I chatted with Atlanta-born, New York-based artist Claire Coleman recently.
She had a ton of insight into her unique city. I really enjoyed hearing her perspective on the business of art and how she has access to some of the greatest art collections in the world.
Specifically, she lives in the borough of Brooklyn and takes a lot of her inspiration from the often overlooked objects, architecture and activities that go on in every day life.
I hope you enjoy learning more about her.
[Featured Artwork: “Edge of the Sea” by Claire Coleman. Gouache and pen on paper.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
Paper. I mean, I’m an artist and I paint primarily on paper. I’ve always had a love for paper.
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I work in the fashion industry in the textile design sphere. I have a four-year undergrad degree in Fashion Design from Parsons the New School for Design in New York.
B. I’m learning how to rollerskate right now. Not related to my art but it’s a fun, new outlet! I’m not entirely successful yet, but I’m enjoying learning something new.
C. I collect different copies of the book “Alice In Wonderland.” I like how different illustrators interpret the words. *pulls one of her shelf* It’s a really creative story, so artists have a lot of fun with it. I probably have 15-20 copies in my house.
03. What is the main medium you use in your art?
I’m mainly a painter. I work in gouache, but I’ve recently started experimenting a little more with mixed media. I’ve started introducing more soft pastels into my work lately and trying to break out of my own box to experiment with new mediums and getting my hands a little messy.
04. What inspires your art?
My art is mostly inspired by travel and places, including the city I live in, Brooklyn, New York. This sounds cheesy, but I’m inspired by the world around me. My phone camera roll is constantly overflowing with pictures of a random street corner or closeups of a flower I saw while walking my dog.
I like to go through my life looking around me and taking in moments of inspiration. I translate that through photography, and then I reference those photos when I’m sitting down to do a painting. I have folders on my computer from the places I’ve traveled and places in New York as well. I filter through those when I’m looking for what I want to paint next. It’s my little archive of inspiration.
05. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
Definitely at night. I’m not a morning person. I try to get better at that, but I think I’m more productive when I’ve had time to wake up and process.
06. What is the most unique thing about the city you live in? (Brooklyn, New York)
There’s so much that’s unique about New York. It’s one of the art capitals of the world. There’s no shortage of arts-and-culture inspiration, and there are so many museums I can go visit. I can go visit some of my favorite paintings anytime I want because they live here; definitely a unique privilege to have in this city.
What I love about Brooklyn, specifically, is the architecture. It’s a good mix of new and old. You see buildings that just look like a gray rectangle. They’re new, they’re kind of boring. But then, you’re walking through neighborhoods in Brooklyn or in the West Village in Manhattan. I try to remember to look up when I’m walking because so many of these buildings have really beautiful architecture. And that’s something I really love about New York that is often overlooked because you just think about the same old skyscrapers and high rises.
07. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?
I don’t know how to classify it. It’s a little bit of all three. For my career, I work fulltime as a textile designer in fashion. That in itself is art. I get to do art that gets printed on fabrics and sold in stores.
For my personal artistic brand, I do sell prints of my paintings and some originals, and it’s not enough to make a full-time living, but it’s not purely a hobby. The business side is something I’m exploring more and trying to grow. Currently, it’s a small business I operate outside of my full-time job.
So, it’s all of the above.
08. The art is one thing, but what’s your secret to generating interest and ultimately selling your art?
That is the million-dollar question, and I would love to know the secret!
For me, I’ve started taking my art more seriously as a business in the last couple of years. Like a lot of people, I got a little bit more into it during the pandemic and realized I should create some things that make me happy and see if they can make other people happy too. I try to keep that as the main cornerstone of the business side of my art.
I want to make things that I love and that are meaningful to me. It’s not a question of if they will be meaningful to other people, it’s a question of finding those other people who will value your art. That, for me, is one of the trickiest parts of the business. It’s a big, wide world, and there’s going to be somebody for everybody’s art, you just have to find them.
09. Where did your passion for art start?
It’s been around as long as I can remember. I was always an artist as a kid. One of my first memories of when I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was that I would say, “Artist.”
