Feel the cool wet grass beneath your feet as the sun slowly rises over the horizon and free yourself from the day to day hustle and bustle...
...As the sun warms your face, watch as the first Bumble bee lazily skims the top of the lawn in search of its first clover…Whether you live in a high rise, in the centre of a city or in a tiny cottage, bring a little nature into your home so that you can escape the pressures of modern live, even if it is for a moment, before you leave for work, or to collect the children from school.
I produce brightly coloured oil paintings about the tiny creatures and ecosystems around us that we simply do not have time to contemplate in our busy lives. I am based in the West Sussex countryside, where I draw and paint the smallest insect or flower. I notice the beauty in the dying forms of flowers or the vivid colours changing with the light of the sun, in between, trying to encourage my two cats to not sit on my easel or drawing board!
I started growing plants from seed and painting flowers aged 3, my interest in growing flowers and observing the lives of tiny insects is just the same as my passion for painting them. I have been exhibiting my work since I graduated from a Fine Art degree in 2001, when I had a successful solo show that consequently gained me a studio residency, where I was based for 7 years. Since then I have exhibited both in the UK and abroad in both solo and selected group shows, and am featured in both public and private collections; selling to collectors in several countries including the UK and Canada.
I am passionate about art and enjoy sharing my enthusiasm with the local community which includes exhibiting regularly with the Shoreham Art Gallery, where I enjoy meeting customers and discussing art. I teach on a one-one basis helping students gain GCSE’s, art scholarships, A Levels and mentoring fellow artists and I have taught both adults and children for over 15 years.
"Claire's work shows her deep love of nature in both her paintings and her photographs. Her beautiful flowers are painted in such deep glowing colours that they fairly leap off the canvas at you, very often with a tiny insect or bird that sometimes one can only just see. There is a magical, slightly unreal, quality to her work that is very appealing."
“Claire’s paintings are always beautiful, bright and have a wonderful texture to them. In her drawings, Claire seems to effortlessly capture nature’s beauty. All reasonably priced, Claire’s work comes in a variety of sizes so there really is something that everyone can afford.”
“There’s not a painting of Claire’s that I don’t like, in every piece she uses beautiful colours and intricate detail to capture nature, flowers and all sorts of creatures. I continually look forward to seeing and look out for Claire’s new creations.”
“Claire has such a flair and passion for art! Forever innovative and pushing the boundaries of her talent, she exudes not only great knowledge and excitement but inspires others with her enthusiasm and sense of fun. Claire is a great communicator and a natural teacher and mentor of upcoming artists. If you have the artistic potential yourself and possibly even have the money to buy great art - then go to Claire as a student and maybe even buy a painting!”
“Nature at its best – quite inspirational! Vibrant colour palette”
Anon, West Hoathly
“The Claire Harrison Exhibition is outstanding and inspirational. As a flower photographer, I was captivated by her work”
Biography – Journey to becoming an Artist
I was aged just three when I painted my very first watercolour, my mum went into the garden and said “choose a flower and let’s paint it”. I chose a purple flower, which for those who know me, I’m generally dressed in purple and turquoise, and my paintings are often of a similar palette. As a child, I made my colour feelings blatantly clear to my parents by pointing at the 1970’s orange wall in my bedroom of our brand-new home and saying “No!” when I was only one and a half years old. My mother, slightly exasperated and surrounded by boxes to unpack and no carpet on the floors, pointed at the orange walls and said “yes” in reply. My dislike for orange unfortunately turned into hysterical sobbing each morning when a ginger cat used to sit on the porch roof and look in at my bedroom window, which just about tipped me over the edge combined with the orange walls. Colour has always been important to me, and my loving parents speedily repainted my bedroom to a calming lilac… Ironically, I have grown to like orange (still not keen on yellow) and my lounge has been painted a Tuscan orange and I own a ginger cat! The colour orange to me must be like stilton cheese, Brussel sprouts and mushrooms, you grow to love it as you mature.
