Thursday, December 3, 2015

DPW Spotlight Interview: Claire McCall

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

To enter to win Claire's painting, "Sandcastles Petite" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Claire's DPW Gallery Page:

Claire McCall is a self-taught artist and much of her process has developed intuitively over the years rather than by the 'rules'. Claire's unique style is rapidly gaining recognition in Australia with a number of awards to her name. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

It was the exhibition of one artist that flicked the switch for me in my early thirties. I decided then and there, with blissful ignorance, that painting would be my second career path, even though I had never studied art or tried my hand with a paintbrush.

In fact, throw in some flawless optimism as I thought not of how I might learn to paint, but dreamed of my first solo exhibition. It has been said that “you don’t find art, it finds you.” Well... art found me, just a little later than most.

Sandcastles Petite
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Claire's interview.

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

Twelve years on… and with two beautiful children added to the juggling act, there have been many painting miles spent refining my skills with varied and bold brush strokes to give my works visual texture.

There have not been many stops and starts in my painting career as I am happiest when painting... so as busy as life gets, I always try to get back to the easel whenever possible.

Certainly, there have been a number of boosts along the way as I have achieved success in a number of art shows, notably winning the prestigious Melbourne Clifton’s Art Prize in 2012.

Catch Me If You Can
(click to view)

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I did give pastels a try early on but oil paint is definitely my medium of choice. I love the application of oil paint with its buttery texture and beautiful surface shine when not overworked.

Using brushes only in the early days, I originally picked up the palette knife to loosen my background technique. With a brush in hand, I was often tempted to agonise over the detail. I actually love the loss of control that the knife provides.

The result has been a unique signature style, and a greater mastery of “alla prima” painting that gives my impressionist works spontaneity and freshness.

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Recently, I travelled to Italy for a workshop to study impressionist landscapes with Colley Whisson, one of my favourite Australian painters. Currently I paint figures as focal points on an abstract background. I would like to add ‘figures in the landscape’ to my repertoire, so I am working on my impressionist landscape painting technique.

Beach Day
(click to view)

Who or what inspires you most?

There have been no formal art lessons in my time as a painter, only a few demonstration workshops by a select few ‘painting heroes’ of mine. My greatest teachers have been the artworks of the impressionist masters of yesterday and today.

As a visual learner, the written word has meant very little in my journey, but the images of bold impressionist strokes, rich colour and bright lights have been everything.

What is the greatest compliment someone can pay you about your art?

The greatest compliment is to genuinely stop in their tracks. They may want to take the time to study the range of values and textures of my paintings. Or they may study the drama of abstraction vs realism that is my style. Or perhaps just because it captures their eye and holds their attention. This is when I feel that I have really made an impact on the viewer.

Dad and the Boys II
(click to view)

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

With a busy always changing family life, there’s no technique – just whenever possible, even if it is late nights or the weekends. I am lucky that my studio is attached to our house so grabbing pockets of time here and there to paint is easy. With an ‘alla prima’ style of painting I can pick up and put down the palette knife at any stage of my painting which does suit my lifestyle. I know now why I have not yet attempted watercolour!

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

The human figure captured in everyday moments is my constant inspiration. Typically, it’s a figure turned away from the viewer in a candid pose. The viewer is invited to complete the story – to fill in the blanks about time, place, thoughts and emotion.

With a camera always on hand, I have endless ideas for painting and have gained a keen eye for composition just viewing the world around me through the lens.

Beachside VI
(click to view)

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

The great thing about palette knife work is the unexpected results and happy accidents that occur along the way. Even painting a series of works keeps me engaged as each piece has its own vibe and unique sequences of thick paint that could never be replicated.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I recently held my first solo exhibition in Melbourne called ‘Child’s Play’ This was an exhibition exploring endearing memories of childhood. The positive response was overwhelming and gave me the opportunity to engage with the viewer and hear of the stories and emotions that my paintings could evoke. What makes me happiest about my art is that it can help people to tell the story of their lives.

Thanks, Claire!

© 2015 Sophie Marine

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