Words VICKI JONES
Being able to do what you love every day is a goal that many never quite achieve. Being able to define your passion or dream is often just as hard. Artist Clinton Christian feels his animal instincts have finally kicked in and he has been brave enough to pursue his true passion.
At the start of 2018, gratefully supported by his family, he left his career as an architectural designer to focus full time on his passion for painting. Something that had been predominantly neglected for over 20 years. Clinton, known as Clint©, is now developing a keen group of followers for his unique artistic style, exhibiting and selling across the country.
“Art was my A+ subject and passion at school, but for me it wasn’t really encouraged as a career pathway,” Clint explains. “I did go on to study Visual Arts after school but buying my first home had soon become the priority rather than art school.”
Clint entered the building industry and after beginning on the tools eventually was drawn to creating again by training and working as a draftsman. It was a job that allowed a degree of creative output but not enough to feed his passion for true artistic expression. “Too many straight lines!” he jokes.
It was not until a series of personal life events, including the passing of his mother, that Clint decided that he needed to follow his heart, even though it meant taking a huge step backwards financially.
“It was like I flicked a switch,” Clint explains. “It probably looked like a mid-life crisis, but for me it was like I just knew what I was born to do.”
He set himself a target of six months to try full-time painting, see how it went and then reassess. Allowing time to build himself a studio on his rural Waikato property, just north of Hamilton, the trial period was extended a bit but, by the end of the year, he was well and truly underway with private sales and commissions.
Yet to exhibit in a gallery, Clint remembers taking a piece to Claudia at The Mandarin Tree gallery in Gordonton Village and telling her he wanted to be an artist. “Her response was ‘you already are’ and she soon suggested a solo exhibition.” Eight weeks later Clint’s first exhibition was a great success, and he continues to exhibit at the Mandarin Tree gallery.
Early and recent works have largely focused on nature, inspired in particular by the uniqueness of what he sees in his surroundings or farm animals he finds interesting. “Every animal has its own personality,” Clint observes.
Clint’s early pieces were more realistic in style, created using acrylics on canvas, but a series of animals in a unique style Clint has dubbed ‘rural pop-art’ has really got him some attention.
“I want to create artworks that are something different, and that are in a style that is unique to me but with a bit of Kiwi flavour we can all relate too,” he explains. “I’d always been inspired by the likes of Warhol and Picasso with their use of colour and shapes, but now there are also many artists on social media whose work inspires me to be myself.”
Clint was recently due to exhibit his work at the Cloud, on the Auckland viaduct for The Auckland Art Show but with Covid restrictions this led to an unexpected twist and the show became an online only event.
“I was really disappointed at the time not to talk with the public about my art but as a result of going online it got wider interest across the country,” Clint recalls.
In fact, sales were well above his expectations with Clint finishing in the top 10 for sales of 147 artists at the show with his work heading for homes from Auckland to Timaru, including the mayor’s chambers in Westport.
Looking to the future, Clint is happy to be continuing to do what he loves, happy that others get joy from his work. “My style is evolving and I’m always trying to do something a bit different, to create my own identity as an artist,” explains Clint. “I look forward to the time when someone sees one of my works and says, ‘Oh, that’s a painting by Clint©, isn’t it?’”
Clinton Christian’s work can be seen at The Mandarin Tree Gallery in Gordonton and galleries across the Waikato, including Waihi Beach Gallery and Rivet in Raglan.
Alternatively, you can follow Clint’s journey on Instagram@clintc.artist or Facebook @Cc’d