Friday, 3 March 2017

Art with Claire O'Brien!

1.  Heya Claire! Thanks so much for taking the time to collaborate with me! Would you mind starting off by telling us about who you are and what you do?
Hi Marti, thanks for having me! I live in Leeds, I’m 36 and I’m a mum of two boys. Having left my job in university administration two years ago I’m now working full time on my artwork and writing projects. I struggled for years with managing the right work-life balance as well as trying to develop my art skills so I made the decision to quit my day job to commit to it fully. I’ve recently reached a point where I’m ready to share my artwork (which is quite scary!) so I’ve now started to post some of my work online (see my Facebook page here ). So far, I’ve shared some of my traditional drawing/painting of portraits but I’m also working on moving into illustration and sequential art. 

2. What is your preferred  creative medium and why? Is it pencil and paper, sculpture, textiles or something else entirely?

When I began drawing I worked mainly with paper and pencil (or charcoal for life drawing). About 18 months ago I invested in a digital drawing tablet and it’s completely transformed the way I work. Digital is a forgiving medium which allows me to edit and correct mistakes easily but you can also play around with composition, texture and colour.

3. Where do you find your inspiration? 

 I take inspiration from all sorts of places; personal experiences, places I’ve been, things I’ve read. Film and music are important influences in my life which is what led me to start drawing portraits of musicians. I’m a huge fan of comics and graphic novels so this style informs a lot of my work.

4. Are there a specific message you are trying to communicate through your work?

In my portrait work there’s no specific message, other than showing an appreciation for the subject. But when it comes to my writing and narrative art, I take a more personal approach. A large part of my work is autobiographical so it’s just a way of putting a part of myself out there. I’m quite a shy person so being able to express myself through my art is important to me.

5. Which art movement or artist would you say influences your work most?

I was always interested in impressionism in school, not only from a visual point of view but also because my other great love in life is France (I studied French at university). I love Manet’s use of contrast, Renoir’s city scenes and Degas’ poses. At university, I took a course in photography and discovered Henri Carter-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. I was captivated by a photograph’s ability to tell a story and it made me want to create something which you look at wonder “what’s the story behind this?”. 

6. Are you working on an projects currently that excite you?

A while ago I wrote a script for a graphic novel and once I finished it I didn’t know what to do with it. At that stage, I didn’t feel like my drawing was good enough to illustrate it myself and I didn’t have the confidence to approach an artist to collaborate with me. I feel like things have moved forward since then so I’m starting to work on the art for this. It’s a big project but I’m really excited about taking on the challenge.
7. How would you define the word 'creativity'? Does a piece of work need to be admired by others to be creative or is it more about the process and ideas that have gone into it that make it creative?

Wow, great question! As far as I’m concerned creativity is the act of making something and it doesn’t matter if something never gets seen, let alone admired, for it to be creative. I have so many pieces of work that will never see the light of day but it doesn’t take anything away from them being creative. Of course, admiration for work is nice but it shouldn’t be the reason for creativity. 

8. What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?

Having a family and a career has always been a bit of a juggle and creative work doesn’t necessarily fit into a 9-5 pattern! There’s also the fact that I came to art a little later than most so I feel like I have to work much harder to catch up. It took 10 years working in an office for me to realise that what I really wanted to be was an artist!

9. You have the opportunity to invite a famous artist from the past round for dinner- who would you choose?

 I would really love to meet an American street photographer called Vivian Maier. She worked as a nanny and spent her spare time taking thousands of these incredible photographs while she was walking around the streets of Chicago. Sadly, her work wasn’t discovered until after her death. She was supposedly quite an eccentric character and had a really fascinating story. 

10. And finally, what is the best piece of advice you can offer to people who want to be more creative?

If you’re interested in in art, even if you’re a beginner, seek out local art classes you can join. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and I found doing this increased my confidence. Online drawing tutorials are great or even just get some paper and pencils (or whatever you have!) and just draw anything: your family, friends, pets, or use your imagination to create characters. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’re any good straight away, keep at it and you’ll notice yourself get better every time. Art is a skill, not a talent! 


  1. Well done Marti, a really professional and interesting interview xxx

  2. Wow! Love this blog entry! I always think artist interviews are so interesting and INSPIRATIONAL! I admire Miss O'Brien and great job writing this post! I admire the fact that she is dealing/learning how to pursue her passion of art all the while being equally invested into her family! There is something about creating/ being creative that is so fulfilling!? I think it is God...that he put it inside us. after all He is the Ultimate Creator! ^_~

    Great Post!