It was an absolute pleasure meeting Clair Bremner this week in her humble studio at YREC in Warburton. Clair’s painting style is very unique. Her use of colour in her paintings is just so vibrant. Clair is such a lovely person who happens to also be extremely successful at her craft. Her paintings are sold throughout Australia and even overseas. Clair is a real local success story and proves that you can live anywhere and do well, as long as you love what you are doing.
Early Creative Journey
Clair’s creative journey started when she was very young as with most artist. She was born into a family of artists. Her mother and grandfather were both painters so it was a natural progression for Clair to follow in their footsteps. “I grew up painting, colouring and making barbie clothes” Claire said.
Clair continued to paint and draw through her teen years painting portraits, animals and landscapes. She described her style then as more technical and realistic.
When Clair was 20 she decided to enroll in a Diploma of Visual Arts at Boxhill Tafe. It seemed like the next logical step for her as she had been an artist her whole life. During her studies Clair had two young children. For this reason she studied part time so she could look after her children as well. Clair completed the course in 2004. It ended up taking her 4 years to complete in the end.
“I went in the course wanting to be a painter and I came out a photographer” Clair said. Clair had earlier taught herself black and white photography but after finishing her arts course Clair noticed there was a new trend emerging in photography. It was the start of the digital photography age. Clair then went about teaching herself digital photography. “I started at the right time” Clair said.
Clair then set up her photography business in 2005 and named it See Be Art. Clair focused on photographing children, family’s and weddings. Clair’s photographic style was natural light photography.
Photography allowed Clair to be creative without painting. “I was still painting and drawing but it was just a hobby for myself” Clair said. Most of photography work was weekend based which suited Clair and her young family. It allowed Clair to make an income on the weekends and still look after her family during the week. She would edit the photos throughout the week while caring for her children.
In 2010 Clair had her third child and moved to Wandin where she continued to run her photography business. After a few years Clair started to lose her passion for photography as she felt she was not unique anymore. “Everyone was doing the same thing and copying each other” Clair said.
Change Of Artistic Direction
It happened to be perfect timing as Clair’s mother had an exhibition coming up at Yering Station. Clair’s mother rang her in a panic and said “I need you to do some paintings and fill the walls of my exhibition”. Clair was looking for a new direction and the universe delivered it through her mother.
Clair knew from her arts course that she had to create a distinctive style or a cohesiveness with her collection of paintings to stand out. So she decided to create a series of abstract landscapes. Clair had 6 months to create 12 large paintings for the upcoming exhibition.
In October 2013, in the middle of her new project Clair moved out to East Warburton with her partner Trent and her three children Coby, Charlee and Noah.
Clair actually had a previous connection to Warburton years earlier through her Aunty who lived there. She would visit her Aunty often when she was a young teenager and loved coming up to Warburton. “It was such a quiet little town years ago” Clair said
The change of location inspired Clair’s creative and changed her style of painting. “My original paintings were more stylised with more rounded shapes” Clair said. The move fueled Clair’s push towards a more tree based landscape focusing more on the foliage. Clair was surrounded by trees everywhere she looked so that’s where her inspiration came from.
The exhibition went well for Clair. “I was really lucky that my work did show up in front of a few people early on, that helped” Clair said. In 2014, not long after the exhibition Clair’s work was picked up by a retail shop in East Malvern called Established For Design. This opportunity exposed Clair to other retail shops which then approached Claire wanting to stock her artwork as well.
From Painter to Professional Artist
Clair is not just an artist, but she is an entrepreneur as well. Clair has done all her own marketing over the years. She has set up her own website, Facebook page and Instagram profile where she started listing her artwork for sale.
Clair also approached a few galleries in Melbourne and an art licensing agent overseas. They agreed to promote her work. “I was quite proactive in going out and saying this is what I am making, do you want to represent me” Clair said. People would also see Clair’s work in other homes and seek out her paintings. “It just organically grew as I sold more paintings” Clair said.
Clair was painting from home initially but in 2016 she moved to YREC in Warburton. Her studio is 6m x 6m wide. The floor in her studio is covered in paint but Clair will not take all the credit for it. “There was a previous artist in the studio before me” Clair joked. Clair has found it easier to paint from her studio as there are just to many distractions at home.
Painting allows Clair to escape and she finds it very relaxing. Everything just disappears out of Clair’s mind and she gets into a zone. “I am think about where to put that and what colours to add next” Clair said. All of Clair’s paintings are intuitive and unique and are made up as she goes a long.
“It’s all made to my taste and my aesthetics and what I think is nice to look at” Clair said. It’s nice for people to look at my paintings and want that in their home, that validates my creativity” Clair said.
Most of Clair’s paintings take a day or two to complete depending on the size of course. Clair usually chooses a warm or cool palate and starts her painting from there.”I usually put my paintings away for a few days after they are finished and then look at them again” Clair said.
Its after that process that she puts the finishing touches on her paintings. Sometimes she doesn’t change much at all and then every now and again Clair will just paint over the top of one of her paintings and start again. Clair only works on one painting at a time, as she feels she loses the flow, if she has to many paintings on the go at once.
