at some of the thousands of waterfront photos she has taken over the years from her pontoon boat, inspiration struck.

“I was coming into Georgetown through the no wake zone and saw the red buildings of Independent Seafood.  One day it would have shrimp boats docked there, and another day it would have different boats.  So I kept thinking to myself, ‘What would it feel like if I were on a wooden boat, coming in to dock for the boat show, and I was looking out of my porthole?’  And that’s what I decided to paint.”

The result is a handsome and vividly colored depiction of four wooden boats as seen from the porthole of another wooden boat.  It shows a day in the life of Georgetown, and its unique character and beauty.

Cathy Turner’s original oil painting will be auctioned at this year’s Sponsor Appreciation Reception / Auction to be held on Saturday, October 17, 2020 from 4pm-8pm.  Posters and T-shirts featuring the painting are available for sale at the SC Maritime Museum and online at https://scmaritimemuseum.org/product-category/posters/

You can see more of Cathy Turner’s work at https://pixels.com/profiles/1-cathy-turner/shop.