by Anne Honeywell, photos by Candra George
LOCAL ARTIST CATHERINE CAMP took a renewed interest in painting about 15 years ago while recovering and rebuilding herself after a bout with cancer. In 2004, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. At the time, Catherine and her husband had an eight-year-old daughter and twin five-year-old girls. She says, “It was a long, hard eight months that took an emotional toll on me and my family.”
Once on the other side of the treatments and proclaimed “cancer free,” she decided to make some changes in her life. “Life is too short not to do what you love,” says Camp. A full-time mom at the time of her diagnosis, she had put her career as an architect on hold to raise their three girls. After her cancer treatment, Catherine decided to get back into the part of architecture she enjoyed the most—the “art” side of it.
“I always loved the renderings and the creative side of being an architect. It’s the reason I took watercolor courses throughout my studies in college.” Camp is a graduate of Louisiana Tech University, with a degree in architecture. That degree has always influenced her love of the arts. She explains, “My interest for art seems to have transformed into a passion for painting, and it has continued to grow over the years. I have been cancer-free for sixteen years. I used the dark time in my life to recognize the light and beauty all around me. To find my passion for living. My passion for life.” This passion is what has allowed Camp to express her joy for life in her paintings.
“I looked up art classes offered through the St. Tammany Art Association and took some oil painting classes, which I had never done before.” Those classes soon evolved into several workshops and led her to working with Gretchen Armbruster. “I discovered that painting was just the creative outlet I needed; it was just what the doctor ordered!
Though Camp has a dedicated studio at her home in Covington, she still enjoys going to Armbruster Artworks to paint. “I enjoy getting Gretchen’s input as well as that of my fellow artists. We are a tight-knit group that gets together once a week to paint. It is a designated time for me to do what I love.”
Camp is known for her tranquil Louisiana-themed landscapes and wildlife paintings. She draws inspiration from the natural world around her. “We are fortunate enough have some acreage on our property here in Covington, with ponds and wildlife all around. Egrets often visit, and ducks; I am constantly inspired every time I look out of my window.“
Camp’s loose, bold, impressionistic style continues to develop. While she still primarily paints with oils, her use of the pallet knife and broad brush strokes help to create texture and interest while keeping her work very fluid. “With my architecture background, I used to have a hard time accepting the fact that everything did not have to look realistic. I think that’s why I enjoy painting landscapes; they don’t have to look as exact as buildings do.
“Recently, while I was cleaning out my studio, I found some of my older pieces and realized how far I have come in the past ten years. I am definitely changing. It has been a journey.”
Besides landscapes, Catherine often chooses horses as her subjects. Her daughters used to ride horses in Folsom, which gave her plenty of time to study them. “My daughters were my equestrian consultants,” she laughs. “Now, I think I’ve got it.” In fact, one of her favorite earlier paintings she has kept is of her daughter’s horse, Northern Lights. Camp adds to this thought: “I also love to paint cows! Cows have wonderful expressions.”
Camp’s paintings have served to benefit others through the Junior League of Greater Covington (Harvest Cup Polo Artist 2016) and the St. Tammany Parish Hospital Foundation. The hospital experience really hit home with Camp. “I was a featured artist in a Healing Arts exhibit at the hospital. The exhibit was titled Healing Journey, and oh, how that resonated with me. The entire initiative of arts as a culture that can lighten the burden of illness did as well—it gave me pause for reflection on my own healing journey and how much art had been part of my healing.”
Thank you, Catherine Camp, for taking us on your beautiful healing journey.