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Calves, sheep, chickens, ducks and creative art making in-between

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Working full-time whilst also studying a Diploma of Art & Creativity Honours programme (NZQA level 6), has been a walk in the park (or should that be on the farm) for part-time TLC student Ailene Cuthbertson.

She found some time to tell us about her digital painting, gorgeous ceramic art and how she found studying by distance learning. 


So Ailene…


Where are you based while you’re studying with The Learning Connexion?

I live west of Hamilton, near the small coastal town of Raglan, which is famous for its surf and black sand. 

Tell us about the art scene there.

We have a thriving arts community with artist studios and galleries dotted all around the Raglan township, nearby hills and beaches. There’s painters, jewellers, potters, photographers, wood carvers, fabric artists, sculptors and everything in-between. A highlight of the Raglan arts calendar is the Raglan Arts Weekend where every summer, the long Auckland Anniversary weekend is an opportunity for people to explore Raglan and visit local artists working in their studios.


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Ceramic piece: She dances the spring.


How do you find studying art from home by distance delivery?

Studying from home means I can fit study around my full-time job in Hamilton and our lifestyle block, which is full of calves, sheep, chickens and ducks.

Being in my own environment helps me to find a natural pace and seasonal rhythm to the way I work, and I’ve been able to experiment with an art day routine that works with my creative process. I do miss having the creative energy of other students around, but I’ve made some great connections with local artists who are always up for a chat and coffee.

The Learning Connexion's programmes are centered on student’s personal creative goals and briefs. How have you found having to set your own goals and working to them?

One of the reasons I chose The Learning Connexion was a little sentence in the prospectus, saying that TLC is about pulling stuff out, not pushing stuff in. I love the freedom to explore, follow random ideas, head off on tangents and see where my experiments take me. TLC’s emphasis on personal creative goals is the reason I’ve been able to start finding my voice to express myself, my stories, and my world.

How do you find working with a mentor as part of your distance study?

My mentor has helped me accomplish so much this past year. We chat every couple of weeks on the phone. She’s someone I can bounce ideas off, get her interpretation on my work, and even troubleshoot pieces that aren’t going so well. She has an invaluable outside point-of-view of my art and process that I can’t see because I’m just too close to what I’m creating. We talk about inspirations, motivations and our approaches to the creation process. She’s so encouraging. I always feel more motivated to go create after a chat! 

What is the most valuable thing that you’ve learned through your studies so far? 

The most valuable thing I’ve learned so far isn’t skills or technique – it’s confidence.

My first step in building my confidence was learning to see my creation process as a continuous experiment. It was not a failure if things didn’t turned out as I wanted, because each time I create an artwork, I gather new skills and build ideas for the next one.

Only last year was I able to introduce myself as an artist. Earlier, it would have been “I’m an art student”, or “oh, and I also play with clay.”

Recently, I’ve been learning the confidence to be true to myself and that it’s ok to show that to the world. My latest art is very personal – self-portraits of heroines I wish I could’ve been when I was a powerless, bullied teenager wanting to feel special.


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Digital painting: Her reflection smiled back, eyes glittering in the fading sunlight.


You can see more of Ailene's artwork on her website: www.oldmountainart.com


Do you have any involvement with the arts community outside your studies? Tell us about it.

As part of the honours programme, I exhibited (and volunteered on the committee) at the Raglan Arts Weekend. That’s not something I could, or would have done, at the start of my studies. I was blown away by the positive feedback and how other people connected to my art.


Want to study creativity and art from home like Ailene? Find out more


  • Ailene
    13/03/2016 11:16pm (8 years ago)

    Hi Cathy and Vicky. Yes, we've lived on our lifestyle block for a couple of years now and we love it. Thanks for your kind words Vicky, that's lovely of you to say! :)

  • Ailene
    08/03/2016 10:48pm (8 years ago)

    Hi Cathy - yep, we've lived out in the country for a couple of years now, and we're loving it. And thanks Vicky, you're lovely to say that. :) And it does seem like a lot when you read what I do, but it seems to work out beautifully!

  • Cathy de Seton
    01/03/2016 1:15am (8 years ago)

    I hadn't realise you lived on a lifestyle block, for some reason I thought you living in urban Hamilton... but great to here all are achieving

  • Vicky
    01/03/2016 12:08am (8 years ago)

    I don't know how Ailene is fitting it all into her life, she's incredible. I'm glad she has stepped up to the title of artist, because she certainly is!