On my first day at school I was given a lump of red clay which I modelled into a baby in a cradle. I probably turned as red as the clay with embarrassment when I was singled out for attention by the teacher, who upon observing my efforts, proceeded to question me hard, asking me how and why. She then brought all the other teachers to look at it. I couldn’t explain how or why. I just ‘did’. And it continued thus.

It would be disingenuous not to admit that I grew up in a very visual world where both my parents taught art. I was drawing and painting before I can remember and I absorbed and observed everything around me. When I was very small I watched my father teach painting and sculpture and my mother work with pupils, creating fabulous shadow puppets. When I was older, it was a special treat when my brothers and I were sometimes allowed to attend the Saturday morning art classes my parents ran. It was always excitingly creative.

Growing up in this environment, art was always going to be my favourite and strongest subject at school. I was actually asked to leave maths lessons. At 15 I attended evening life classes at The Metropole Arts Centre in Folkestone, where I was taught by Fred Cuming, although at the time I had no idea who he was. This fostered my love of the nude which I have always enjoyed painting, having admired the works of Gauguin, Klimt and Schiele. Impatient to get going, I left school at 17 and spent several months painting the landscape before getting a place at Canterbury College of Art on its Foundation Course. This was run by a wonderful and inspirational man, Eric Hurren. I probably should have taken his advice and gone on to a London Art School, but having lived all my life in the country, I found that prospect too daunting at the time. Instead I went to Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, deep in the Wiltshire countryside.

During these years at art school I took up print making, exploring etching, aquatint and lithography. It wasn’t until I went on to a Post-Graduate Course at the Royal Academy Schools in London that I tried wood engraving taught by Sarah van Niekerk. I was immediately entranced by the intimacy of this form of printmaking. Despite this introduction, I did not continue with it until four years ago, when one of life’s serendipitous moments set me back on course.

In those days, the Schools had a tradition whereby students spent the first three months drawing solely from the model in the life room. It was one of the reasons I applied and I relished the discipline and diligence demanded.

On my first day at the RA, whilst waiting in the life class for the model, a very handsome student stuck his head round the door. Little did I know then I would end up marrying him, and exchange my maiden name of Showan, always mispronounced and misspelt, for his equally mispronounced and misspelt name, Kuhfeld. He is the painter Peter Kuhfeld.

We have now lived in the village of Wye in Kent for almost thirty years. The chaos of the garden outside my studio and the surrounding countryside stretching up to the North Downs continues to inspire me every day and I am sure it always will.

I still just ‘do’; but these days with years of experience this is achieved with much hard work and constant struggle, striving for better.

multum in parvo

‘much in a little’

Painting of the Month

Autumn Leaves & Hedgehog £350

Wood engraving
13cm x 15cm

To ask about work seen here, individual pieces, commissions, forthcoming exhibitions or visiting the studio, please contact me via email.

© 2023 Cathryn Kuhfeld | Photography by Shaun Vincent