Invermere painter Cathy Parkes found abundant inspiration after moving to the Columbia Valley to pursue an artistic career five years ago.

Valley artist came west to paint

The Columbia Valley constantly attracts new homeowners with its many enticing features, and for Invermere painter Cathy Parkes


The Columbia Valley constantly attracts new homeowners with its many enticing features, and for Invermere painter Cathy Parkes, it was the wildlife, hiking, and mountains which brought her and her husband to the valley five years ago.

Before packing up from Oakville, Ontario, Cathy was a producer with Nelvana – the creators of the cartoon Franklin and Friends. She met her husband, Steve Fitch, who was a cartoonist, at Sheridan College in Oakville through the animation program. The two made careers out of their study, and when computer-generated imagery became ubiquitous, Cathy and Steve decided to call it quits.

“Without the drawing it just wasn’t the same,” Cathy said. “Sometimes it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.”

Shortly after visiting the valley as their children were working in construction, the couple fell in love with the land and moved west five years ago. Cathy became a full-time painter the following year.

Wildlife is her most common subject, followed by landscapes.  Ideas for her art come from the wildlife and scenery afforded by the many local hiking trails – where Cathy sometimes sketches what she sees, but prefers to photograph it, before painting her inspirations onto a canvas.

“I try to wander through the park, and I have a camera with a very long lens so I don’t have to get close to wildlife,” she said.

She said that her paintings offer a whimsical feel to the wildlife, adding that B.C.’s natural surroundings were a major reason for their move.

“This is one of the last areas in Canada where you can view so much wildlife,” she said.

Cathy’s been an avid birder since she was a young child, and shared her appreciation for the annual Wings Over the Rockies celebration in the valley.

“To go out with experts who know about all the local species – the amount of birds around here is really surprising,” she said.

Since becoming a full-time artist, Cathy has gotten over a stage fright of painting in front of people, and she’ll be demonstrating her work at the Big Christmas Craft Fair at Invermere Community Hall on Friday, December 6th, and Saturday, December 7th.

Signed “C. Parkes”, her work can also be seen around town at Strands Old House Restaurant, Village Arts, and La Galeria II in Fairmont. The canvases range from tiny to large, and  Cathy has also been known to stroke her brushes onto feathers.


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