Catherine Shone has had a passion for art as long as she can remember. Having completed several qualifications at The Learning Connexion, she is now a practicing artist, as well as one of our Distance Delivery mentors. We talked about her creative practice, and how she guides students to reach their goals.
Hi Catherine – describe yourself as an artist and tell us where you draw your inspiration from.
I don’t know how I would describe myself as an artist, I think creativity is something that is in a constant state of change so my artistic style and interests are always changing as I’m influenced by my environment. Over the years I’ve always seemed to come back in some form to my core values. Things such as colour, visible processes, natural environments and humour.
I work mainly with paint, both oils and watercolour with gold leaf. I don’t like to limit myself by my mediums and think you should always question what you can do with them.
How do you translate this approach to working with students at TLC?
I like to help my students build upon this idea of exploration as well, since the more time they allow themselves to explore, eventually it will give way to expression.
How do you sustain your creative practice - what projects get you excited?
I always have several projects on the go at once, this means I can satisfy my need for working with different mediums and processes or themes. I’m currently working on a series of oil paintings to be hung in overly embellished gilt frames that are traditional in the sense of ‘still life’ or ‘New Zealand landscape’ but I’m adding in something that perhaps shouldn’t be there.
The other project is something completely different, I am playing with colour values and how this changes perceived depth in an artwork. What might be viewed as abstract at first can be tied back to very traditional ways of painting. It may seem a bit vague as I am in the middle of the process at the moment, and part of that process is about testing without any outcome in mind. I have no idea how this will aesthetically or physically look when it comes to exhibition time.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about being a mentor at TLC?
I think working in an environment surrounded by fellow practicing artists means you are constantly being fuelled by others, the knowledge bank is overflowing and you just need to stick your head into another office to gain new insight. Sometimes tapping on another mentor’s shoulder and showing them your students' artwork can send you down a completely new rabbit hole of information to pass onto that student. I do get a bit excited when my students are exploring interesting projects.
"There's nothing better than watching a student wrapping up their programme, looking back over their creative journey and seeing the transformation. That is just so cool."
Are your skills and approach to creativity transferable into other fields in your life?
How to be spontaneous, take a leap of faith and have the confidence to pull it off have served me well so far. Creativity for me is about problem-solving in any given situation whether that is on the canvas or in a meeting.
What are the benefits of studying distance delivery, and what is the point of difference with our school and other places?
I think our students get a lot of one on one support from their mentor as well as follow-up emails. It’s like you’re going on your own creative tangent using art as a way to express it and you get assigned a guide to check in with regularly and offer you advice on where to go next. We do a lot of tailoring to suit what each individual is interested in exploring and making the programme work for them.
You have also studied at The Learning Connexion. How did that experience transform you?
I’ve completed levels 4 and 5 and am currently finishing my last year of Level 7. It has definitely been an eye-opener for what I perceive to be useful skills with a long-term focus. The biggest thing it gave me was confidence in owning my own ideas and presenting them to people confidently.
What advice would you give people starting out at TLC and wanting to pursue a creative pathway?
Allow yourself time to play. Slow down and don’t rush that big idea you have, you’re allowed to put it to one side and simply play with your medium, technique or idea first and don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit lost. In fact, feeling lost is part of the process so it’s probably a good sign!
You can see more of Catherine Shone's work on her Instagram.
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