Being legally blind doesn’t stop local artist Chris Sellen’s creativity from flowing
First published in northsider magazine Autumn 2019
Brilliantly bold colours, strong brush strokes and striking imagery – these are all characteristics of a Chris Sellen original artwork.
“I paint everyday,” the 66-year-old says. “I have to put paint on canvas. It feeds my soul and I couldn’t live without it.”
Chris’s colourful achievements become even more breathtaking when you discover the visual limitations she works with.
The mum-of-two was born with a rare genetic condition called Stargardt disease, which causes progressive vision loss “like big clouds in my retinas.” Left with peripheral vision, Chris was declared legally blind in 2001.
“I’d always known I had the condition but depression hit me pretty hard at that point,” she remembers. “Art has always been part of my life and I just thought what am I going to do? If I didn’t paint, I didn’t feel very alive.”
Chris’s art then changed, with her mindset drawing her to paint with darker colours.
"Lush, gorgeous colours make me feel good. I realised I just had to go for it"
“I quickly realised it didn’t make me feel any better,” she says. “Lush gorgeous colours make me feel good. I realised I just had to go for it. In a way, it was quite liberating.”
With the support of her husband, Mark, and sons, Shane and Joel, as well as the rest of her family and friends, Chris painted her way back to positivity, developing her style using glasses, magnification and a monocle.
“There’s a lot of things I can no longer do,” she says. “It’s hard to get proportion and fine detail and I couldn’t do life-drawing – I’d have to get too close to the model! But I just do something else instead. Everyone’s got something they can’t do after all.”
Painting from a combination of memory, instinct and photos, Chris’s confident and colourful canvases exude joy.
“All I try to do with my art is make people happy,” she enthuses. “I adore flowers, trees and nature. My mother loved magnolias so they are very special.”
Her paintings line the walls at Rapture Living gift and homewares shop on Blues Point Road, where she has worked for 15 years. “We joke that I came with the shop!” Chris laughs. “I’m part of the furniture.”
And as well as selling her paintings in the shop, Chris takes on private commissions and also donates a large number of works to help raise funds for Petrea King’s Quest for Life Foundation.
“I love how art gives everyone an opportunity,” Chris says. “Passing joy to others is the main thing for me. To be able to still see in the way I can actually makes me feel very lucky.”
Bold and beautiful
Chris loves to paint flowers and nature scenes using gorgeous, bright colours.
Words: Anna Gordon