A natural talent

Words by:
Kate Chapman
Featured in:
December 2015

Artists take their inspiration from the world around them, and countryside artist Clare Shaw does just that – by looking out of her window.
Although she’s always been interested in painting and drawing, Clare only started taking commissions a couple of years ago but is already developing quite a reputation for her stunning work featuring some of the county’s finest wildlife in all its glory.

She is the artist in residence for the prestigious Worlaby Shoot, and sells her artwork in Damselfly Living, in Louth, Scottish hotel Ednam House Hotel, in Kelso, and through her website.

Her portfolio is rapidly building and includes a series of striking originals and prints of partridges, pheasants, hares and dogs – but she is the first to admit it all started quite by accident.

“I’ve always drawn, but I only took up painting recently as a hobby,” explains Clare, who moved to a farm on the outskirts of Louth to be with her partner Will Haggas two years ago.

“I was just really inspired by where we live, it’s so beautiful here, I just started painting again and it has snowballed.

“I did a few commissions for friends of hares; it’s quite well known Lincolnshire has an abundance of them.

“The more I paint, the more I want to do it; I love dealing with my customers, getting lovely feedback and new followers, the work has just grown and I really don’t know how it happened!”

Clare, who grew up in Gloucestershire, has always enjoyed art, but never pursued the field after her A-levels. Instead she gained a degree in psychology, before working in the publishing industry in London for eight years.

“When I moved up here I was pretty much a housewife,” says Clare, who is mum to Daisy (11).

“I drew a picture of a hare, posted it on my own personal Facebook page, and a friend commissioned me to do one for them, and it’s gone from there,” she recalls.

“It sounds a bit cliché, but I believe it was meant to be – the right thing at the right time. A fire was lit, now it’s burning away – it’s my driving force.

“People always say Lincolnshire is flat and boring, but they do not know where we live up here in the Wolds. It’s so beautiful and unspoilt and just full of inspiration.

“All I have to do is look outside my door – it’s on my lawn with the pheasants and partridges.

“They have such amazing characteristics and they’re all different. This time of year they’re really coming into their own with such beautiful plumage, which is changing all the time.

“They’re very regal, yet they make me laugh; I was talking to my daughter last week, when I said we’ve got a traffic jam – there was a hare and three partridges and I couldn’t get off the drive. It was wonderful to watch.

“I just can’t believe how lucky I am that I have a job I can do here, working in my studio on the farm,” she adds.

Clare developed her unique style by experimenting with watercolours. She uses Swiss Caran d’Ache Prismalo pencils and the tiniest amount of water to achieve her lifelike, vivid colours which literally leap off the canvas.

“My pictures are really vibrant and energetic and that energy just comes out in the layers of colours I think; a lot of people are scared of colour, but I tend to go really over the top with it,” she smiles.

“I build it up using the tiniest amounts of water and layer it so it doesn’t look like watercolour; I just started doing it by experimenting.

“I’ve never had any formal training; it’s just a built in passion – and a bit of natural talent.”

Clare works on a variety of different canvas sizes, but prefers to paint on larger ones, and as well as selling originals, also offers small print runs of up to 100 on her works.

“I like to keep them quite exclusive – people want that originality,” she says.

“Most of my prints have a block colour background, and that seems to have become a bit of a trademark too.

“I do either an acrylic background of pale olive or powder blue and this has become my identity.”

When it comes to painting, Clare likes to work on one piece at a time, even if it does mean she is working on a project for several weeks.

“Lots of artists have several pieces on the go, but I couldn’t work like that, I would never get anything finished! Obviously I have to wait for them to dry – they usually take me about two to three weeks to finish.

“I’ve been sharing photos of some works in progress on Facebook, and I’ve even sold some pictures that way before they are finished.

“People get to follow the painting as it’s created, and they seem to like it, and it works for me.

“The shooting community around here is very good but social media is fantastic for letting people in the wider community know about my work.

“I’ve been incredibly busy in the run-up to Christmas and have been turning people away, but I’ve got lots of great commissions. I love painting working dogs, but I’ve also done other animals – including a portrait of a chicken called Ernie!

“I’ve also just finished a barn owl, so it’s not just game birds. I’m happy painting any wildlife – I can’t do people though.”

Clare is a country girl at heart, and when she’s not painting or drawing, loves nothing better than salmon fishing, shooting and relaxing in her rural surroundings with her dogs Winnie, a black Labrador and terrier Noodle.

“A lot of animal artists study at a college of art; I wish I had done that, but honestly I’m happy with how things have gone,” she says.

“I get excited about what I am doing; I never get bored with it, every bird, every dog is different and presents a different challenge – and I love it. I couldn’t be happier.”

• To find out more about Clare and her work visit www.clareshaw.gallery or call her on 07943502756.

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