Different strokes

Winning a Celebrate Scholarship has enabled Elaine Mitchell to reconsider painting as a career option.

Elaine Mitchell


There is no such thing as talent. A ‘talented’ person is always someone who has invested time and energy into something.

Elaine Mitchell is in her final year of the Bachelor of Visual Arts at Otago Polytechnic. While she enjoyed the shorter projects students undertake in the earlier years of the degree, she is now loving the freedom that comes from managing your own project for a whole year.

“This year has really allowed me to grow and develop as a creator,” she explains. I’m currently making life-sized animal paintings out of watercolour and various other mixed media paints. I’ve amassed a collection of stories about how humans have interacted with the natural world throughout history, and each painting is based around one of these stories.”

Elaine chose to study Visual Arts after winning a Celebrate Scholarship. Before winning the scholarship she had planned to complete a Bachelor of Science at university, but the scholarship meant she could consider painting as a serious option.

Ironically, the subject matter that I keep coming back to is similar to what I studied in high school – and to what I would want to be studying if I had pursued science over art, which seems fitting in a way, she says.

Elaine recommends anyone else considering the degree base their works on what truly excites them, rather than choose what they think will be ‘good’.

“Experiment and play with different media and subject matter while you can,” she advises, “but if you find something that works for you, like watercolour does for me, then take the time to get really good at your chosen form. I have never regretted any time that I’ve taken to just practise or learn new techniques.

“There is no such thing as talent. A ‘talented’ person is always someone who has invested time and energy into something.”


Elaine Mitchell