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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jack Cowin

William and Gerald with Jack Cowin in 2013
I just heard that Jack Cowin passed away yesterday, following some surgery in the states. I'm shocked and saddened. I first knew Jack as a professor and then as a colleague at the University of Regina. Margaret had been taking a number of printmaking courses when I decided to return to school in 1992 to finish my own degree. As I was coming back as a more-or-less professional and adult learner, I was allowed to deviate from the prescribed program and take alternative courses, so I signed up for Jack's first printmaking course. I had been told that Jack had a way of giving great advice but rarely repeating it, so it was best to listen all the time and write things down as you hear them. These include his conclusion about what brand of gin to mix into your watercolour water so that it bonds with your printing ink, that your should "tear paper to deny the machine" as well as observations such as "Skiing is the only time you pay for gravity". There never seemed to be lecture notes, he just spoke from experience and passion. I broke every rule he named as a rule, but I also worked hard and my final project was more about quantity than quality. He seemed to respect that and even asked if I was interested in continuing in that program (I was not since I was just finishing my degree and applying to grad school).
My course notes from Jack Cowin are the only notes from a non-film course I have kept.
When I began teaching at the UofR in 1999, Jack was always a person I enjoyed talking to. I want to write that he was a friendly face, but quite often he wasn't. That didn't mean he wasn't engaged and interesting because he was. I recall carrying on with him during and following many meetings, sharing complaints about how everything was being mismanaged in one way or another and how the students deserve this or that. He really wanted the best for  his students and it riled him up when the students got the short end of any stick. He retired a few years ago without any party or attention so far as I heard. After a couple of  years of silence, he re-emerged over the past year with work being regularly exhibited and sold through the Slate Gallery as well as through the fishing store (where we bought a bird etching last year). I saw him at Slate just a few weeks ago but regrettably I didn't talk with him. He'll be missed.
Fom my notes in Jack Cowin's Art 270 course in 1992. I particularly respect his inclusion of item 7.

1 comment:

adam said...

Thanks for sharing this Gerald.
He will be missed.