Jack Cowin: The Passing of an Upland Legend

In celebration of a sporting artist best known for his timeless etchings of gundogs.

From the March/April 2015 issue of  Sporting Classics.

 

One of the finest sporting and wildlife artists of our time, Jack Cowin of Regina, Saskatchewan, passed away in September at the age of 67. Jack’s health had been iffy for a while, and after being stricken while visiting his son in Illinois he died during emergency surgery there.

A passionate fly fisherman, bird hunter, and dog man—he was deeply involved in the Canadian springer spaniel scene and in later years took a fancy to German wirehaired pointers—Jack was a longtime member of the art faculty at the University of Regina. Admired, respected, and even beloved by colleagues and students alike, he worked primarily as a printmaker. His hand-pulled etchings of gundogs, gamebirds, gamefish, and other wildlife are notable for their delicacy, their refinement, and for their ability to convey the spirit, personality, and character of their subjects. Jack was not the kind of artist who imposed his style; he was the kind of artist who used his style to illuminate, reveal, and strike a resonant chord in the soul of the viewer.

 

In the mid-2000s Jack recruited me to make a minor contribution to a major project: a limited-edition boxed portfolio of his gundog and game-bird etchings called Upland. My assignment was to come up with a short but evocative essay on the delights of hunting upland birds, an essay that Jack, in turn, would typeset by hand, print on the same heavy vellum as the etchings, and use as a sort of introduction to the portfolio. Which he did. Jack bankrolled the project himself, and I don’t think he ever came close to recouping his investment. In fact, I’m pretty sure he lost his shirt on it. But he never regretted doing it, not for a second, and it’s something I’m terribly proud to have been associated with.

If ever a person was generous to a fault, it was Jack Cowin. Every year at Christmas he’d send me an oversized envelope containing two or three new prints. I couldn’t display all of them, but a couple hand-colored images of great-horned owls were so whimsically irresistible that I couldn’t not display them. One of the first words my granddaughter, Aubrey, learned to say was owl—and her grandpa taught it to her while holding her in his arms in front of Jack’s etchings.

Many of Jack’s prints remain available through his longtime representative, Collectors Covey of Dallas. Go to collectorscovey.com and navigate to the Jack Cowin page. If you’re unfamiliar with Jack’s work, you’re in for a treat—although you’re sure to kick yourself for not discovering him sooner. +++

 

For more on gundogs, check out Davis’ recent essay on Texas’ setters

 

Cover image courtesy of Collector’s Covey.