Hello, I’m Clare. I live and work in North Devon with my boyfriend Sam and our cheerful 18 month old little boy. I have always enjoyed painting, drawing and crafts of all types. My Dad is an artist, though he’d never admit it!
I can’t remember a time that I wouldn’t sit down and sketch away. After school, during lunch breaks, weekends – I’ve always spent every free moment creating something. More recently, my painting sessions have got shorter, limited to a snatched few hours during our little boy’s naps, or evenings when I’m not too wiped out, but I still grab every chance I get!
I’ve never formally studied art, unless you count GCSE level! I studied French, Spanish and Russian at the University of Exeter and am now a copywriter by profession. Back when it came to choosing a degree, I was tempted to indulge my love of art and embark on a degree in illustration, but I was put off by the competitiveness of the industry and the freelance nature of the work.
Now though, I would love nothing more than to be a freelance illustrator. I feel that doors are opening to me slowly, having had a few commissions recently which are leading in the right direction, but I’m a long way off even considering it as my only source of income.
So, Why Watercolour?
In the past I’ve tried my hand at a lot of different media, from acrylics to pastels, collage to gouache. Over recent years, watercolours have become my firm favourite. It’s so easy to pick up my palette and just paint. I love the versatility of watercolours, but what I’ve come to enjoy the most is the way you can blend and overlay colours with glazes and gradients.
Everything I have learnt has been from experimentation, watching YouTube videos and using other artists’ work for inspiration.
Colour selection has long been one of my biggest challenges. Probably due to the fact I’ve never studied art, I’ve never had the best grasp of colour theory. I can appreciate great colour combinations I see them in other peoples’ work, but I find picking colours to use in my own paintings very difficult.
Just recently, I’ve resorted to consulting Pinterest for colour inspiration, and forcing myself to stick to a limited palette in order to create more harmonious pieces. It’s been like a painting epiphany and I now feel much more confident in choosing my palette.
My Winsor & Newton paints are one of my favourite possessions. I would save them in a fire. I’d want them with me if I was washed up on a desert island. If I go away for a few days without them, I miss them.
It hasn’t taken me long to form such a close bond with my watercolour set. I bought it about three years ago on my first, and regrettably only, visit to a Cass Art shop in London (a drawback to living out in the sticks). Seriously that place is artists’ heaven – so much beautiful, quality equipment at reasonable prices. Anyway, I treated myself to a Winsor & Newton professional watercolour set with 24 pans and haven’t looked back.
The colours I use most are Paynes Grey for shadows, Permanent Sap Green, Winsor Yellow, Winsor Red and French Ultramarine, as well as several browns and orange.
As for brushes, I’m not very adventurous. I tend to just stick to my trusty two – a Daler Rowney Aquafine Round size 6 and a Rosemary & Co Series 301 size 3 for finer details. I fish out my larger brushes for bigger pieces, but at the moment most of what I do is in my sketchbook, so these smaller sizes suit me just fine.
I’m not a snob when it comes to paper, I’ve even had people looking down on my cheapy sketchbook and pads of WHSmith’s own brand watercolour paper. The truth is, most of the time I’m painting for myself, and I secretly like the cockles in my sketchbook which leave it looking fat and bursting as it grows more full.
I should counter that with a disclaimer though, whenever I’m doing illustration work for a client, I switch to artist quality paper, usually Bockingford. To date, my biggest commission was an illustrated map of the Thames to feature in boat hire company ‘Le Boat’s’ tourist guide.
What’s My Style?
I don’t think I have a style. At least, I’m still trying to find it! I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy to just work in one style though, as experimenting keeps me motivated. There’s always more progress to be made, another step towards becoming an accomplished artist, so I’m reluctant to find a style and commit to it forever more.
If pushed to describe my style, I’d have to say relatively detailed and always realistic. I also make layered paintings, combining my love of watercolour with my second love, paper cutting.
Below is a poster for a theatrical production of The Ugly Duckling and Other Tales.
The following layered piece was my first painting which I’ve ever had exhibited, selected to be displayed at the Burton Art Gallery, Bideford during their annual open exhibition. I painted from reference photos taken of people one morning going about their business in Bideford.
How Do I Paint?
I always begin with a purple coloured pencil line drawing. I learnt from another artist that if used lightly, the purple lines practically disappear with the watercolours, and it also doesn’t risk muddying the colours like a soft graphite pencil might.
Sometimes I leave the line work at that and use the paint itself for definition, as in my wildlife paintings, but other times I use a black Micron 005 and 01 for outlines. For my last couple of paintings I’ve used a dip pen and ink; definitely a technique I want to pursue further.
I paint in layers, starting with very light colours and building them up, using glazing to create depth. I usually use Paynes Grey for shadows, or sometimes mix a bit of the opposite colour on the colour wheel to give a more realistic colour. I can’t say I never use black, because I do on occasion mix a little in with Paynes Grey, but most of the time I avoid it.
Blending colours when the paint is still wet makes my heart sing. So cheesy. But seeing colours flooding into each other and drying into such beautiful gradients is perfection! I have learnt that using flat colours is what has made my paintings boring and lifeless in the past, so now I always try to pick out subtle differences in colour and reflect this in the layers I apply.
Artists I Love
When it comes to artists I find inspiring, I could go on forever! My favourite changes on a regular basis, every time I find someone new whose work I’m excited by. Here’s who I’m loving right now: Matteus Urbanowicz, Holly Exley, Jérémy Soheylian, Katya Mihailina, Minnie Small and everyone on the Urban Sketching Facebook group!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings and photos of my work. I’m extremely flattered to have been asked by Charlie O’Shields to be a guest artist among such accomplished painters!