Chrissie Kerr is surrounded by art in everything she does. From her position as a graphic artist with CNA to the spare time spent in her studio – she pulls inspiration from everything around her. As far back as she can remember she was interested in design, and has many notebooks filled with drawings and doodles from her childhood to prove it. “I wasn’t really sure when I finished high school what I wanted to do but I had an interest in technology and decided to go that route,” she says. After graduating from a Computer Support Technician program at a private college, she worked in the information technology sector.
While she enjoyed the work she realized there was something missing. “It wasn’t as creative as I like to be and I decided that I needed more education, so I decided to enrol in the Multimedia Courseware Development program at CNA,” Chrissie recalls. “While doing that, I missed being creative, so I went on to complete the college’s Visual Arts program and they’ve linked together – especially for my current position as a graphic artist.” Chrissie’s main focus during the two-year Visual Arts program was printmaking and photography. After graduating, she saved the money from every piece of artwork she sold and eventually purchased her own printing press. This came in handy in 2011 when she applied for a grant through the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. “From my understanding, artists can apply for their whole career and never get a grant, so I wasn’t really expecting too much from it. My first time around I got all of my materials supplied, so that was a very big surprise. I guess it shows that the hard work I put into completing the application paid off.”
The grant funded an art show on Newfoundland Flora and Fauna for which she used three separate types of prints. “I did mainly wood cut – a process where you cut the image out of a piece of wood and each colour is run separately through the printing press,” she explains. “Lino block cut has the same process but a different material – a tradition of using a hard piece of rubber and then you carve your drawings into that. Monotypes are different from the first two. I used a piece of plexiglass and I just free-hand drew my image, then I put a piece of paper over it and ran it through the printing press. It’s always a surprise with a monotype because you don’t know what you are going to get.” She says sometimes you have an idea of what a piece of artwork will look like, but when you move through the processes of printmaking it comes out differently because it is not an exact photograph.
Chrissie has two separate spaces in her home in Stephenville where she constructs works of art; a studio dedicated to painting and drawing, and a second studio for the messier printmaking. She says that in certain parts of the world, like England and Scotland, there are plenty of printmakers but there aren’t many located in this province, despite there being a demand for this type of artwork in certain circles.
“In bigger areas, even in other parts of Canada, there is traditional printmaking but in Newfoundland, we’re kind of few and far between.” As president of the Bay St. George Artists Association (BSGAA) Chrissie is familiar with the people who normally frequent art shows. She was pleased to see a number of new faces at her show, which ran for a month at the Arts and Culture Centre in Stephenville. “This was more like an educational grant – trying to open the public’s eyes about the different types of printmaking,” she says. “They really enjoyed the art and when they started asking questions they were amazed at how much work actually went into the pieces. I think people did have more appreciation for the amount of work that actually goes into making a traditional print.”
Aside from hanging her art on the walls for the show, Chrissie placed a number of the wood blocks, different tools and the ink used for the prints on display in the centre of the gallery. “I was able to walk people through some of the steps,” she says. In addition to her presidency with the BSGAA, she is also a member of Visual Artists Newfoundland Labrador, a provincial advocacy group. “I always try to promote art in some way or another. I always say this area needs more culture when it comes to fine arts so it’s always good to go out and support other artists.” Chrissie is living proof that the typical starving artist cliché isn’t always true. She surrounds herself with art and has a job that gives her the freedom to express herself creatively. “The technology side of my job at CNA brings me back to information technology years, so it kind of links everything and brings me full circle.”