Neil Cownie inherited a creative and physical interest in building from his father, Stewart Cownie. Here is an overview of his father’s work and the influences that shaped Neil’s career.
Stewart Cownie, father of Neil Cownie and son of a Gallipoli veteran, was an artist and illustrator.
He was Head Artist for the West Australian newspaper for 40 years. He was married to writer and researcher Marie Cownie. Both shared a passion for heritage buildings.
Stewart was a hands-on person who built his family’s home.
With a shortage of materials in Perth at the time, Stewart made every single brick himself.
Marie has kept the brick-making mould.
Stewart Cownie produced his own artwork in the studio that he built for himself above the garage. He made art in the various mediums of water colour, acrylics, pastels, pen and ink and oils.
Stewart held exhibitions of his work featuring local scenes, buildings and many images of Fremantle harbor and the ships at dock.
Stewart built models of buildings and perspective artist impressions that were planned for Perth. People would approach the West Australian for help with visualising new projects and requested some models and perspective drawings to show what was to be built. As Artist then Head Artist, Stewart worked on several of these projects including:
- Dumas House
- Beatty Park Swimming Pool Complex
- Narrows Bridge
- National Mutual Building
- Commonwealth Games Athletics Stadium.
Pictures of these models and perspective drawings appeared on the front page of the West Australian.
The Local Historian
Stewart researched the history of St Georges Terrace. He produced several large paintings of whole streetscapes depicting different periods of history. One of these paintings graced the lobby of the R&I tower. Another painting of St Georges Tce, as it was in the early 19th Century, is still on display in Government House.
Stewart and Marie also collaborated on several works. Marie researched and wrote about the subject matter, and Stewart either sketched or painted the illustrations. They produced several works including:
- Perth & Suburbs Buildings Classified & Recorded by the National Trust
- Fremantle & Rottnest Buildings Classified & Recorded by the National Trust
The focus in both of these books was the history of local buildings. Stewart illustrated Heritage of Pines: A History of Cottesloe written by Ruth Marchant.
Stewart was also responsible for the artwork for the Home of the Week. This was a weekly article in the West Australian Newspaper. His artwork featured an interesting house each week.
Stewart created some of his own cartoons with a series titled Rodney.
Stewart worked with many newspaper political cartoonists over the years.
On one occasion Stewart and Marie had a gathering that brought together prominent political cartoonists from each state.
The Anzac Historian
Stewart Cownie was inspired by his own fathers’ landing at Gallipoli. He commenced the Gallipoli Images project in 1996. He visited the battlefield area of Gallipoli for sixteen days. He spent time painting, photographing and exploring. In 1998 he returned there for a further ten days research. The project took five years to complete.
Every aspect of this exhibition applied attention to detail. He’d carried out meticulous research. He’d even made his own handmade plywood containers for the paintings.
In 2001 The ‘Gallipoli Images’ went on show in Albany at the Western Australian Museum ‘Eclipse’ building. It was as part of both the Centenary and 2001 ANZAC Albany celebrations.
Stewart was in attendance at the well-received exhibition for the three week duration. During this stay in Albany, Stewart went to the Dawn Service on Mount Clarence. He visited the restored buildings and their displays at Princess Royal Fortress. These overlooked the magnificent King George Sound.
Stewart decided to create a large painting of the Sound that would include the whole Anzac fleet. In 2005 Fleet Leaving Albany was hung at the Maritime Museum on Victoria Quay, Fremantle. This was part of the Gallipoli 90th Anniversary.
Stewart nominated that Albany was the best place to house the painting of the fleet and the Gallipoli images.
In 2001 Stewart presented Digger Cleake and Mayor Allison Goode with the plans for an Anzac Park. It would include a Visitors Centre and Gallery to house the ‘Gallipoli Images’ collection.
A high resolution version of this map of the Gallipoli battlefield by Stewart Cownie is available through the Australian National War Museum.