Painting with Claire Harrison
Claire started painting at the early age of three and as, she was also very interested in natural history, gravitated towards the natural world for her subjects. She started her career by hiring a hall for an exhibition in six months time and then worked on producing the paintings to fill it! These early works were produced using photographs and Photoshop to obtain manipulated images as a basis for her paintings.
Now Claire spends longer on sketching than painting . She first draws in ink with a Rotring pen and produces photocopies of the drawing and then experiments with different colours on the copies. She does a careful colour study for each painting using colour pencils as well as paint.
Pattern ideas come from an intensive study of Islamic Art. Also ideas based on Fibonacci numbers and fractal patterns form a starting point for much of her work. Fractals are complex patterns repeated constantly and in diminishing size eg snowflakes or the chambers in a Nautilus shell. She repeats the main image in a pattern within it eg a daisy repeated as a pattern making the spirals on the daisy's centre. If the spirals on a daisy centre or pine cone are counted in one direction a Fibonacci number is arrived at. If counted in the other direction the result is the neighbouring number in the series. Each Fibonacci number is formed by adding the two numbers before it:-
0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 etc
Claire then showed us some pictures of dragonfly wings, foxgloves, snail shells, dandelion heads and violas to illustrate the above points before demonstrating her working method for her daisy painting.
Gesso is not used on a base but she uses MDF board soaked with water and painted with a thin layer of acrylic allowing the colours to mix such as red, yellow or white.
This process is continued by putting on firstly thin layers of oil paint and then finally thick layers. This produces a translucency to the final painting as the lower layers shine through. The medium she uses for the first layers is Spectagel which is fast drying. Other layers are painted using Liquin as the medium and this allows the paint to run. Impasto medium is used for the final layers. Colours are mixed on the board.
Claire traces her daisy drawing onto the canvas and paints the daisies with thin watercolour and a fine brush. The petals are then sketched in. She then goes over the whole with oil paint with linseed oil and uses linseed oil to blend in the tonal areas where the petals join the disc. The painting takes a week to dry in hot weather but normally 2 to 3 weeks. Claire usually allows a month for drying for an exhibition painting. As it usually takes 6 months to complete one painting it means that Claire is multi-tasking with a few paintings being produced at any one time.
This was a fascinating evening and hopefully inspired everyone to try to produce a close-up painting for the competition in September.