Welcome to another edition of our Artist of the Month blog! We are delighted to keep on recognising the spectacular talent that captures our attention with their inspiring and imaginative artwork. Whether you're an artist, a collector, or simply enjoy the beauty of art, we guarantee you'll find something to appreciate and be inspired by.
This month, we are so excited to introduce you to Devon-based artist Clare Brown! We had the pleasure of chatting with Clare and getting to know more about her and her craft... So make sure to stick around and get to know Clare!
A. Everywhere! I am so lucky to live in a gorgeous part of the world, nestled between Dartmoor and Teignmouth on the South Devon Coast. This landscape continually inspires me with its wide-open spaces, the woodland, and the coast. I love to beachcomb on the back beach and gather inspiration. The shapes of the fragments of ceramics and sea-glass prompt me to think differently about how I create texture and brush strokes in my work. Even though I am a painter primarily, I currently have some emerging sculptures on my windowsills made from my beach finds. These are my recent favourites. I am also inspired by how many wonderful artists we have in Devon, taking part in Devon Open Studios, it’s great to visit other artists and get a sense of their practice and inspiration.
Q. Is there a piece of art or a project that you are particularly excited about right now?
A. Yes! I am currently working with Cranbrook Academy Campus, supporting them to bring art and creative ideas from the community into the school. I am the first in a series of artists who will be collaborating with the school. Through exhibiting some landscape work and sharing my process of being outside and bringing different elements into the studio - we hope to bring new ideas into the classroom so that all students can find creative prompts in the ordinary and make some landscape art of their own. We aim to do some field trips with them and ultimately what gets created will be exhibited with my work. I am also excited about getting back in my studio after a busy summer. I am exploring some different approaches to landscape and experimenting in how to blend sharp lines with expressionist marks.
Q. What kinds of tools or references do you like to use when creating artwork?
A. A lot of my references are memories from sitting and absorbing the experience of being in the landscape. Particularly places I visit often – it’s all in there bubbling away – waiting to come out through the paint. I do take photos and make sketches sometimes too as these are good reference material when I am back in the studio. I also use the fragments I collect from the beach as reference for unusual shapes in my work and currently I am exploring how I can incorporate physical pieces into the work – kind of blending the found sculptures with my paintings. I love a new tool! From old credit cards to driftwood from the beach it’s always good to try out new things. I am also a big fan of a Catalyst silicone tool which I use a lot in my work. I also like to do big studies and then use different viewfinders to find new compositions.
Q. What artists or artworks (from your life or art history) do you admire or consider influential to your work & why?
A. My dad was a wonderful artist and signwriter. I can remember going with him to visit his tutor who lived in this amazing treasure trove of a house, full of exotic things. Both were early influences on my desire to create art. I have a lifelong love of colour so early influences were artists like Matisse and Van Gogh. More recently influences have included Joan Eardley, Peter Lanyon, and Judith Bergerson.
Q. What advice do you have for other new or aspiring artists?
A. Primarily, focus on what you love to create as this is what has drawn you to your practice – as soon as you feel it getting serious, take that as a sign you are off track. I absolutely love this quote by Martha Graham which I think is the best reminder to create OUR art – and the best advice ever! I come back to this all the time. It’s so good I have it on my website!!
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening, that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one you in all of time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is,
or how valuable nor how it compares to other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly,
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself, or your work.
You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.”
- Martha Graham
I could stop with the above – but technically that’s cheating! So - Secondly, I find if I just focus on what brings me joy and has me curious – the rest tends to take care of itself. As they say, “inspiration will find you working”, and I think that’s a good reminder to us wherever we are on our journey to just show up and respond to what shows up. Because I get busy with my other work as a coach and facilitator, I have a mini studio on my desk containing sketchbooks, inks, pencils, and watercolours so that in my breaks I can play with ideas, document my morning walk, do automatic drawings, or frankly just make a mess! This has me feel like I am in my practice even when I am busy, so I don’t get so much of the stop-start feeling.
Lastly for me – I like to have something to work towards or a target – even if I make it up! I think this helps when we do eventually get the opportunity to show our work as we have a sense of meeting deadlines, and it feels natural to us. I also have a few things on the go to help with this as it takes the pressure of the main art in progress. So as an example, I might say that I will do a landscape study per day for a month or do something completely different and set myself the task of doing something I think a friend might like for their birthday. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t but it has had me working and usually something new gets discovered in the process that informs my current project.
Q. Professionally, what has been your biggest achievement so far?
A. Having a regular and consistent art practice and clearing out my garage to create a studio space, have been the highlights for me so far.
Q. What is your first memory of creating art?
A. I definitely have a vague early memory of my hands in paint on paper – and potato printing. When I was little, we used to go on holiday to Devon or the Isle of Wight and my mum used to have us create a scrapbook of our holiday. Collecting tickets from places we went, drawing memories or the view and pressing flowers from the hedgerow to include in the book. This, and watching my dad draw and paint and copying him, are strong memories and I can see that these have informed my process of creating art, a kind of documenting life in the landscape and the feelings of being in it.
Q. How do you spend your time when you’re not creating artwork?
A. I am fortunate to have a small coaching and facilitation practice which I love. This is a blend of one-to-one coaching and facilitating a yearlong seasonal reflective practice programme called Natural Wisdom with a dear friend. I am also a Nanny to four grandchildren, so the school holidays are usually full of play – and hand painting! I am out in the landscape most days or in my garden. As time goes on, I realise our whole lives are a piece of art and this infuses our work consciously and unconsciously.
Q. What work do you most enjoy doing?
A. I am definitely an abstract landscape artist at heart, this is the work I love the most as it connects me to the feeling of ease and joy that being outdoors in the landscape, brings. Like the seasons our inner landscapes ebb and flow and this is mirrored in the landscape, and it is this that fascinates me. I am also a lifelong lover of colour, there is something so intriguing about it and its capacity to express experience, in a language that is beyond words.
So, short answer - Vibrant, colourful, abstract landscapes, that document the beauty of our inner and outer landscapes is the work I enjoy doing most.
Q. What is your dream project?
A. I would love to create a huge colourful landscape piece that feels immersive, so that the viewer is taken on their own journey of absorbing the energy and beauty of nature and the land we stand on. A project that slows people down, to aid their own reflection on how they are living in our landscapes and how we are all custodians of its evolution, and our own. In my head I am thinking it would be like a huge wall – a bit like those immersive exhibitions that they have done with Van Gogh’s work or David Hockney – very, very, large! I haven’t worked out how I would create at that scale – but that would all be part of the fun of it!
It's been a huge pleasure getting to know the incredibly talented and creative Clare and her inspiring ideas and knowledge. If you want to find out more about Clare and her work, head to her website and Instagram. Plus, don't forget to check out Clare's exhibition, running until the 24th September as part of Devon Open Studios. It's a great opportunity to explore Clare's artworks and learn about her creative process. So don't miss out!
Stay tuned for next month's Artist of the Month in October!