Claire McElveen is a self-taught artist who took a liking to the masters—her favorites being Van Gogh and Monet—and decided to use them as focal points for her own art lessons. By copying their works she honed her skills and became the accomplished artist that she is today.
Art, to Claire, is about allowing yourself to be transported to a place where creating becomes less about the mechanics of the piece and more about the inspiration. . . and then being able to walk away from a piece feeling satisfied.
Alyice: You come from a family of artists and gallery owners, what’s that like?
Claire: I think more than anything the galleries have given me exposure to a lot of different art from old masters to contemporary abstract. It has also exposed me to expertly done art and poorly executed art.
I feel I have a more refined taste and expectations from the years of looking at catalogs and seeing artists’ works evolve.
Alyice: What has having gallery owners in the family taught you when it comes to working with galleries, yourself?
Claire: It has taught me to treat my painting business in a professional way and to realize that the “business,” or administrative end, is as important as the creative end.
The creative part is definitely the “fun” part of my business.
Alyice: What’s the one thing gallery owners wish artists knew?
Claire: I think back to the business aspect. Being professional with your invoicing and shipping and completing things in a timely manner.
Alyice: You work a lot with oils, why did you choose oils as your main medium?
Claire: I love the richness and workability of oils.
I paint mainly with a palette knife so the thickness of oil paint suits my style.
Lately though, I have been working with a lot of acrylics and have discovered some manufacturers of high-end acrylic paints that have similar color saturation, consistency and quality of oil paint.
Alyice: What is the most challenging part about working with oils?
Claire: The drying time. Some oil colors dry slower than others and you sure can’t ship out a wet painting!
Alyice: What is the best part about working with oils?
Claire: The rich colors. I consider myself a colorist so that is very important to me.
Alyice: You tend to layer your paints when creating your art, can you share what layering is, and how it benefits your particular style of painting?
Claire: You are right. A painting may seem like a one or two dimensional image, but to create depth and vibrancy you need to layer the paints. Layering creates depth, texture, and translucence of color that can’t be achieved by mixing paints.
It is also something that I have developed over years of painting. . . layering and color define my painting style.
Alyice: Do you do anything in particular to seal your art?
Claire: I always apply two layers of a UV and dust protective sealer to each painting. No special care is needed from the buyer except to only use water to wipe clean.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Claire: I do many small studies to experiment with colors and compositions, and sometimes i will use these for bigger pieces.
For my landscapes, I work a lot from photographs that my husband takes for me along the coast. And I try to paint every day. Whether I am feeling creative or not, I try to find that time in the studio because that time equals finished paintings.
I experiment some with technique on my studies; however, right now I am very happy with my painting style and technique. It has taken me years to perfect and I plan on enjoying it for a while.
Alyice: How has your style changed over the years?
Claire: My style has definitely moved towards abstract while still remaining a recognizable subject. I paint what I would call abstract impressionism which means that my work is abstract but with recognizable subject matter.
I’ve never done photorealism, and never will; it’s just not my style.
Alyice: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Claire: For me it’s about balance and serenity.
What I mean is that I want my paintings to evoke a sense of tranquility and positive emotions. I don’t like busy complicated paintings.