Christina Wallwork - Artist Interview
'Canadian art is a rolling narrative of the
people and places we hold dear. The stories are endless.
Art to me is a story and I love being able to
express my part of it.' ~ Christina Wallwork
Q. Please tell us about bit about yourself. Anything you’d like to share, perhaps where you live, where you were born, your family.
I was born in Peterborough, a small town in eastern Ontario. I grew up with a very close-knit family. My siblings and my cousins were in every aspect of my life. We spent a lot of time in the summer in Combermere, Ontario where my dad’s family is from. We would fish, bike, and hang out by the fire. The lakes and rivers where I grew up are huge part my life.
I graduated from Adam Scott High School in Peterborough, Ontario and I went to university for Culture and Religion, first at Trent University then at Nipissing University. In between the universities, I received my Veterinary Technologist degree from Northern College. I eventually returned to my true passion of art and received my Visual Arts and Design diploma from Grande Prairie Regional College.
Q. Can you tell us when you first realized that you enjoyed creating art and wished to become an artist. Is there a particular person who supported your decision to pursue your goals? If so, in what way did you feel supported? If so, how did you feel?
I was an artist from a very young age. My teachers saw my artistic abilities when I was in grade school for which I am forever grateful. They supported me and gave my family the money we needed to get me into private art lessons. My mom would take two city buses with my siblings in tow, to make sure I was able to go to the local art gallery for the lessons.
I was a quiet and creative kid who was always making art out of everything I saw. I would create sculptures out of the pine needles on the ground or draw on wood using charcoal I found from a campfire from the night before. I would outline animals in the log grains of our walls. I was constantly using anything I had to create, always making up my own worlds, and always trying to see how far I could push my imagination out of the box. If it is in your heart to create, do it by any means possible, you do not need expensive canvas or paintbrushes, you only need your imagination and the world around you.
In high school, I jumped on every chance to be creative. I had amazing art teachers. I was the editor of my school yearbook for two years. In addition, I created the sets for two of the school plays, Grease and Fame, which ended up with me winning a drama award and scholarship when I graduated. I also had my first art show with my fellow students at a gallery in our city.
I would say there were many instrumental people in my life who helped me pursue my art. My mother made the effort to push my imagination further and made sure I had a chance to have an art education, even if it meant her waiting for hours with my siblings until I was done classes. My high school art teacher Mr. Barron taught me how to express myself through art. My GPRC Instructor, mentor, and friend, Tina Martel, taught me to never give up: “If you make one panting, then make a hundred more.” In addition, amazing sculptor and friend Grant Berg, owner of the Grant Berg Gallery, is important to me for his vision, his support, and his love of art.
Q. What is your motivation for creating art?
My motivation to create art comes from within. I have to create constantly. If I am not painting or drawing, I am writing or reading. I have a strong connection to the Earth, to conservation and animals. I prefer to feel the soul of something when I create rather than to paint exactly what I see. For me, art is more of an expression or a feeling rather than a reproduction. Art should be something you feel. I also gather motivation from my Metis heritage, the people in my life, and the experiences in my life.
Q. Do you have a favorite medium and if so, why?
I prefer mediums that have a lot of movement in them. My go too mediums are different types of inks and fluid acrylics. I also love to work in pastel, charcoal and acrylic.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about some of your artworks and what they mean to you?
She Rose Again From the Ashes
Acrylic Paint, Sumi Ink on Canvas, 2019
Turtle Island Pastel on Paper, 2018
Munin Pastel on Paper, 2017
She Rose Again From the Ashes, Acrylic Paint, Sumi Ink on Canvas, 2019
This piece focuses on the idea of creation and reinvention. Life often falls apart, only to open new doors to new opportunities. Like the phoenix from the ashes, we fall and rise again. It also draws on my own experiences with chronic illnesses that are invisible to the eye.
Turtle Island, Pastel on Paper, 2018
Turtle Island is inspired from my dad and me fishing. One day this giant snapping turtle emerged from the water very slowly, gradually coming into view. It looked as if he was carrying an entire world on his back of mosses, weeds, and lily pads. Later that year in my Indigenous studies class, we were told the story of Turtle Island (North America) and I drew Turtle Island from those meaningful experiences.
