Painting with the help of Great Books


St. Thomas University’s Great Books program is just as thick as its syllabus – mountains of works by famous authors and painstaking class discussions on long days could leave any student wiped.

Third-year STU student Catherine Craig is honouring in Great books and can’t get enough of the program. Delving deeply into the details of famous, illustrious works helped fuel the creation of Craig’s painting now hanging at Isaac’s Way restaurant in downtown Fredericton.

“It’s hard to read T.S. Eliot or Plato and not be inspired – my painting and my schoolwork operate in dialogue with one another all the time,” said Craig. “I don’t know if my art would progress if I didn’t have the academic aspect alongside of it.”

Craig started painting a year and a half ago, inspired by a first year introductory art class at STU. She had initially began her semester of that year at King’s College in Halifax, quenching the quintessential need for adventure after graduating from high school in Fredericton. Deep down though, Craig had the Great Books program on her mind.

“STU drew me back,” Craig laughs, “But I didn’t pick up painting until September of second year.”

This gap between first-year semester and the beginning of her second year gave Craig a chance to fall even harder for STU’s Great Books program.

“I’ll read different texts in class and something will come that I really want to translate to canvas,” said Craig. “It completely changes the way you see the world and translates into everything else you’re doing.”

One of her biggest inspirations is T.S. Eliot. Craig said The British poet’s Four Quartets influenced her painting at Isaac’s Way, titled Cathedral Somewhere. Craig heard about an art auction happening at the restaurant a few months ago, and decided to give it a go.

Four Quartets [is] based around this ambiguity of time and space – that’s something that can at once be particular to one person but also depict the absolute,” said Craig. “A lot of the means he does [are] talking about cathedrals or villages – demonstrating how the two can operate side by side.”

As for having her art displayed publicly for everyone to see, Craig was a little self-conscious in the beginning.

“Seeing my work and seeing what aspects of my work people responded to – having to contemplate it for months at a time up at one place – it draws out particular aspects of it that you like or don’t like.”

Despite the heavy course load, Craig is also majoring in Political Science. She sells her paintings at Fredericton’s downtown market on Saturdays and said it’s replaced having a part-time job during school.

The artist happily balances her painting with school – but just because it’s a hobby doesn’t mean Craig will be putting it on the back burner anytime soon.

“I don’t quite know if I’ll ever make (painting) the main focus,” said Craig. “Cutting off one aspect would leave the other empty.”