Friday, May 18, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Clair Hartmann

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

This week we are spotlighting Clair Hartmann, who is giving away her beautiful painting Summer Marsh, which you can see below.

To enter to win this painting, go to and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Clair Hartmann's DPW gallery page:
Clair Hartmann began daily painting in 2007. Her work can be found in private collections, institutions and numerous galleries around the globe. Her Downtown Dog Project (100 dogs in 100 days) is now available in book format.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

When I went to the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale to study graphic design, they offered painting as part of the required curriculum, so I started there. I remember sitting in the hallway in my dorm room first trying oil paints, looking at the muddy brown and gray mess, thinking, "How does anyone paint with this stuff?" Eventually, I figured it out.


(click here to see larger image)

My first real painting was of my son, which I completed in one night for a grade in the morning. I got an A and it was on display at the school for a few weeks. I'm not sure how I got from a muddy mess to a legible painting, but I did somehow!

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career? 

Yes, my painting has been sporadic up until four years ago, when I seriously decided I wanted to stop my graphic design company and paint for a living. The longest stop ever was for about 8 years, when I quit drinking 16 years ago. Drinking became so much a part of my painting, it seemed impossible to separate the two, but painting pulled me back in.

When I was ready to get serious, I started doing a painting a day and although completing a painting a day was sometimes not possible, it was my goal. About a year into doing a painting a day, I didn't feel as if I was truly enjoying it. I knew it was what I needed to do with my life (my path, calling, etc.) but for some reason, I wasn't enjoying the process.

Eventually, I became somewhat fearless... not so focused on mixing colors, thickness of the paint, linseed or thinner, etc. and most of all, not afraid to make mistakes. It wasn't until then that I could fully enjoy just sitting and painting. Now it's evolving into a meditative process for me.

Fritz (commission)

(click here to see original image)
I guess it's like learning to walk, in the beginning you are so focused on the mechanics, you can't fully enjoy a stroll. Then when it becomes second nature, you don't even have to think about it. Then not only can you walk and enjoy, you even can skip.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I really love oil paint with a mix of 1/2 and 1/2 odorless thinner and linseed. I'm starting to use Gamblin Radiants and just love them. I have found that Williamsburg burnt sienna is opaque and Windsor and Newton is transparent, which is good to know because I use a lot of it painting dogs.

I don't use black anymore, using a mix of ultra marine and burnt umber instead (or orange or raw sienna for variations) to create a rich black in which you can lean to a warm black or cool black easily by adding more or less of either color. For larger brushes, Princeton are the best and worth every penny. For smaller, Rosemary and Co. last the longest.

As far as subject or genre, I like painting other subjects to stay fresh, but I always come back to the dogs and I have been really enjoying imaginary realism lately. I have had people say to me "Don't get pigeonholed into painting dogs," and I find it funny that no one ever says "Don't get pigeonholed into painting figures or still life..." I love painting dogs and I love my paintings of dogs and if that's what I get known for, it's fine with me.

King Martin

(click here to see original image)

I have no idea how you do this, but your dog paintings in particular do such an amazing job of capturing each animal's essence that I actually feel as if I could reach out and pet the dog! Thoughts?

I think as a painter, when you feel passionate about a subject, you tend to want to communicate it in your paintings. Dogs add so much to our lives and when I see an essence that pulls me in, I want to recreate it in my painting.

Eyes are so important in painting dogs. Eye contact is how we communicate with them. They watch everything we do, anticipating every move we make. We know when we look into their eyes, they love us and it makes us love them, it connects us.

Big City Dog

(click here to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art? 

When I start randomly cleaning the house, I know I'm avoiding a painting.

So I start cleaning the studio and organize to stay in the zone and not avoid. I lay out a canvas ready to paint and my paints and brushes and when I get up early in the morning, the first thing I do is start painting. It helps to have music in earphones to get in a meditative state.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings? 

Just thinking, a lot of it. Sometimes preparation for a painting takes longer than the actual painting. I always have ideas going on in my head of what I want to do. I love metaphors and try to illustrate around a metaphor that tends to stay awhile in my brain. I use photoshop and move around photos with other photos to get an idea of how it'll look.

How do you keep art "fresh"? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging. 

I try not to paint just dogs and go from a lot of other subjects. When I feel like taking a break, I do and try not to feel guilty, when I'm ready, I'll start to miss it and be painting again.


(click here to see a larger image)

Enter to win by clicking the "Artist Spotlight and Giveaway" button!                  

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist? 

Color and brush technique. Last year I took a class from Susan Hecht and she introduced me to correct color and pushing color. It blew my mind and was very confusing at the time, but now I think I'm getting the hang of it and really enjoying the challenge.

As far as brush technique, I'm trying not to be so controlling and letting the stroke have a personality. Trying to keep a realistic style, balancing it with a painterly stroke and allowing mistakes. At a recent lecture I attended, Charles Movalli said "Mistakes are our signature..." Love that!

What makes you happiest about your art? 

That I'm doing it sober and really enjoying it.

Thanks, Clair!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Jennifer Newcomb Marine is the Marketing and Community Manager of Daily Paintworks. She's an author and blogging and marketing coach.


  1. Really happy to see this interview with Clair. It's great to learn more about her, I've been a big fan of her work for a long time. :)

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Crystal!

  2. Lovely interview with a wonderful artist!

  3. Fascinating, and a really 'sharing' interview. I laughed at the 'randomly cleaning house' for procrastination and looked in awe at King Martin, from the imagination. What skill.
    Clair, your work is wonderful.

  4. Very nice read. I love your art Clair. Very expressive.

  5. I've always loved your work, Clair. Wonderful artist. Wonderful interview. Looking forward to seeing much, much more!

  6. Heehee, yes the "random cleaning" thing resonated with me too! Great interview Claire. Your honesty and down to earth approach is refreshing, I'm a fan!!