I grew up in a small village near London, but after attending art college in London I moved to the middle of England and now live and work in Stratford-upon-Avon, home of William Shakespeare.What is your work environment like, do you have a home studio? An ocean view? What sort of music do you like to listen to while you work?
How is your day structured as a working artist?
I try to be at the easel at 9 a.m., having dealt with any admin before I start painting. I like to have a clear head. I have a paint-splattered Japanese apron and once I’ve pulled that over my head, I mean business! I have an artist friend who lives 6 doors down the road and we sometimes scamper along to see each other with a cup of coffee.
How did you begin your career as an artist?
I did a graphic design degree at college and my first and only job was as a textile designer for a company called Sari Fabrics. After four years I left to become freelance and, with the help of an agent, began working on lots of different things. These included toy design, kitchenware, stationery, giftware, packaging and children’s book illustration. The latter lead to me writing and illustrating my own books. About fifteen years ago I began the transition to fine art and I now work with several UK galleries, painting originals for them as well as licensing work for prints, cards and the like.
What was your first big success as an artist?
When you see your work in print for the first time it’s a very exciting moment. Seeing my book in a shop window was also a thrill. My dad used to go in and rearrange the shelves so my books were in a prominent position! I still get that thrill when card samples arrive, or when I hear from a gallery that a painting has sold. I never forget that someone is spending their hard-earned money on something I’ve created and I’m very grateful.
What inspires your work?
Nowadays I am very inspired by trips I make and places I visit. I love painting London and its amazing architecture, but I also love the sea and wild flowers. I normally see something and think ‘I want to paint that!’ Stratford-upon-Avon is a wonderful place to paint too, with the winding river and amazing history. Sometimes I just like the way light falls on a building, or sparkles on the sea.
Are there other artists that inspire you?
I’m a great fan of Instagram as it’s like having a rolling gallery of amazing art whenever you want to see it. I love going to exhibitions too – just last week I was in London at the Courtauld Gallery where they have a wonderful collection of Impressionist paintings and there is currently an exhibition of Van Gogh’s self-portraits.
What is your earliest memory of creating art?
My mum persuaded my dad that he should create a huge blackboard on the lower half of one of the walls in my bedroom, from corner to corner. My friends and I spent hours drawing monsters and princesses in chalk. Just before that, when I was five, I was told off at school for drawing in wax crayon all over the back of the chair in front of me. A very vivid memory! Perhaps mum thought my artistic efforts needed a better channel!
What is your favorite medium?
I use acrylic a lot as it is so versatile and dries so quickly. You can add collage to it, but also work on top with crayons or scratch in to it if you feel like it. I also sometimes use gouache which is entirely different – I like to change things around to keep fresh.
How has your style changed over time?
When I was an illustrator I worked on a much smaller scale and with smaller brushes. I now love working on metre wide canvas and sometimes use decorator’s brushes. I guess this means I’ve freed up a lot!
Of all the cards we publish by you, do you have a favorite?
It’s ‘Thinking of you’ with the daisies and cornflowers. I can almost imagine I’m by the sea with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Bliss.
Click here to see Claire Henley's entire collection with Calypso Cards.
Click here for a behind-the-scenes look into a day in the life with Claire.