It’s definitely something that has been around from a very young age, but as I got a little bit older I stayed in art, but I switched to be a fashion designer, and over the last couple of years, I’ve circled back into wanting to be an artist.
I grew up with parents very supportive of me pursuing art. My mom was a photographer and had a photography business when I was a kid. I think that’s where I learned my artistic process: from her perspective as a photographer. My parents were also very interested in travel and we traveled a lot as a family. I learned from my mom to collect photographs on my vacations, and they still are my favorite souvenirs from any trip. I’m always stopping when walking through a new city to take pictures. It’s important to have that archive to go back to.
For me, photography is a means to an end. It’s not my art form, but I take the photos so that when I get home, I can paint them and turn them into my form of visual memory capturing. I will have moments when I’m traveling where I’ll be taking the picture knowing that I’m going to paint it later. That’s always the best feeling.
10. What would be the most annoying thing about having yourself as a roommate?
That would easily be the amount of stuff that I have. I can’t speak for all artists, but I think we generally tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, whether it’s art supplies, actual art that we create, or projects that we start and don’t finish. I just have a lot of stuff and have a hard time getting rid of it because I might use it sometime.
On top of that, I work in fashion and I have a lot of clothes and accessories. I don’t want to get rid of them. I like them and I like having options.
I’m very aware that as a roommate I bring most of the stuff. It’s also a benefit though because I will decorate. There won’t be any blank walls in the apartment because I make art, and I love buying art and putting it on my walls. It’ll be a colorful and artistic home, but it will be cluttered.
11. What is your go-to band or singer?
I love listening to singer-songwriter musicians. I love to paint to classics like Joni Mitchell, who was a painter herself. Carole King is another. But also newer singer-songwriters like a band called Trousdale, they’re a trio of women who are incredible vocalists. Lizzy McAlpine is another singer-songwriter whose music I love.
12. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t got around to?
I have a lot of things I would like to try again and try more seriously, like printmaking or block printing. I like the meditative aspect in block printing of carving out your print and then printing it. It was a hobby I tried during the pandemic. I made one print, but I’d like to give it another go.
13. What household chore do you actually enjoy?
I enjoy cooking. I like trying different flavors and spices and taking a recipe I’ve done before and adding something a little different. It’s always fun, but it takes some time. It’s a labor of love. I cook for myself and my boyfriend, and I always say, “If I cook something delicious, I get to enjoy it too,” so it works for everybody.
14. What app do you use most often?
Probably Instagram. Over the pandemic, I started really connecting with a lot of other artists on there. I have separate Instagram accounts for my personal life, mostly pictures of my dog, and a separate account for my art. I love being on that (art) account and connecting with other artists, seeing what they’re making, seeing artists support other artists.
15. I thought you would say your camera app.
I don’t even think of that as an app.
That probably is the most used app. When I upgrade my phone, I always need the bigger storage option because the camera roll gets full.
16. What is one common misconception about being an artist?
I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about the ability to make money as an artist. That’s definitely a difficult part but it’s not impossible. There are so many successful artists, and I make money with my art even though it’s not my full-time job.
People just assume it’s the starving artist myth that you have to be struggling but I think it’s a misconception that art can’t just be a joyful and successful thing. You don’t have to be this tortured-soul artist who can’t make ends meet.
17. What is your favorite drink?
Coca Cola. I love a classic Coke. I’m from Atlanta, GA, originally, which is where Coke is headquartered, so when I go to a restaurant, no, Pepsi is not ok as a substitute.
18. What do you hope people get out of your art?
I hope that people take a pause, observe, and appreciate all of the beauty that we can find in the world. Whether it’s a grand, beautiful landscape or a corner of a building that I walk by in Brooklyn that has a gorgeous spot of architecture, I want to encourage people to always look for the beauty around every corner.
It’s there whether you’re at a famous monument, an incredible national park landscape, or just walking around your neighborhood noticing a leaf stuck between changing from green to yellow. I really like to highlight both the big and little moments of beauty, and I hope that my artwork inspires people to appreciate those moments and look for them in their own life.