Life (and art) with cows

©Karen Humpage©Karen Humpage

Karen Humpage, who will be exhibiting her work during next month's Art Trail Wanstead, explains why cows have taken over her life.

What started last year as a casual request on Facebook for photos of cows roaming the local streets has now turned in to a full-blown bovine art project.

From the hundreds of anecdotes I received (sadly, very few photos), I began to build up scenarios in my head of peoples' encounters with cows in the urban environment, and started putting some of these ideas into paintings. These include cows causing traffic jams, cows invading a cricket pitch, cows raiding a florist's shop, cows munching gardens and several more, and more still stuck in my head, waiting for artistic release. It's been a bit of a diversion from my usual artwork – which is good because it keeps me on my toes and stimulates the creative juices. Artistically, I'm not quite sure where the style came from, it's so different from how I normally paint. I think in retrospect I was inspired on a subconscious level by Norman Thelwell's drawings of little fat ponies, which I loved to look at when I was a girl and mad about horses.

Cows aside, the main meat and potatoes of my art is architecture: houses, historical buildings and gravestones (yes, gravestones). These are painted in watercolour, which is the perfect medium for conveying the subtle colours of brick and stone. Locally, I have painted several house portraits, including renditions of the sadly demolished Wanstead House, and have worked on inscribing the names into the roof restoration memorial at Christ Church. I also love trees and am drawn to the skeletal qualities of their stark outlines in winter. I paint them in watercolour onto paper, the background of which is left pristine to accentuate the shapes of the trunk and branches. Wanstead's chestnut trees are next on my to-do list!

I'm exhibiting my cow paintings at Café Chicchi during the art trail. I'm hoping to organise a visitors' book, and encourage people to record their own anecdotes of meetings with cows over a cup of coffee.

Art Trail Wanstead will take place from 9 to 24 September – visit For more information on Karen's work, visit

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