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Hamilton artist and her daughter create a cow book for every school

Look at Those Cows! A new book by Hamilton artist Julia Veenstra and daughter Rachel Cuthill will be in every school in Ontario.

A single tweet led to the book going in every elementary school in Ontario

Rachel Cuthill and Julia Veenstra created "Look at Those Cows!" The Dairy Farmers of Ontario is putting the book in every elementary school in Ontario. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
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      For Julia Veenstra, cows have always been an artistic palate cleanser, a way to regain her confidence after a creative dry spell. 

      She likes their lines and angles, their curious personalities and "expressions to die for."

      Now, they've led her to her most widespread art project yet.

      She's created a children's book with daughter Rachel Cuthill called Look at Those Cows!, which the Dairy Farmers of Ontario is distributing this fall to every school in the province.

      "I thought they'd want a couple for a booth and I could put the rest in the shop," said Veenstra, who owns an eponymous studio on James Street North.

      But now, "I'm really excited about what happens next."

      When I paint cows, it's fun and fresh and whimsical. I remember how to paint.- Julia Veenstra, artist

      Her reputation for painting the animals grew when two years ago, one of her cow creations was used on a poster for the Royal Winter Fair.

      The cow-painting bug led her to team with Cuthill, who is a teacher and who wrote the text. The book lays out at least 26 cows, one for each letter of the alphabet.

      C is for Constance, who can "constantly caterwaul cow-like."

      P: "Peyton and Polly jump over the moon."

      Veenstra and Cuthill were crowd funding online earlier this year to self publish 1,000 copies when Veenstra tweeted to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. 

      That tweet landed on the desk of Audrie Bouwmeester, the dairy education program manager, who recognized Veenstra's work from the Royal Winter Fair poster.

      Perfect timing 

      It was perfect timing, Bouwmeester said. This is the 50th anniversary of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and the 20th anniversary of its dairy education program.

      "We were looking for something that would celebrate both things in a beautiful, simple way," Bouwmeester said.

      Teachers will use it, and students will read it and learn more about cows and milk, she said.

      "There are a lot of people who don't know where their food comes from."

      Veenstra usually paints landscapes. Her style is easily detected — she paints her acrylics in broad strokes with bright colours that pop out from across the room.

      She grew up in Hamilton and didn't have a lot of first-hand experiences with cows. She painted her first on a whim a few years ago.

      "When I paint cows, it's fun and fresh and whimsical," she said. "I remember how to paint."

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