Monday, 23 October 2017

Meet Clara Cook — Challenge Admin


Clara Cook

Tell us what sort of a child you were. Did art play a big part in your growing up?

I’ve been told that I was a bit of a handful when I was very little. I’ve always drawn, and my early 'works' were on the walls of our house! There’s a story that I wasn’t told off for doing this, as my parents thought it would hinder my creativity; however, when I became a parent and my boys drew on the walls, I wasn’t quite as open-minded.

As I got older, I loved to make my school projects look pretty by adding illustrations and colourful borders — all done by hand, as this was before home computers. When I was about 10, I sent a drawing to a children’s TV show and it was shown on television. I was over the moon and still have the book they sent to me!

In my opinion, I was a bit of a tomboy. I remember starting high school and not wanting to study cooking or sewing 'just because I was a girl' — I wanted to be doing woodwork or plastics, like the boys did. Thankfully, we moved and I went to a new high school where I was able to do those subjects, plus Art and Tech Drawing (two of my favourite subjects).

Week 19 2016: Adventure

Why do you make art now?

Honestly, I cannot imagine not drawing — it’s a huge part of me, and it’s what I love to do. That said, not everything I draw turns out the way I hope it will. I joined the 52 Week Illustration Challenge with a plan to draw more often and hoped that by drawing more often, I would become better at it. I certainly draw more often now and am still working on the ‘getting better at it’ bit.

Commissioned portrait of pets in ink (A3), 2017

Have you formally trained as an artist or illustrator? Describe your art background/journey:

I’m not really formally trained. I studied Art and Technical Drawing during high school. In my final year, I achieved the Book Award for Art. My book was ‘A Treasury of Australian Painting’, and it still sits in our bookcase. The year after finishing high school, I undertook evening classes at TAFE to achieve a Certificate in Art Studies.

From 2009 to 2014, I was a member of a local community arts group in Geraldton (WA). I contributed drawings to a couple of member exhibitions and the yearly ‘Christmas Shop’ that was set up each December. My first sale, in 2009, came as a huge surprise.

We moved from Geraldton mid-2014, and I joined the 52 Week Illustration Challenge in January 2015 with the aim of drawing more often and improving. I’ve managed to complete an illustration for every theme since joining (except for two this year – for which I will have to do ‘catch ups’).

Since 2015, I’ve started to receive more commissions. These have included a number of portraits of people and pets (both in pencil and ink), a number of pyrography designs, and creating a logo.

Week 23 2017: Texture

Do you have a favourite medium or subject matter?

I draw portraits using 2B pencils and have started drawing animal portraits using ink pen (mostly 0.05 through to 0.3 size). I think I currently favour the ink pens. I also do a little pyrography work too.

I started drawing portraits when I was 15. My first portraits were of the members of my favourite band at the time. I also love to draw timber using ink pens (I find it really relaxing), and you’ll often find timber in the drawings I add to the Challenge wall.

Week 4 2017: Ode to Favourite Children’s Book

Describe your artistic process, from ‘no idea’ to ‘finished artwork’.

I can be a little bit of a planner – I can hear my friends snorting with laughter at this. Okay, I’m a huge planner (of everything). When planning for the weekly theme, I’ll brainstorm ideas and words associated with the theme. I like to see if I can ‘think outside the box’ to come up with something different. Sometimes I take a few days to mull over ideas. Once I have a basic idea, I might google photographs to get image inspiration. Often I go to bed and find I’m planning layouts in my head. I like to be able to picture myself working on the drawing and imagine it coming together before I start.

After all that planning, the execution is often so much quicker. Although in reality it probably takes a while, it just feels quicker, as I lose track of time when I’m drawing.

For commissioned portrait work, I sketch out the basics then shade in the detail. Between the sketch and the shading, I have a period of doubt and worry that I’m not going to get it right.

Week 13 2017: Cinema – Hugh Jackman as Logan

How do you fit your creative work in with a busy family life? Do you have a routine?

Well for about 10 years, I didn’t fit art in – that was when our boys were young. Once they got a bit older, I picked up my pencils and did a little bit of drawing, as well as making greeting cards (from scrapbooking materials) to give to family and friends.

In 2007, I changed careers and became an Education Assistant. During the term, I mostly draw on weekends, but on the school holidays, I can draw more often and try to get illustrations for the Challenge drawn ahead of time.

Part of my art table & easel (with illustrations from 2017, weeks 1 to 4)

Where is your favourite place to create and illustrate?

At my art table in the corner of our bedroom or at the dining table (if I need my laptop). Over the years, my husband has bought me a desktop easel and a magnifying lamp, which are on my art table. This year he made me a light-box for tracing, which is fantastic!

Week 27 2015: Style – a stile drawn in my style
(This illustration appeared in the Geelong Writers Anthology 2015)

What impact has the Challenge had on your creative journey?

Oh my goodness, such a HUGE impact.

Besides the sheer quantity of drawing that I have done, which helps me improve, I’ve gained confidence due to the support of our community and made wonderful new friends.

In 2015, along with other Challenge members, one of my illustrations was chosen to be published in Tickle the Imagination magazine. That same year, I was contacted (again with other Challenge members) to have a number of my illustrations published in the Geelong Writers anthology of works – Tantalising Tales, An Anthology of Fiction.

Now I’m taking on projects and roles that I never dreamed I would or could tackle, thanks to the support of the Challenge community.

Some of Clara's pyrography work, 2016

Do you have illustrators or artists who give you inspiration?

I love MC Escher’s work and also enjoy the work of artists Alphonso Dunn and Kerby Rosanes. I often watch Alphonso’s ‘how to’ videos or refer to their books, which I own, for ink shading tips. I find the works, techniques, journeys and achievements of our fellow Challenge members to be greatly inspirational.

Week 36 2017: Printing (making a start on the layout)

What are you currently working on and what will we see next from you?

I have a couple of things on the go at the moment:

I’m part way into a commissioned set of three double portraits that will be given as Christmas gifts. I also have a pyrography project as a special gift to work on very soon. As both are surprises, I can’t share any pictures or too many details until after they’ve been given — that’s really hard, as I want to share pictures!

I’ve also started on my sketchbook contribution for the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project 2018.

Of course I also have each week’s theme to create.

Week 48 2016: Clock

Do you have a dream creative project you'd love to be able to do?

My dream would be to become what is in my mind a 'proper' artist — create a web page (or dedicated Facebook page) and have a solo exhibition. I’m still working at being more confident in even using the title of 'artist', so I’m taking baby steps.

Week 29 2017: Swing

Tell us something that we don’t know about you:

I’m a huge fan of Marvel movies and comics, and I love going to Oz Comic Con and Supanova. No, I don’t cosplay — I’m not that adventurous.

My favourite authors are Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Wyndham — give me a scary book, but not a scary movie any day!

I love listening to movie scores — Kung Fu Panda and Assassin’s Creed are among my favourites.

Oh, and I love chocolate and cake, but I don’t like heights!

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