Real & Imagined | Mindful Puzzles

Real & Imagined

We speak to Clair Bremner, our incredible cover artist, and escape into the realms she renders based on the beauty of nature.

Renowned 20th-century painter Marc Chagall said: “Great art picks up where nature ends.” And when Clair Bremner wields her brush, vibrant colours and shapes render the natural realm on any given medium. Abstract Elysian fields, idyllic pastoral landscapes, clustered tufts of blossoms, trees, and shrubs in technicolour; to me some convey a world waiting beyond the canvas, ready to tumble into, like Alice entering Wonderland, or Mary and the Banks children inside Bert’s drawing. Clair explains that she has always been inspired by the beauty and complexity of nature: “I am drawn to the shapes and textures of the natural world and try to incorporate that into my artwork wherever I can.”

Her free and loose style – delicious rivers of colour drip down many of her works’ surfaces, to set off the generous daubs and billowy forms – has evolved over many years. “My parents are both creative,” says Clair, “My mother is an artist and has always encouraged and supported my hunger to learn.” This support saw Clair pick up painting and drawing from a young age. “I used to steal [my mother’s] art materials until she gave in and eventually just started buying me my own stuff,” she laughs. From those grassroots days of borrowed supplies, Clair has come a long way and honed a unique and recognisable form of expression; “I have experimented with many different styles and materials over the years. So I think my current style of painting is a combination of all those techniques that I have learned.”

For me, gazing at Clair’s art evokes a sense of the works of the 19th-century Impressionists – think, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. When asked who influences her, Clair explains that indeed, “the way that [the Impressionists] captured nature, light, and the landscape around them” has always been influential for her. “I also enjoy looking at other contemporary artists that use expressive brushstrokes and bright colours in their work,” says Clair. Rather than narrowing her field of vision though, she looks at a wide range of different genres and weaves different aspects through her own art. Ultimately, however, it all comes back to the most abundant and undeniable muse: “I have always been inspired by nature,” Clair says.

On starting a piece, Clair explains that landscape photography often forms a baseline – something she pursued professionally for a spell. After that, it’s colour that leads her work. “I will usually begin with a general idea on colours before I start painting,” Clair explains. “I work with limited colour palettes a lot – which means that I will only choose three or four ‘base’ paint colours to begin with and I will mix all the other colours from those base colours.” The result is that all the glorious shades within her pieces are harmonious and work well together. Clair doesn’t usually plan or sketch a composition before she begins. Rather, cohesiveness comes as intuition guides her hand: “I will just lay down shapes and colours in an abstract manner and slowly pull the landscape out of those shapes.” While many of her works make use of her favourite combinations – helping to establish her vibrant, impressionistic style – Clair loves to experiment too, using colour in unconventional or unexpected ways. Her process could be considered akin to the flux and flow of nature; working mostly in acrylic, Clair builds layer upon layer, each brushstroke quickly giving shape to new forms, “a painting will change and evolve quite a lot during the whole process.”

When asked whether Clair believes in a correlation between painting and mindfulness, she says, “Absolutely.” And it’s beyond a full-time job or work for her: “I still paint and draw while I am on holiday or away from work because it’s just what I enjoy doing,” she says. For Clair, her practice has always been a way for her to escape – and perhaps that is why I can so readily sense realms waiting beyond the page or canvas. “I get lost in my own mind and world while I am creating and it is really relaxing for me – especially when I get in the zone,” she explains. Her creativity, her communion with nature and the worlds of her own making are facets of her life that Clair’s family nurture: “My partner and children just accept that I am an artist, and I will always be covered in paint or daydreaming and in my own little world. I am just very lucky that I am able to do what I love as a career,” she says.

Clair is humble about her renown. I asked her how it felt to see her artwork on people’s walls, on homewares, or even on the cover of magazines. Her response? “It’s wonderful but also a little surreal. I don’t really think about it too much because it’s hard to get my head around it,” she laughs. “I work really hard, and it is rewarding to see other people responding to my art in such positive ways,” says Clair, “and it makes me really happy that I can bring beauty into the world that other people can enjoy.” And to marvel at the beauty in Clair’s works is to sweetly succumb to our biophilia, our love of the natural world. Whether we’re transported to the sun-dappled waters of a serene lagoon, or fairy-floss fields under a moody sky, Clair’s paintings provide us with something both tangible and ethereal, imagined and natural, an escape and a coming home. In her wise words: “It is always important for us to have a connection to nature, and to take time out of our day to just observe and relax.”

See more of Clair’s work at clairbremnerart.com and @clairbremner on Instagram.

Words: ERIN MCDONALD


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