Munin, Pastel on Paper, 2017
Ravens are my favorite birds to draw and paint. They have an otherworldly connection in many traditions. I love to touch on different traditions with my work.
This Solitude is I Mixed Media on Canvas, 2018
Cheval de Cirque Acrylic Paint on Canvas, 2019
This Solitude is I, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2018
This painting touches on the themes of anxiety and depression and the person depicted is consumed by overwhelming abstracted feelings that are left open for the viewer to interpret.
Cheval de Cirque, Acrylic Paint on Canvas, 2019
This painting uses bright, bold colours full of emotion and carries a spiritual message meant to prompt the viewer to look into their deeper selves.
Q. When you create art do you listen to calming music, are you thinking of anything in particular or have any emotions at all?
When I paint, my thought process goes away. Abstract art requires a certain amount of letting go of the expectations the world usually sets for you. I merge into that part of myself that was built to create. It is that spot that we all have between self and divine.
I listen to a lot of music when I create. It helps transport me into a creative zone. My favourites to work to would be Fleetwood Mac, The Foo Fighters, and John Lennon.
Q. In our busy world, time can be an issue. Do you have any tips or tricks to find time for your art?
You need to find the time and do not forget to play with art as well. A lot of the time I get my head wrapped around making my next masterpiece and not just playing with colour and form. I have learned that process is just as important as the final product. On the other hand, some of my best pieces have come out of a pure spontaneous feeling.
Q. Is creating art your main profession?
I have been a professional art framer for seven years. I have been blessed to have framed many amazing artworks. It has always been a joy to be around art that was created by all kinds of artists, from masters like Degas to someone who is excited about framing their first piece of art. Before framing I was a metal engraver, and had the pleasure of engraving rings and jewelry. It is meaningful to be a part of those special moments in a person’s life. I love the very human stories that come with art. I have also taught art throughout my life. Right now, I am focusing mainly on my art and creating a children’s book.
Q. Can you tell us about any awards or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life?
My favourite exhibitions were the ones I was able to participate in with my fellow artists such as the show 13 Dux. This exhibition was in the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie with my amazing fellow art students from Studio B at GPRC. I am currently part of a Trex (AFA Travelling Exhibition) show called Permanence of Ink which is touring Alberta. I was recently in the Federation of Canadian Artist shows: Crisis which was in support of the David Suzuki Foundation, and Animalis.
I took a class on abstract art at Epcot Disney World in Florida in 2019 which was a dream come true for me. I also took some summer classes with artist Mike Svob in White Rock, British Columbia. Both were very impactful on me.
Q. Do you have any major goals for your art career?
I would love to illustrate and write children’s books in the future and I am currently taking some courses at the Ontario College of Art and Design in illustration. Another goal of mine is to have a show in my hometown of Peterborough. In addition, I would love to do an artist residency in somewhere like Europe, or the United States.
I love being a part of the amazing art community in Grande Prairie, and the Peace Region. Becoming a part of the Peace Region Federation of Artists was a dream of mine since landing here ten years ago. We have an amazing, supportive, and friendly group of artists here.
Q. What inspires you to be the best artist that you can be?
So many things inspire me to be the best artist I can be. I want to share my beautiful heritage. I want to share my love of Canada. Canadian art is a rolling narrative of the people and places we hold dear. The stories are endless. Art to me is a story and I love being able to express my part of it.
When I was 19, I had the opportunity to visit the Louvre in France and I remember being overjoyed at being there. We entered to see the Mona Lisa and my friend grabbed me around the shoulders and said for me to look into the Mona Lisa’s eyes because we may never have this moment again. I remember looking up at the painting and all of the history behind it. I imagined all of the eyes that looked up at her eyes, as she looked back at them. That is inspiration. Seeing a reflection of the human story in art and that inspires me to tell it.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your art journey or inspiration so far to inspire others?
My best recommendation to other artists and to inspire them is to be yourself. We are all unique and your uniqueness is your beauty. It is easy to look at other artists and to think ‘well I am not like them, I cannot be like them.’ That is a good thing. There is only one you and we are all capable of creating. Be weird, be you, create, play with colours, make a mess, flip the script, dare to dream, think outside of the box every chance you get.
Thank you so much Christina for sharing your art journey with us!