• Claire Burke

How did I get here?

I don't mean physically :) that part is clear - in this case I mean how did I get to be the artist I am right now? Its a question that I could get really philosophical about because of course all the small decisions and events in the last 10 years will have shaped the artistic choices and literal output, but I thought I'd start with sharing the evolution of my creative process.

Like many folk I've met, it started with a chance to finally get back to creating ... in my case a term-time two hour acrylics workshop taught by a talented established artist who used the time to demonstrate, answer questions and work with each student as time allowed to move their work on. It was just right for me, not too structured (we all could choose our subjects) but hugely exciting to find a medium I'd no experience of and get quick visible results for my time. A fantastic antidote to domestic repetition. I was hooked!

I started painting literal scenes directly from photographs, that way I knew when I'd got it 'right' and when I could stop and say 'I'm done'. I hadn't been immersed in an artistic mindset and the subject matter I chose was a holiday snap of a church in rural France, one minute, and an image from the National Geographic the next. I painted a still life (reluctantly ... drawing skills very rusty) and then a silhouette sunset / skyline and all the time the work was really tight. I painted with brushes, but colour mixing was a revelation and my confidence grew.

My tutor suggested regularly that we all find places to 'show' our work, and I put four paintings into a local un-curated Art Fair where the two largest paintings sold on opening night. I was delighted and shocked in equal, huge measure (and have put work in and sold every year since...). But I started to loosen up.

Firstly with technique: I began doing part of my work with palette knives, this gives more texture and the element of chance. Some of the work started to be more impressionist and I did a stream of woodland paintings that got more fluid and stripped back with every piece, refining the effect of trees to a minimum number of knife and brush marks.

I also loosened up with subject - if I thought the composition could be improved I took artistic decisions and became more confident about tweaking colour, contrast and shape to get a more pleasing or interesting outcome.

I moved from working solely on my own pieces to taking some commission work alongside: lucrative and exciting (and sometimes terrifying :) ) which also diversified my subject matter, my colour palette, the scale of my work and other similar unforeseen benefits.

And then the biggest shift of all: into abstract.

I love the great outdoors, and spend a lot of time in woods and fields and up hills and at the seaside (not easy: pretty landlocked here in rural Buckinghamshire!). I love sunsets and seasonal changes and shadows and silhouettes, so my work is really heavily influenced by landscapes. And the mood? Even in my more literal work a common theme is depictions of wide expansive empty scenes that clam the senses.

Its easy to see this all now with the benefit of hindsight. I can be set on a body of work in a particular theme or style or colour palette and absolutely think "this is what I want to paint, this is what I've been working towards" as if its the end of the journey. But in reality my conclusion for now is that my work is always changing.

As I write this my work is firmly abstract expressionist landscape - but who knows where I'll be in another year, with more knowledge, more experience, new inspiration and a changing world. Hope you pop along occasionally to watch it develop :)

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