Farewell to a living treasure
By Karen Tooth.
Lake Cargelligo has many treasures to boast about and one of them is 85 year old Norma Cairns.
After 40 years of active involvement in the arts and crafts, the extraordinarily gifted Norma is retiring. In particular, she has provided help and guidance in the specialized field of realist painting over a long period of time to a large, changing group of enthusiastic pupils.
Conducting art classes, through Outreach, TAFE and then as a standalone class tutor, Norma has shared her knowledge generously. Graciously spreading her wisdom with her upbeat, positive and humorous personality, even when providing balanced criticism and correction, – She infuses everyone with her zest for life and warm spirit.
Her incredible ability to go straight to the heart of any problem and find a solution, has always amazed her students. Sometimes a seemingly hard taskmaster, demanding excellence from pupils was just a reflection of Norma’s own actions and approach. If she was not helping someone to do better, then Norma wasn’t happy! Her plain spoken, though never lacking in kindliness words or gestures of encouragement were chosen for exact moment for greatest impact, all the while maintaining a deep respect and understanding of people’s differences.
She managed to create and maintain a friendly non competitive class room atmosphere where everyone helped each other to perform their best and have a good time while doing so. All students have been the centre of her comedic charms and wit!
Despite her own and family setbacks and tragedies in life, Norma’s ability to lift up one’s spirits and provide encouragement when things weren’t going well and yet pull you into line when needed are part of her larger than life personality. Being idle is not an option for Norma who possess a great deal of will-power and pursued her dream of both learning and teaching realist art through times when it wasn’t considered conventional or necessary.
Her art practice was a therapy in itself and brought her many benefits – friends, culture, exhibitions, commissions, painting sales, travel in Australia and overseas. Her paintings of landscapes, Lake Cargelligo, portraits and still lifes adorn many private collections and her production was prolific – over 450 finished works over 40 years!
Her teaching approach evolved through attending the travelling academy of Lance McNeill which she developed into her own model where students can work independently as well as a group but cover all the important fundamentals.
“The basics are so important. For everyone to progress you can’t miss a study. So I developed the folio of work idea and everyone completed one work each day. This included charts, learning from the masters, specific tasks and then developing your own work,” said Norma.
Seeing others enjoying themselves and learning, is balanced with an energy and passion for creating that burns deep inside her. She has made many long term friends through her art connections and has passed this onto her many pupils, with some travelling from across the Lachlan Shire including Tullibigeal and Condobolin.
Inspiring others to give their all in life, Norma wants us all to personally and professionally constantly grow.
Norma’s legacy of ‘love it; enjoy it, and practice it’ will live on through her many students.
Norma’s last class is at Cudjallagong Court Recreation Room, Lake Cargelligo on Saturday 6th December.