Claire Westwood is the talented artist and illustrator gracing the front cover of issue three of Eye Flash, and we can’t wait to share her colourful and ethereal designs with you. Listing Viginia Woolf and Christmas alongside other influences, Claire’s quirky artwork fits right in with our Eye Flash family of talented poets and artists.
Could you tell us about your path to becoming an artist and illustrator?
As I child art was all I wanted to do, drawing and colouring in whenever I could. A new set of pens or poster to colour was the best gift. At school I was encouraged to take more academic subjects, but continued to draw and paint in my own time. Eventually this was noticed and passed on to tutors who then helped me to apply to Art College. I went from Art College to find my first agent, then did a Degree in Fine Art in Chichester. I stayed in Chichester where I had a family of four children and still live and work. When my youngest was at school, I studied post graduate Illustration at London Art College.
I then began putting my work on to social media to see the kind of art that was well received. I also sent some to illustration agents via email. I was lucky to get representation fairly quickly and some really interesting jobs came my way.
Some agents have been better than others. It always takes a couple of jobs to see if the fit is right.
I now have four agents. Two are Galleries that sell my work online. One is a Fine Art agent based in London, so I often go up to meet with lovely Luiza to be filmed or look at new work for promotion. The newest one is Allied Artists, an illustration agency.
How have you and your work developed over time?
I have become more hardened to rejection, tougher about doing favours for people I know and better at organising my time. My style seems to evolve when I work a lot. I’ve been told to post on sites such as Instagram at least twice a day. So, I can be found sitting with my iPad or left alone in my studio with some paper and paints, producing several paintings or illustrations a day.
I’ve always found colour and theme are the starting points. More recently focusing on pattern too.
The use of digital art was a new thing for me, weird using a mouse with my right hand when I am left handed! But I got used to it and went from free software to buying Photoshop. The things you can do are amazing with endless possibilities! I now also have an iPad and digital pen, so I can sit with my dog and draw on the sofa.
I usually work with music on, often classical and find inspiration in the garden which I can see through the doors of my studio. We built my studio onto the back of our house. It is often messy but I have lots of trinkets and mementoes hanging on the walls around me. There’s and area for painting as well as my desk with computer.
The focus is nature usually floral or animals, using colour and light to evoke an ethereal feeling. I combine mediums to produce modern illustrations with a traditional feel.
My experience includes magazine and book illustration, greeting card design, advert illustration, photography backgrounds, logo design, private commissions, fine art, fashion, retail and prints.
Painting whatever inspires me from nature, combining what’s around me with how I feel. This results in a dreamy style with colourful, imaginative artworks.
I also now design and run art workshops at Pallant House Gallery. These are for the learning and the community programmes. Working with adults, children, schools, families as well as facilitating a weekly adult, community session. These allow me to share some of my art experience and also to spend time with other art like people. I get so much pleasure from seeing art help others and meeting wonderful people.
What is your greatest achievement to date- do you have any goals for the future?
My greatest achievement would simply be to have people like my work. It may sound cheesy but the likes and comments mean a lot. In terms of money, I like the fact that I get paid for a commission or painting and am able to earn money that way. I know I am very lucky.
Some of my most prestigious illustrations have been for a fashion advert for John Lewis and illustrations for Stylist Magazine and Which? Magazines.
I have also illustrated Children’s books, photography backgrounds, logos, greeting cards, prints and Fine Art.
I’ve been part of a few exhibitions, but it’s not usually something I aim to do. I never seem to have the time to organise it. These are some I’ve been part of recently.
Shared exhibition at Pallant house gallery
Exhibition at Pop up, The Kings Road, London
Notting Hill and Holland Park magazine
Exhibition at Cafe in the Wood, London
Exhibition at Willow Bough, London
Madhurst exhibition August 2018.
It always feels so weird when you sell a painting and have to pass it on to someone. It’s a bit like part of you going somewhere. A lot of my heart and passion goes into each artwork.
With an illustration, it’s often a relief to have it finished on time and time to move on to something else.
I have some commissions in the pipeline and a book to illustrate that is on hold. I will be painting and drawing all of the time and seeing how my style continues to evolve.
What and who influences your work?
I am influenced by other artists, Picasso, Waterhouse and Klimt from my Degree and younger years.
More recently illustrators from books that I love like Oliver Jeffers, Tuva Janssen, Tolkien, Arthur Rackham, and Shaun Tan.
Also artists such as Stanley Spencer, Christopher Wood, David Bomberg, Leon Underwood, Madge Gill and Virginia Woolf. These artists were exhibitions I ran workshops on. Learning about and studying the artists really inspired me. Looking at the inspiration and life of another artist can encourage different technique or just encourage me to do more work.
I often find inspiration from other artists I see on social media too. Something will spark an interest and prompt me to take my style in a different direction for a while.
I am also greatly influenced by mood, I am an emotional, sensitive person who can stare at the trees from the car window, or the light on the grass for ages. I am often moved by nature and inspired to capture that emotion or feeling in an image. For example, the colours of the summer, the beauty in a tiny wren sitting in a tree, or the red robin signalling Winter months are coming.
I love all of the seasons, especially Autumn and Christmas time which heavily influence my designs. I can get swept up in many a seasonal illustration of foxes and bears in snow, with the golden Winter light casting its love over the scene.
Art is more than a job or a pastime. For me, it’s a way of life. A way of looking at the world and passing on what I see through paint, colour or pattern.