Meet Claire Alta Elliott, she paints beautiful landscapes and florals with oil, a medium some young artists are hesitant to try due to its slow-rate of polymerizing, toxicity of certain pigments, and knowledge of additional drying-agents (solvents, thinners, spirits, turpentines, etc.) Claire’s work proves she‘s a natural. Her own process for mastering a tricky medium is mature, refined and spoken like a true artist:
“Each time we access a memory it is recreated in order to be available in the future; my process is a meditation on that principle. My probing of personal experience combines with my technique and process. Layering colors, building drips and defining lines are my physical means of analyzing memory through repetition.”
ArtVenue was awe-struck with her gestural paintings and loved spending time getting swept away in the sentimental beauty of each. We simply had to get to know the artist behind the easel.
"Boulevard du Château"
Home is where the heart is-where is home for you?
I’ve lived in Boston for the past year, but I grew up in New York and New Jersey. I’m very influenced by the places where I’ve lived – Central New Jersey, Philadelphia, Paris and the Hudson River Valley. The three places where I feel most at home are New Jersey, Paris and Santa Fe.
How did you discover yourself to be an artist?
I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. From childhood I can remember spending an endless amount of time drawing, something that I expounded on as an adolescent, sitting in my room and painting for hours. It wasn’t until I studied art formally that I saw the viability of art as a career and began to identify myself as an artist.
What are a few things on your artistic bucket list?
As a great observer of art, I hope to visit as many museums and art-centric places as possible. Last summer I went to St. Remy in Provence, where Van Gough lived for a time, and it truly felt like stepping into another artist’s process and paintings. I’d love to travel as much as possible, to see more art and the places where art has been made.
“I think it’s important to commit to making art and treating it a seriously and professionally as possible.”
Where did you go to high school and/or college? What was your concentration, best/worst subject?
I attended High School at the Hackley School in New York state and Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. At Skidmore I majored in Studio Art and French, concentrating in drawing and spending a year studying in Paris.
“Buttercups with Rose Shadow”
Where did you learn the skills and gain the knowledge you, as an artist, posses today?
I have a very natural background in art; my family is creatively and critically inclined. I grew up developing a love and instinct for art and art history. I was able to formalize these skills through academic training in High School and College. Through school I learned to cast a critical eye on my own work and techniques to explore further possibilities in my art. However, I have learned most by doing and looking, constant practice and observation are the best teachers.
Describe the pinnacle of your artistic career.
Since I’ve moved to Boston I’ve enjoyed a real boom in success. In the last year I’ve had 5 shows at a variety of interesting spaces and a record number of sales.
“As much as I delight in the physical act of applying paint I know it is equally important to edit and observe.”
"Place des Vosges"
Describe your art with 3 adjectives, a genre and a metaphor.
Atmospheric, Specific, Temporal
I am wary of genres on the whole but I think of my work as being Romantic, influenced by feeling and emotion. I don’t think of myself as a landscape painter, because my process is more about meditative recollection than observational replication.
My work is interior time travel, an opportunity to another place, another point.
If you were given a blank check, an hour in your favorite art store and permission to shop to your heart’s content, what would we see in your shopping cart/s?
I go crazy for color, so I’d probably empty out the oil paint selection. I’d buy the incredible high intensity pigments that are typically out of my price range and every color I haven’t worked with before. Afterwards I’d spend days experimenting and mixing.
What is your creative process, typically?
Often the initial idea for a painting comes to me out of the studio. Because my work primarily consists of memory-based scenes, I spend a lot of time considering the places and moments that impel me to paint, for this I need undistracted solitude. Then my mind can wander uninterrupted and I can write and sketch out what I find compelling about a subject or composition.
”Rose Gaden, Wister St.”
My studio occupies a sizable corner of the bedroom in my South End apartment. I have an easel, two walls, a storage cabinet and a few shelves. When I work can vary depending in my schedule, but I generally prefer to work in the afternoon and evening, ideally for 3-6 hours. Anything less than two hours doesn’t leave much room for accomplishment. I work on several pieces at a time, usually 4–7, depending on their size. A painting takes me from two to five months depending on the scale and how decisive I am.
During a typical studio session I try to work on all or most of my active, developing pieces. I feel that working this way keeps me alert and engaged; it also allows me to paint in slow layers without falling prey to the danger of overworking and over-painting. As much as I delight in the physical act of applying paint I know it is equally important to edit and observe. I like to spend about 10-20 minutes mixing colors and examining the piece I’m about to start work on. When I finish for the day, I photograph everything for my studio blog, which helps me chart the creative process on a larger scale.
“…I have learned most by doing and looking, constant practice and observation are the best teachers.”
Where/who do you gather and/or seek your inspiration from?
My work is all based on memory, I paint places in time that captivate and move me. I’m interested in the mood and history of a location as well as my own personal emotional state, both at that time and as I revisit it. In this way, I am constantly gathering material. An intriguing subject can develop out of my daily routine, from my travels or from a fragmental childhood memory. Color, light and a sense of timelessness are often what draw me to a place,
Technically I find there is a lot to inspire and instruct in the work of other painters. In landscape I look for color and expression in the technique and method of artists like Joan Mitchell, Van Gough and Cezanne. For color, light and shape I look to Pierre Bonnard, Richard Diebenkorn, Jenny Saville and more.
”Driving View, Albequerque”
Last exhibition or gallery you visited?
I went to Site Santa Fe last week to see the Suzanne Bocanegra and Pae White installations. I think that it’s essential to look at all kinds of work as a traditional painter and to be experimentally and spatially minded.
Pick your favorite piece on ArtVenue. What is it of, why is it your favorite and what does it mean to you?
It isn’t easy to pick my favorite work, first, because I feel strongly about all of my work (especially about those pieces that I choose to exhibit) and secondly, because those feelings don’t always correspond with the strength a piece. I often may have a difficult relationship with a good painting because the process was frustrating, or more drawn out than I would have liked. Experiences like that can make it difficult to be objective about a piece. Similarly, work that is fun to make isn’t always of the highest quality.
“Often the initial idea for a painting comes to me out of the studio.”
If I had to pick, I’d go for Horn Head for feeling and Color Series: Provence for painting. I think Horn Head epitomizes what I want my work to be about, it is very clearly a moment and place in time. It has a depth of feeling, a sea about to storm, a sky dripping with rain and a place full of history. In Color Series: Provence I really pushed my painting technique- trying to create color relationships and compositional tension in new ways. The fact that the panels read both individually and as a whole speaks to the overall strength of the work.
What is some advice you could give to budding artists, hopeful to make a name for themselves or looking to build a solid portfolio?
I think that the best thing for me has been to make as much work as possible. Building a portfolio is all about being able to pick and choose the really strong pieces and curate an intriguing and considered collection of images. I think it’s important to commit to making art and treating it a seriously and professionally as possible.
After College, when I felt I had really lost my major venue for critique and support, I started my studio blog. There I was able to physically and critically step back from my work, allowing me to make changes and appreciate progress in a tangible manner. Art isn’t easy, and if you don’t want it to turn into a hobby, life really becomes all about finding ways to support your creativity and to push your work to grow.
”Beach View, Atlantic”
View Claire Alta Elliott’s complete ArtVenue profile!
ArtVenue would like to thank Claire for lending us some of her time and insight. We are simply thrilled to have her on ArtVenue – welcome to the family!