Before the computer revolution, which now appears to consume most of our lives, I spent my childhood painting and illustrating my own stories in the garden. I loved flowers and plants and most of all growing things. I think it was because I followed my father around the garden with my miniature wheelbarrow (which was bright orange)!? Needless to say, I didn’t like the colour, but I loved the fact I had a wheelbarrow; a happy compromise on my part. So, I helped out, and although I doubt I actually did much helping, I generally looked at the bugs, and grew mustard and cress from seed on the shed windowsill. This transpired into me growing Asters in a terracotta pot, and as I grew older, I now find that I have my own garden where I grow loads of flowers mostly those that are based on daisy formations. These include Rudbeckia’s, Helenium’s, Ox-Eye Daisies and of course a lot of wild flowers, Cornflowers, Corncockles, Geraniums and Teasel. Teasel is one of my favourites because of the wildlife it attracts, especially in Autumn where I like to see the Goldfinches feeding pulling the Teasels over as the seeds pour out.
At school, we completed a careers assessment form which decided I should be working in horticulture, which, at the time I dismissed. I had already decided that I wanted to be an artist, to which my careers adviser told me that this was not a career and my grades in art were not that good. Well, of course my art grades were not that good throughout my education, mainly because I tended not to draw and paint what the tutor wanted me to or should be drawing and painting! I wanted to paint nature, and I remember manipulating my GCSE exam – which was design a piece of clothing – sigh, so not me! So I did a painting of a pair of boots with butterfly wings as the design over the surface tessellated to create a pattern, as I wanted to paint butterflies at the time… Not really fitting the GCSE brief, oops. My life is full of irony, as I now support GCSE students to get high grades as a private tutor by teaching them how to fulfil the requirements of the examining board – it’s quite easy really, don’t do what I did!
Looking back in retrospect, I can see where all my influences in my art work come from, the fascination with pattern, insects and flowers. They were all part of my childhood and what I loved to do.
During my second year of A level, I met a tutor that liked my single-minded crazy ideas and he helped me apply to art colleges. My Foundation Art tutor was supportive and then at degree my tutors and I parted ways once again, because I didn’t like the hoops I was expected to jump through! What I did love at university was the full-time 5 day a week in the studio, and your own dedicated space.
After graduating I realised that I needed a job to start eating away at the university debt, but I didn’t see the point of working hard at art for four years not to pursue my love of it, but I also knew being a practising artist was tough, and not everyone made it. As my careers advice at university informed me, they could get me an interview as a manager in a retail outlet because they liked graduates with lateral thinking abilities? Hmm, I had been working part-time in retail throughout my degree and although I found it fun, I couldn’t imagine doing it every day and not being in the studio 5 days a week. No, I had to give myself a “make or break” decision on my art career. So, I hired a local large gallery space without any completed art works. I had six months before my opening, I needed to make some work, and I decided if the exhibition went well then, I would work towards my art career as a priority. A loan from the bank and a course on self-employment later, I launched my career and made 40 works to exhibit. These were photographic and digitally manipulated works, as I didn’t have a studio, this didn’t of course stop me from filling my parents garage, utility room and kitchen floor with wet painted mounts for the photos… When my parents came home nothing could be moved, food couldn’t be prepared, and the car couldn’t be put away. This exasperated my mother who complained to the Director of the art centre at my private view, who in turn said, that they had a studio space I could have, only temporarily as that part of the building was due to be renovated as it was technically condemned. It was perfect and affordable, I had a studio and I have never looked back. I soon moved into a studio in the non-derelict part of the building and my art career was born. The exhibition was a success and I sold several pieces, as well as having some lovely write ups in the local press, and I was even interviewed on local radio!
For many years, I considered returning to education for an MA or PhD, but that nagging doubt in the back of my mind, of being guided or told what to do has meant that I instead spend my days painting, researching, reading about the nature around me and of course growing my inspiration from seed. I want to communicate to the world my love of nature and the peril it is in because of humanity taking a bit too much and not putting enough back. I’m not the “tie yourself to a tree” environmentalist, but I feel very strongly we need to notice nature more, be a part of the natural process notice; the stages of the moon, live by the seasons, where possible eat seasonally and work with nature, not against it.