Like so many others before and since, Katie McConnachie arrived in Antigua by boat. Born in California, she sailed here from Florida in1985 in time for Sailing Week, on a boat skippered by her then-husband, and never looked back. Originally illustrating special effects for cartoons for Hanna-Barbera in California, Katie applied her talents to painting in Antigua and quickly won prizes in such events as the Annual Brysons’ Art Show and the Island Arts Quest Competition in 1988 and 1989 respectively.
She and her former husband opened Seahorse Studios in Falmouth Harbour, which quickly established a reputation for its very popular Sailing Week T-shirts. The most sought-after designs were the All Girl ones, developed whilst Katie was crewing on Antiguan legend Jol Byerley’s Hightide. The rule for Jol’s all-female crew was “topless at the 5-minute gun,” and this concept was beautifully and brilliantly illustrated on the back of the annual Sailing Week T-shirt, with a different design for each of the eight consecutive years that Katie crewed. They were reserved exclusively for the crew of Hightide on the first day of each Sailing Week, then became available to all comers and participants for the rest of the races.
Katie also sailed with Jol (ironically, her future father-in-law) on Hightide in many Heineken Regattas and participated in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta on various prestigious yachts such as Alejandra and Latifa. Although she enjoyed taking part in the different race weeks, over the years it became more difficult to find all-girl crews (her current husband crewed a couple of times on Hightide in the absence of willing female crew members) as the number of participating boats increased. When Katie first took part in Antigua Sailing Week, there were about 50 boats. Seahorse Studios produced T-shirts listing all the participants on the back—when they had trouble fitting all the names, Katie realised how big the event had become!
Seahorse Studios expanded to include the Seahorse Art Gallery, which opened in Falmouth in 1990 and did very well until its closure in 1997. Katie had also meanwhile opened galleries in Redcliffe Quay, St. John’s and in Jolly Harbour, but found that the demands of running these galleries left her with very little time to paint. Her personal life also changed dramatically, prompting her to close all the galleries. However, the net result was her subsequent marriage in 1999 to Ian McConnachie (who runs Nicholsons Yacht Sales, amongst other things) which allowed her to devote herself to painting and illustrating full time.
Another happy offshoot was the joint venture with Jol Byerley on a children’s book, “Shadows on the Moon,” written by Jol and illustrated by Katie. This was the first of a series of children’s books that she was subsequently commissioned to illustrate by Macmillan Caribbean, with husband Ian helping out with the various poses needed for some of the images.
Katie illustrated The Caribbean Cook Book and also The Nature of the Islands by Chris Doyle. Her preferred medium for these illustrations and in general is the use of Prisma Colour Pencils. However, about five years ago she began to paint in acrylic on canvas and other surfaces, such as wood and concrete (in the form of murals on walls) and found that her very detailed and highly-stylised techniques were perfectly adapted to this medium.
Katie McConnachie likes painting wild life and pet portraits best, and her originals, prints and cards are available at Harmony Hall Gallery and The Art Loft, St. John’s. She also works on commission and welcomes visitors to her studio at her home near Falmouth where she lives with husband Ian, dogs Abbey and Chili Dog and four cats. To view more of her artwork: www.katiesfineart.com
Biologist and former Eurocrat Gilly Gobinet took up permanent residence on Antigua in the Caribbean in 1984. She has been painting and writing—and sailing—ever since. Her work can be seen at originalcaribbeanart.com