Sunday, March 01, 2015

Special Guest Artist Chelsea Hopkins-Allan

I met Chelsea through an Etsy Team I belong to. 

One of the best things about the internet has been meeting like-minded people from all over the world, and sometimes being able to continue that friendship in "real life".  

Chelsea lives in Albany, Western Australia. Albany is a country town on the coast of the southern-most tip of Western Australia, five hours south of Perth. It's where Australia used to be joined to Antarctica, so it's very windy and very beautiful with a rugged coastline.

If you want to see photographs of the butterfly and moth wing surface, as seen under the microscope, Chelsea has a really great collection of images on her Pinterest board here that she recommends taking a look at! 

Seeing the real thing helps to put the paintings in context  Alternatively, here is a short post on her blog with a few example photographs of the wing scales:

Chelsea's Web Presence:

Business: / (26Seeds on Etsy)
My Website:

Tell us a little about what you create:

I paint modern Australian environmental science and mindfulness inspired watercolour, gouache and mixed-media paintings. One of my main ongoing series 'Butterfly Wing-Scales', look like colourful modern abstracts but are actually giant illustrations of the surface of butterfly and moth wings! Another series called 'Crochet Web Mandalas' are mandalas derived from the beautiful patterns I have long observed and admired in nature such as a spiders web or the internal sections of a seashell, combined with my love of colour. My 'Balancing Stones' series are washy, inky looking watercolour paintings based on stone balancing or cairns. These are just some of my main ongoing series I am working with at the moment.

Where do you do your creative work?

I have a table under a window in the open plan living-dining-kitchen area of our house. This can also expand to the kitchen table and large boards which I lean against the wall for the really big paintings when I need to. But I try not to take over the house with the artwork! I have a trolley with most of my art supplies on it. I have a separate smaller study, with my computer, books and shelving. But this is carpeted so I leave the painting to the living area which is tiled!!! The dogs often sit with me. I also love to sit outside and sketch my ideas in my sketchbook at the outdoor table whilst the boyfriend smokes a cigar!

How did you get started?

Art and creativity was always encouraged by my Mum, Dad and Grandmother (“Mimo”) growing up! When I was 14, I sold two pieces of art in two different exhibitions, one to private collector and one to a gallery. I did art as a subject in high school but with high school exams and then work, university, travel and friends... I completely gave up art not long after my early beginning! The only artistic thing I did from this point forward was drawing diagrams of microscope slides for university!
Then in 2012, when I was 24 years old, I got very very sick over the course of a few weeks. I had to have an MRI one of those days (I guess they suspected a brain tumour). My favourite childhood art shop was over the road from the medical imaging center, my boyfriend took me in there to try to do something to lift my spirits. He bought me a small box of pastels because I liked the colours!
In the MRI machine I was trying to keep positive, Id made a commitment to myself to only focus on the inspiring and uplifting. No point in worrying now, I could only make the most of things! I made a little game for myself to run through all the inspiring and exciting moments in my life in my minds eye. Because lets face it! I felt extremely sick, was deep down a little afraid and was stuck inside a small, sterile and very loud space inside a machine for a good hour or more, getting poked with needles! The first time I saw a butterfly wing under the microscope came to mind and I recalled the incredible awe, excitement and wonder at how magical life is when I saw the vibrant colours and tiny scales on its surface! I held on to this image and the feelings it gave me and that night recreated it as a reminder – with my new pastels (that I thought I would never use), and my watercolour paints! My intention was that every time I looked at this painting it would trigger this memory and help to re-direct my brain to a positive state, consciously or subconsciously. Reinforcing and strengthening these neural pathways for positive focus (like when a path is well trodden through the bush), helping me to feel good mentally/emotionally and in turn this releases good chemicals into the body that help with healing and inflammation! It was my way to help myself both physically and mentally!
At this time I was so unwell I could not walk properly or do anything. I lost my new-ish job as an environmental hydrogeologist due to my health. I was so fatigued and my concentration so impacted so I could not read or get outdoors or do any of the things I would usually choose to do. So when I was able to (not in hospital and able to sit up) I made art or looked at pictures of art or beautiful things. I shared this work, and it started to sell. This has been a long process but two and a half years later I am still painting and slowly recovering!! As I get more energy back I am able to make more art! The rest is history!!!

