17 June 2022

Sydney artist paints a picture of new life in Wagga

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Rhiannan Lee Hollister holding up paintings

Rhiannan Lee Hollister with her paintings at Pinot and Picasso. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Art is therapeutic regardless of a person’s artistic ability, according to Rhiannan Lee Hollister.

The manager of Pinot and Picasso painting experiences in Wagga, who used to work in her father’s construction company in Sydney, vouches for the mental health benefits of painting.

“I’ve been through tough times where I was in a dark place and lost my way,” she said.

“I worked hard at my job, but it wasn’t for me at the end of the day.

“I’ve always been a creative person, but I went through a stage where I didn’t draw or paint for five years.”

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Around that time, her mother gifted her Pinot and Picasso experiences.

“I had no clue about this place. I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt instantly welcomed.

“I painted something and the artist said to me, ‘you’re very talented’. People around the room also complimented me and patted me on the back. That was really heartwarming.”

The artist from the studio encouraged Rhiannan to apply for a job at Pinot and Picasso. She landed a job at the Camden studio in Sydney.

When Pinot and Picasso were looking to open a studio in Wagga, Rhiannan’s then-fiance (now husband) encouraged her to apply.

“He said, ‘this is where you belong’ and that I should apply for the job.”

The Western Sydney-born and bred artist and her partner made the tree change and started a new life.

“I work at the paint and sip, and he works at Dan Murphys. It’s a match made in heaven,” she said.

Rhiannan Lee Hollister painting in the Wagga Pinot and Picasso studio

Rhiannan Lee Hollister believes art has therapeutic qualities. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Though her abilities ultimately paid off in a big way, Rhiannan insists artistic prowess is not a prerequisite for Pinot and Picasso sessions.

“No matter who you are, what you’re going through, this place will let you be free,” she said.

“You can paint, have a drink, mingle and meet other people.

“It is a place where people can feel creative or come in for a social scene and just have fun.”

Most of the artworks are designed for beginners. The level of detail required varies and artworks designed for children can be used by adults as well.

“We find the teenagers and younger demographics want to challenge themselves with more detailed artworks,” Rhiannan said.

“There is something for everyone.”

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Rhiannan said that with every session, people walk away having learned something new – which makes it easy for her to love her job.

“I want everyone who works here [at the studio] and those who walk through the doors to try something new and walk away with the same elation as I do every time,” she said.

“A place thought of fondly as something that people have tried out.”

Rhiannan said the community had embraced the opening of the Wagga paint and sip studio.

“Customers are happy with the overall experience,” she said.

Rhiannan Lee Hollister next to a painting in the Wagga Pinot and Picasso studio

Pinot and Picasso manager Rhiannan Lee Hollister is happy to have made the move to the country for a new beginning. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

The manager said there are many hidden gems in the Wagga art scene and hopes the Pinot and Picasso studio will add to the town’s eclectic mix.

“Hopefully, we’ll be here many years,” she said.

Rhiannan said the country change had been a positive experience. The transition was made easier knowing she had family in Wagga and a supportive partner.

“I get to meet a lot of people, but for my husband, it was tough,” she said.

“He has only ever lived in Penrith (Sydney) and had to move away from family and friends.

“My husband made the sacrifice for my happiness, goals and aspirations.”

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Rhiannan will also be managing the new Pinot and Picasso studio in Shepperton, which is set to open on 25 June.

Soon to manage two studios, she is currently training her staff.

She said working as a manager has given her development opportunities. She has started working as a causal artist, moved into administration and social media and has a five-year plan to purchase her franchise from Pinot and Picasso.

She said among her most memorable moments were the times her customers shared personal stories that later become inspiration for new art.

“It is a privilege to be told wonderful memories,” she said.

“I find it very rewarding.”

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