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Caoilfhionn Hanton, a 21-year-old Waterford artist recently accepted her CAO offer and will start the BA (Hons) in Visual Art in SETU in September.

The annual Waterford Walls International Street Art Festival runs every August in Waterford city. 

Last year, over 30 artists from Ireland and all over the world displayed their talent as a medium for rejuvenating and inspiring urban space in Waterford city. 

On a tour of the city, our graduate ambassadors came across 21-year-old Caoilfhionn Hanton, who is due to start the BA (Hons) in Visual Art in SETU this coming September. Caoilfhionn took a bit of time off to give an interview about what she has achieved so far and her hopes for the future.

Involved since the start 

My name is Caoilfhionn Hanton and I’m from Waterford. I lived in the City until I was 7 and then I moved out to Tramore. I’d class myself as a townie/Tramore hybrid because I’ve been informed that I’m a Tramore blow-in, which is a title hard to shake off! I’ve worked on Waterford Walls every year since its inception in 2015. I’ve completed different walls here and also in Dublin and Belfast.

This is the first wall of portraiture I’ve painted that isn’t in black and white, so I’m excited to broaden my horizons with this piece. I love using skin tones!

I’m inspired by a myriad of things but mostly drift towards painting realist, detailed pieces with a contemporary twist (or, try to!) and I love the oil paintings of the old greats, like Caravaggio. I aim to capture facial expressions well this year, like him.

Last year I wasn’t confident enough to pursue painting skin tones, but I figured I needed to do my little bit for the representation of racial diversity in my city. I’ve just finished working on the Walls Project’s Murals for Communities and have been assisting art workshops with loads of local families, some originally from Poland, Sudan, Syria and other places. They all liked Waterford but agreed it needs more art, trees and inclusionary spaces where people of all backgrounds can mix. I was eager to paint something inclusionary and beautiful this year and to remind little girls who don’t look like your stereotypical Irish girl that they’re valued and belong here too.

Funnily enough, the portrait on the right looks exactly like a little girl who’s family is originally from Afghanistan but live right across the street from my wall. Her uncle told her that the painting is her, much to her delight, and now she and her siblings peep out the window, wave and watch me paint frequently. The social interaction this between the artist and the public is what I love about Waterford Walls and street art most.

I’d hope that people of colour passing by my wall feel included in our city’s landscape in general obviously, but also in my piece. I’ve found this piece to be challenging so far but it’ll be highly rewarding if they can be brought to life. I’m confident it’ll look good at the end, and you have to tell yourself that any way to get through the slog!

Excited to start at SETU

Yes, I'm so excited to start in SETU. I’ve never gone to college before, and I’m 21 since May. Since the Leaving Cert, I’ve worked in Eishtec and on my freelance artwork.

I’m glad I did take time out because I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I wanted to do fine art, graphic design or marketing! But I am excited, and I hope to become a secondary school art teacher in a few years after I finish college. I’ve done loads of workshops with Waterford Walls, teenage groups and charities since I finished school.  All these different things allowed me to realize that I wanted to pursue something creative but also helpful to society in a conventional sense, too. So I think visual art will lead me in the right direction. I want to get into education and also finally get educated.

Freelance work 

I have my own very fancy (and I say fancy, because although it was such a pain to get up and running; it’s my firstborn so I love it?) website and I have loads of my work up there.

The most important commission of my life thus far, was when I was asked to create a mural promoting the country's most beloved festive showing, RTÉ's 'The Late Late Toy Show' alongside another artist. I have also done work for RTÉ multiple times, Make a Wish Foundation, Run-a-Muck in Tramore and Grady's Yard in Waterford city.

Follow Caoilfhionn on Instagram and her website.