What did you study and where, or are you self-taught?

I guess in art I am mostly self-taught. I have a Bachelor of Environmental Science. I also studied a program in Science Communication at The University of Western Australia. These studies obviously inform the subject matter of my art because it is based on elements from science and nature, but do not have anything to do with actually creating the artwork.
I did study art in high school, I found this helpful because I got to test out a lot of different mediums over the four or five years which I might not have known to try otherwise. Having confidence in knowing how to use the materials definitely helped me to get started and express my ideas. 

What motivates you?

Being so sick helped motivate me in the beginning. I could not do anything else so there were no distractions!!! I was also painting to create something to have a positive effect on my health and wellbeing.
Now I am sort of addicted to painting so I don't need much to get me motivated!!! I have these ideas in my head of what I truly want to create and I wont be satisfied until I can materialize these ideas. The more I create the more I realize I can improve upon or expand my ideas. So frustration and satisfaction in tandem sort of keep me going, striving to do better and create what I have in my mind. I am also very motivated by people telling me that when they look at my paintings they make them feel incredible joy and wonder, that really makes me feel happy and want to create more and get more work in front of people. I also have more ideas in the future I want to explore and express via art – in relation to autism/aspergers and environmental science – my interest in expressing ideas and the overlap between art and science and communication also motivates me!
As well as all of this, the learning curve is also motivating me. The whole process of creating and sharing artwork and ideas is teaching me skills and concepts and creativity I hope to apply to other areas of my life and future ventures - in art, science, entrepreneurship and communication! 

Do you find drawing or sketching to be an integral part of your process, why or why not?

Yes, definitely. I get so many ideas and I need to get them down on paper and out of my head so I can stay focused on the project at hand! Otherwise I would be too easily side tracked and would not finish anything! It also helps me to see how interested I am in an idea. If I am bored after a few sketches, well then there is no point in embarking on a huge painting! Sketching in a notebook is also a good way to explore and test ideas and record inspiration, or just unwind at the end of the day. Sketching is also important for very practical applications such as mapping out patterns on butterfly wings to identify common elements and designs for example. I sketch out a pattern from a photograph to simplify things visually and then work from both the photograph and my sketch!

Are there any particular artworks or artists that surprise, inspire or repulse you?

I love so many artists. Some of the contemporary Australian Aboriginal artists are awesome! Alesandro Ljubicic ( look him up! He is an Australian artist – I love his art just for the pure joy of it, the colour and texture! Some of the old impressionists really fascinate me. The way many of Monet's paintings look indistinct from up close and then you stand back and this incredibly detailed scene is suddenly apparent! So many artists though I could really start to ramble so Ill leave it at that!

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

It happened by accident. I just listed a few paintings on Etsy to share them (with the encouragement of my boyfriend). I already had an account I’d set up but never used so for convenience I used this! My paintings started to sell so I created and listed some more. Simple as that!!! I've since sold work all around the world now! I've learnt more and more over time and expanded my goals. But I consider myself to just be getting started. Its all been a big learning curve up until now.

What are you currently working on or have recently completed?

I recently completed a really big Butterfly Wing-Scale painting, its around 900mm x 1300mm, larger when framed. It has been cut out and will be floated in a huge frame on a white background, like a massive sample of a butterfly wing under the glass of a microscope slide. It is for 'The Great Southern Art Exhibition' here in Albany. This is the first exhibition I am entering since I started my art almost two years ago so I am excited and a little bit nervous.

1 comment:

Chelsea Hopkins-Allan said...

Thank you Susan!!! I have shared the link to your blog on my blog!!!