After a broad career in teaching spanning five decades, Catherine Hull is demonstrating that her talents lie far beyond the academic.
Catherine is a sixth generation Barossan, growing up on the family farm in Daveyston and living in Greenock for most of her adult life.
She began her teaching career in 1977 at Nuriootpa Primary School and taught Reception to Year 7 classes in the Barossa and Gawler areas for 44 years, including several years as a specialist art teacher.
She retired a year ago after working as Principal at Moculta Primary School for three years, then Keyneton Primary for eleven.
In the mid-1970s, Catherine studied art at Teacher’s College, dabbling in printmaking, sculpture, painting and majoring in pottery.
Art then took a backseat to teaching and raising a family until 2006 when she began working in watercolour and acrylics with Angaston artist, Dianne Leslie.
In 2007 and 2008, Catherine exhibited her art during SALA, selling several textured, abstract landscape pieces, and from 2013 until 2016, worked with Adelaide Hills artist, Liz Hirstle, focusing on more realistic landscapes inspired by local, national and international holidays.
It was here that she realised she needed art as a place of calm in her busy life as a school principal.
For her 60th birthday, Catherine treated herself to an art holiday with Artable, a northern NSW-based art company that specialises in art holidays and retreats.
“I didn’t know anything about soft pastel painting but took a chance that, after spending quite a large amount of money on expensive new art supplies, I wouldn’t be ‘really bad’ at it.”
In February, 2017, she attended a ten-day art retreat in Tasmania with world-renowned American pastel artist, Richard McKinley, and her love of soft pastels was ignited.
Here she worked en plein air, learning to appreciate the subtleties of light, colour and contrast in the landscape.
“I came home truly inspired and consider myself privileged to have made my first ventures into soft pastels with one of the best pastel artists in the world, who also happens to be the most generous and passionate teacher.”
Catherine attended workshops with several Australian pastellists in 2018, at the first Australian Pastel Expo in Caloundra, Queensland.
This was followed by a week-long workshop with American artist and former president of the International Association of Pastel Societies, Liz Haywood-Sullivan, where some new pastel techniques were introduced.
In 2019 Catherine joined Artable and Richard McKinley in Tasmania for another 10-day retreat where her pastel skills were further developed.
When Catherine was preparing for her retirement at the end of 2020, she knew that art would be a focus and that she’d be spending time in her studio, attending the occasional art workshop or retreat, and possibly exhibiting in SALA, but she had no idea of the opportunities that waited just around the corner.
In a serendipitous moment, a school colleague mentioned that a new gallery was opening somewhere in the Barossa, and they were looking for artists.
The Monday after school finished, Catherine met Adele Butler, whose dream was to open a gallery in what was originally the Keightley Watchmaker and Jewellery shop in the main street of Angaston.
Without hesitation Catherine joined the Barossa Art Collective and her new life as an artist began.
Through her connection to the Angaston gallery Catherine was invited to join the Arts Collective Clare Valley.
Her work can also be found in The Art House at Clare.
She volunteers in both galleries several days a month where, in quiet moments, you may find her making gift cards, painting in watercolour, or sketching.
In the September school holidays last year the Barossa Collective organised art workshops for children.
The aim was to encourage budding artists, giving them the opportunity to experience various, and perhaps new, art techniques and then to showcase their work in an exhibition at the Barossa Central Mall.
This was a huge success and Catherine slipped straight back into teaching mode, offering watercolour activities.
The Collective is hopeful that this can be organised again in the future, possibly linked with SALA.
Barossa Art Gallery and Gifts opened in January 2021, showcasing the work of eleven local artists.
Catherine’s display includes predominantly landscape paintings, fine art giclée prints of some of her paintings, and hand-made gift cards featuring prints of small watercolours.
Much to her delight, Catherine sold her first painting on the second day of opening.
That was just the beginning of what was an unexpectedly busy and fulfilling first year of retirement.
Catherine’s paintings are now on walls in every state of Australia, and she has some collectors who have returned to purchase a second or third painting.
Now that she is a year along her chosen path, Catherine plans to make her time in the studio more structured, with a focus on improving her art practice.
She will take the opportunity to study with some of her favourite Australian and international pastel artists.
She has her fingers crossed for a ten-day masterclass in Tasmania in November with her first pastel teacher, American, Richard McKinley.
Further into the future, perhaps she will offer small-group, relaxing art workshops in her studio.
“Given the sudden and unforeseen change of direction my life took a year ago, I’m content to wait and see what happens at the moment.”