original wall art from melbourne australia criss chaney paintings

Meet the Artist Behind the Canvas

criss chaney artist with expressive street style portrait paintings in Melbourne

I'm Criss Chaney, an American artist who has taken a rather long and winding journey to Melbourne, Australia. If you had told me as a child that I'd end up living on the other side of the world, I never would have believed you.

That said, I always had a restless spirit that yearned for freedom and adventure…

Growing up, art was always an essential part of my life. My mother and I would embark on art classes together, and we loved road tripping to Laguna Beach to spot new Wyland Whaling Walls. One summer, we went to the Sawdust Festival, and I watched a man glassblowing; I was hooked.

I felt a calling to go to art school and it had to be a place with glassblowing.

I followed my heart to California College of the Arts, where I pursued glassblowing and won a scholarship to Pilchuck Glass School. I still had an overwhelming need for adventure, and longed to experience more of the world, so I transferred to the University of Sunderland in the UK.

criss chaney artist paintings on paper woman with afro

But, there was no way I was going back to my old life in California with my tail between my legs. So, through sheer stubbornness, I ended up staying in the UK for 10 YEARS!

In that time, I finished my art degree, established an artist's studio and glass-blowing space, and exhibited widely across the UK and internationally.

criss chaney artist glass sculptures in Melbourne

Alas, after spending 10 years building a business and gaining traction with my art, my soul yearned for more, and I could not ignore it any longer.

And so, I decided to give it all up, and surrender to the mystery of what awaits. I abandoned everything, breaking free from the monotony of bills and adult responsibilities to wander the world, listening to where my soul was beckoning, and seeing what I’m really capable of.

On this journey I have discovered a strength and resilience I never knew I had. I learned when to trust myself and when to take risks.

criss chaney adventurer and artist

The first stop on my journey was working in a chalet in France, I was immersed in the stunning snow-covered mountains and made some friendships to last a lifetime. But that was to be only the beginning. My wanderlust has taken me around the UK. I joined a farming commune and even lived in a Hare Krishna temple (yes, the food was A-MAZE-ING).

But Europe wasn’t quite exotic enough, so soon I embarked on my new life in Japan. I learned Japanese working in a traditional Isakaya, and even lived in the owner's attic (it was…cozy). When spring arrived, I hatched a simple two-step plan: 1) buy a bike, 2) ride south. I cycled from Niseko in the north to Osaka in the south, camping out wherever I could (and I do mean wherever).

One of my favourite things about bike touring is the open, unplanned nature of it, and how it requires you to constantly be in touch with yourself and your desires, at any given moment.

Do I want to go? Or am I enjoying this moment and would like to prolong it? Do I need rest in this moment? What do I feel like doing for dinner? Nothing is routine and you never know what experience awaits you around the corner. You cannot even predict what the next 15 minutes will bring. It really breaks you out of your regular automatic routines of daily life- and it’s a skill I use when I’m creating my paintings, asking ‘what does this painting need now in this very moment?’

criss chaney snowboarding on glacier

During my journeys in Japan, I became friends with a traditional Japanese woodworker. Visiting his home, which was full of all his handmade furniture, I realised something was missing in my life - art.

I decided I needed to find a way to combine my love of art with my thirst for adventure, so I did the only logical thing… I packed my bags and headed to Alaska!

By some blessing of fate, I got a job creating a sculpture park overlooking the harbour in the beautiful town of Haines. Working with some incredible artists and surrounded by glacier-topped mountains that descended straight into the sea, it was one of the wildest and most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It was a dream come true.

Throughout this time, I began to draw, simple watercolour and ink works at first, just as a way to have a moment of stillness out in nature to feed my soul. The act of sketching in a location creates and cements memories and emotions that aren’t captured when we just take quick snaps with our phones.

criss chaney sketchbook diaries

Just as I was getting the hang of my wandering lifestyle, fate had other ideas in store for me.

Of course as is so common, I met an Australian during my travels (they get everywhere). We hit it off immediately, and before I knew it, I found myself on a plane to Melbourne to visit him… in early 2020.

There was no way I could know that this trip would end up being a once in a lifetime experience, in a whole different kind of way.

When I landed in Melbourne, everything seemed normal. But as the days went on, news of a mysterious virus started to spread. Before we knew it, the world was in chaos, and the city went into lockdown. Borders were closed, and I found myself stranded in Melbourne with no way to continue my nomadic life.

But, if touring around the world has taught me anything- it’s that when things get difficult, you feel like you have no control, and you’re not sure what to do; you need to dig deep into your soul, hear what she’s saying, and find the opportunity for growth and self discovery in all this.

And so I did, I got to work painting. Over the course of six long months of lockdown, I poured my heart and soul into my art, honing my skills and learning to express my innermost thoughts and emotions through my paintings.

I didn't do it alone, of course. I sought out the best teachers and mentors, learning from Natalie Parker, Jane Montieth, Kellee Wynne, and the Milan Art Institute.

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And now, here I am, settled in Melbourne and ready to share my paintings with you.

My desire is to connect with you, to help you find a piece of art that lights up your soul, and remind you of your own strength even during the darkest times.

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