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Meet Sasha DeWitt, the artist behind the cow at Cambridge North

The Cows About Cambridge art trail continues to draw residents and visitors out in force for a fun, family-friendly trail of discovery. The trail allows people to explore Cambridge and track down 44 large cows, each sponsored by a business, as well as 46 ‘mini-moos’ which were created by schools and community groups around the city.

Data from the Cows About Cambridge app showed 20,167 visits to the individual sculptures in the first week.

Art event producers, Wild in Art were the organisation to bring the cows to Cambridge in collaboration with Cambridge BID, Break charity and travel partner Thameslink.

Each cow sculpture was individually designed by an artist, and in the lead up to the art trail, we spoke to Sasha DeWitt, the artist behind the design of ‘100 Beetles’, the cow which can be found in Cambridge North and was proudly sponsored by the Chesterton Partnership.

Sasha has been local to Cambridge since completing her MA in children’s book illustration and fell in love with Cambridge life and the big skies over the flat Fenlands.

Can you tell us about the kind of work you do?
I work as an illustrator and as an artist. They are both creative but are a little different. As an illustrator, I work mainly for clients who have a specific idea or text that they’d like me to illustrate. As an artist I’m much freer to explore whatever fascinates me. I paint mainly for myself. If others like what I do that’s great, but it’s not the main reason I paint. I paint because it makes me happy.

How did you get involved in Cows about Cambridge?
I was a bit unsure at first when I saw the ‘open call’ for artists – after all, I’d never painted a cow before! However, I’d just decided that I would try to challenge myself and apply for these opportunities, even if it made me feel scared and nervous, so I just went for it! I’d seen other art trails in the past and always loved looking at them and following the trails. I think it’s great to have art that’s out in the public and accessible to everyone.

What inspired your ‘100 Beetles’ design?
Last year, I published a kid’s magazine called Oom Pah Pah and it’s full of fun activities like ‘search and find’, mazes and puzzles. The first issue was based on beetles and had a search for ten beetles in a pile of leaves which I thought would also make a great cow design. I love how excited kids get by ‘search and find’-type activities.

What was the process like?
There are no practice cows so I went straight into the real thing, starting underneath on the belly where no one would be able to see if I really messed it up! It took a long time to paint the cow because there are so many leaves and beetles. I was also extra careful about making sure all 100 beetles were there, so I drew them first and counted each one. Then I started to fill in the leaves… And fill in the leaves… And fill in more leaves! Then, before applying the varnish, I counted the beetles another two times to make extra sure they were all there and that I hadn’t accidentally painted over any!

Will you be taking part in the art trail?
Yes! I’m really excited to be taking part in Cows about Cambridge. I can’t wait to see my cow with all the others out in public and I really hope that kids will enjoy counting beetles and just interacting with it. Even if they don’t find all one hundred, I think it’s a nice challenge and a way to engage with the community. I like to imagine the little ones going underneath and discovering the beetles that are hidden on the belly.