Late Bloomer


February 8, 2024

Words by: Matthew Stepanic

Retired principal Cathy Bible shifts her energy into an abstract art career

When Cathy Bible retired from her career as a teacher, and later, principal, over a decade ago, she knew she would never find comfort spending the rest of her days in a rocking chair. “I have a lot of energy,” she says, “so I tried a lot of art classes.” She began with stained glass, moved on to water colour, but found both to be quite challenging with her rheumatoid arthritis. “I couldn’t hold onto the brush,” she shares. “I couldn’t do those neat strokes.” No medium felt right until she took a course at Red Deer College for abstract painting.

The broad strokes and larger brushes she used in the class not only influenced her art but made it possible. She considers her arthritis more of a gift than a hindrance, as she says, “Always in life, you have challenges and you just have to find another way of dealing with them. I don’t know if I would’ve discovered abstract painting if I didn’t have it.”

A self-described free spirit and intuitive artist, Bible fell in love with the freedom of the abstract medium. “I paint through my soul and heart, and my head doesn’t do anything with it,” she shares. She knew she’d found a new calling when in only her second class, the instructor looked at her painting drying on the floor and asked, “How much?” It was Bible’s first sale. 

Her work takes inspiration from textures found in nature, as Bible admires the cracks and layering in rocks and trees. She’s also been inspired by one of her significant mentors, Australian sculptor Jen Mallinson. “I learned from her to go with the flow, to trust what I was doing,” Bible shares. “She introduced me to calcium carbonate, glue, and tar. She never told me what to do—she just guided it.” 

Like her mentor, Bible experimented with sculpture work, creating several abstract bronze figures in another Red Deer College course. But nothing excites her like a clean canvas, no matter the time of day. “The best time to paint can be two or three in the morning,” she explains. “All of a sudden it’ll just happen, and the strokes are going on easily.” This surge of energy will often lead to three or more new paintings. 

Bible is adamant that the meaning of her work is found by the viewer, as she doesn’t even prescribe to purchasers as to how they should hang her paintings. “I really feel that every painting has an owner,” she explains. “And once the right one walks in, that’s their painting.” She shares a story once of a woman who asked if she could take one of her paintings home first to see if it matched her living room. Bible told her no. “I want you to buy that painting because you love it,” she says, “so the next time you paint your house, you paint to match my painting.”

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