Chrissy Wickes is a distance delivery student, who studies, and makes art from her home in Wanaka. She has also begun sharing her skills with others as an art teacher.
Hi Chrissy. Nature features quite prominently in your art – how would you describe yourself as an artist?
I like to paint, sketch, draw and basically visually express the natural world around me. I am fascinated by life. It's a miracle, it’s magic, it’s indescribable, it’s totally fantastical and that essence is what I try to express through art.
The act of doing art is also a way that I find myself totally engaged with nature and my environment. It is like a doorway into another way of being in the world. It brings me joy to make art and it brings me joy to see others’ art.
I work a lot from field trips, I like to be in location. Otherwise, I work on my dining room table from photos taken in the field. I enjoy going to places and sketching, photographing and then on return compiling a series of expressions of that place, that time.
What brought you to The Learning Connexion?
I wanted to try being an artist. For years, I have come and gone with art, putting it in the when I have time basket. So committing to TLC meant that I have time for art. Art is now what I do. I am so much happier because of this. And my art is getting much better. The more you do something the better you get. It’s not rocket science!
At the time I enrolled there was a really helpful grant for those affected by COVID. Well, everyone was affected by COVID! But I took up that grant which avoided my self-imposed guilt of cost to the family. So I am very grateful.
Art is now becoming my career. Both in teaching and selling art. Since doing the course I have grown in abilities as an artist as well as confidence. I have taken on three big community projects during my two years, and this has led to more on the horizon.
Wow – that’s fantastic! Do you have a project you are currently working on?
I have several projects on the go. I am working on a Subantarctic series. I have been down to the Subantarctic Islands several times working on conservation projects. I now want to create a series that provides the viewer with an experience of these really amazing raw natural places. I have been doing large charcoal sketches of the islands. For me, it's all about the wind, the relationship between sea and land. It's about weather and remoteness.
Amazing. Any projects closer to home?
I recently painted a transformer box for Aurora and the council here on the Wanaka waterfront. This was a neat project that featured the grebe in an acknowledgment of conservation work that a local did that has seen the comeback of the rare native bird the crested grebe. As a conservationist myself, this project fitted so well with my beliefs.
I’m also working on some art in nature classes for adults. We have a lovely park here in Wanaka that is particularly amazing in autumn and spring. I think being in nature is so healthy for people. I also think being creative is really healthy. I completed a really successful autumn course and so I have applied for a second grant to complete a spring course. By getting a grant I can provide these workshops for free for all participants. I think people need this at the moment so it feels right to do this.
So what are some of the things you enjoy most about studying with TLC?
Having a mentor to talk through ideas with. I have been lucky to have two really good, very different mentors, both of whom stretched me so that I tried new ways, saw new possibilities and grew because of this. For me, as a distance student, I have used some of the resources online but haven't really fully engaged in the raft of other resources available. I did visit TLC for a block course and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would really love to be an onsite student but the remote works for me at the moment.
What I like about the TLC style is the focus on experimenting. Some of the exercises to make you think wider and try new ways of seeing and doing are incredibly helpful in expanding the possibilities of my art.
You are producing so much work. How do you sustain your creative practice – and where do you draw inspiration from?
I get inspired by other artists. Currently, I am really enjoying two books – David Hockney’s Spring cannot be cancelled and Trust the Process by Shaun McNiff – another really good book about loosening up creativity. This has been good for my own practice and also as a teacher which is useful as I have just started to take classes for both adults and kids.
I get a lot of ideas from being out in nature, looking and feeling. Exercise helps me think. Currently, I am enjoying walking at night around the streets looking at the shapes of things devoid of colour and detail. I think I will do a night series soon.
Have you had any “wow moments” in your recent creative work?
I think it was this paper mache lesson I did with some children. It was more of a wow moment as an art teacher. The kids thrived. It made me aware that kids like tactile experiences and need to get physical with their art. So I now think that sculpture is the perfect medium for kids, or maybe even for adults too. There is a common thought that kids need calming down. To me, this is painful, it is like a dulling down. By giving them a high-energy exercise, they can fully express themselves. It’s way more fun.
What advice would you give people starting out at The Learning Connexion and wanting to pursue a creative pathway?
Go for it! If art is your passion then it will take you somewhere useful for you and for your community. To be a creative person and not to be creative is like being a bird and not flying! TLC is also a very loving caring community with a focus on nurturing the creativity within each of us. From my experience it has been a very open and supportive art school.
How have you transformed during your time at The Learning Connexion?
I now do art almost daily. Basically, I now call myself a community artist. I am an artist! Before, I wanted to be an artist! I am a happier person when I am creating. My family know that!