Clair describes her paintings style now as very free and lose. “More drippy and splashy and a bit less perfect” Clair said. Clair had the style she was after in her mind, but it has been a 3-4 years process to achieve her artistic vision.
Every now and again Clair goes off on a tangent and starts painting in a different style. A few years ago she had just finished a large series of landscapes for a show and she was totally landscaped out. She felt she needed to do something different, so started looking up world famous artists Matisse and Modigliani.
Both artist went through a stage of doing quite stylised women around the 1920 -1930’s. Their style was Art Nouveau. Clair felt she wanted to have a play around with similar types of styling. She started to create many abstract portraits and popped a photo up on Instagram one day and to her surprise it had a really good response. Clair received some encouraging feedback from her followers. She ended up selling quite a few of her abstract portraits.
Clair has recently got back into abstract portraits again. She describes these paintings as expressive figures. “You can tell a bit more of a story with a portrait than a landscape” Clair said. I don’t want them so illustrated, but I don’t want to push them too far where you cannot see its a portrait” Clair said. The more Clair paints portraits, the more she refines her style. Clair knows in her head what she would like her abstract portraits to look like but she feels she is not quite there yet.
Even when Clair is home or on holidays with her family she is drawing or stretching up ideas for paintings.”I just can’t stop even if I want to, its an impulse” Clair said. In her spare time Clair is still thinking and planning paintings. “Ideas just come into my head, and I think that would make a really good painting, then I will sketch something or take a few notes.” Clair said.
Clair also does a lot of private commission work. People often come to Clair her after seeing one of her previous paintings and then commission Clair to customise a painting to suit their taste. The commission process can take 3-4 weeks from start to finish.
Clair will initially get an idea from the customer as to what colours and composition they would like. “There is a lot of back and forth and is a lengthy process” Clair said. Once the customer is happy and she has a clear picture in her head, she proceeds with their painting. Clair also sends progress photos to her customer as well. Clair enjoys commission work as it allows her customers to be part of the creative process and they end up with a painting that they love.
Clair also works with interior designers in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. In July Clair had a big commission come from an interior design company in London called Peter Millard and Partners. They commissioned 12 artworks from Clair. Clair believes they found her through Instagram or Facebook. Her artwork has also been shipped to Italy and America.
Clair’s artwork has been featured on the cover of Breathe magazine (UK and Australian edition) and Audrey Magazine. Her work has also appeared inside Home Beautiful and Art Edit magazine numerous times.
Clair also has an art licensing agent in England called Bright Art Licencing. They organise the licensing agreement for Clair’s artwork onto cards, merchandise and magazine covers overseas. They set up the contacts for Clair which allows her to receive royalties for her artwork. Clair has been in a business relationship with them for 4 years now.
Clair does all her own marketing and administration, in fact she does everything herself except for the framing. Clair talked her partner Trent into doing her frames for her. Trent has since opened up his own business at YREC called Custom Float Frames. Trent only produces floating frames with no glass. Trent can make a frame any size or shape as long as the item being framed is solid. Clair is his main client but Trent would love to grow and expand his own client base.
All of Clair’s artwork is advertised on her website Clair Bremner. Clair’s artwork is also available for sale at the galleries listed below:
- Established For Design – East Malvern
- Rose Street. Trading Co – Armadale
- Seaview Gallery – Queenscliff
- Zuz Arte Gallery – Beaumaris
- Paper Pear – Wagga Wagga
- Honey Jackson – Preston
- The Interior Assemble – Balwyn
Clair also runs quite a few workshops throughout the year in various locations. She really enjoys teaching her students to paint. She loves to see the progress that her students make throughout the day. Most people that attend Clair’s workshop have never painted or haven’t painted for quite sometime. Clair tends to teach more florals and still life paintings in her workshops. If you are interested in attending one of Clair’s workshop check out her website Clair Bremner for more details.
Clair has a lot of people come up from the city to see her artwork and they think she just imagines her paintings, until they drive through Millgrove and down the highway. They can then see how her paintings reflect the natural environment. It becomes very obvious to them that the beautiful environment Clair lives in is her inspiration. That recognition is reassuring to Clair as it validates her artwork.
Clair really is such a warm, genuine and humble artist. She is an immensely popular artist and has managed to amass 60,000 Instagram followers over the years she has been painting. I asked Clair whether her kids were very impressed with their mum having that many followers and her reply was “no not really” she said with a laugh. Clair is so well known in the art world but joked that no one recognises her.
Clair feels lucky that people like what she paints. She doesn’t get attached to her work and is happy to sell it. “I produce the artwork and I know it’s going to someone else’s house” Claire said.
Clair was very open and honest about her creative journey with me. I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with her and really got a sense of her love of painting. Clair’s studio is located at 21 Woods Point Rd, Warburton VIC 3799. If you ever drop by her studio in Warburton you will most likely see Clair’s door open, and you can be guaranteed that she will creating another beautiful painting, and having a lovely time in the process.