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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Portfolio: an interview with illustrator Claire Kearns aka Curly C

Claire Kearns has been producing beautiful illustrations for Amelia's Magazine for a couple of years now: so I decided to catch up with her and find out more about her working process and inspirations.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Felder-Felder-by-Claire-Kearns

Felder Felder by Claire Kearns.

In the first of my interviews to introduce the wonderful portfolio illustrators who will appear on the soon to be relaunched Amelia’s Magazine, let’s meet the wonderful Claire Kearns. Claire has been drawing for Amelia’s Magazine for several years, regularly contributing beautiful and very unique fashion illustrations.

Claire Kearns Portrait

What kind of illustrations do you most like to create?
People are my favourite thing to draw, especially if they’re wearing intricate clothing as I like to draw folds and stitching. Great tumbling tresses are frequently a feature in my work, as are swishing dresses. I’ve also found great joy in drawing from nature as well, with sea creatures such as jellyfish being another favourite.

Claire Kearns Studio

Can you talk us through your creative process: where do you start and what kind of materials do you use?
I usually start by looking through a variety of reference materials to get a feel for my subject matter before getting started with the actual drawing. My line art is done by hand, this means that I don’t have a lot of room for error but I find creating the bones for my work digitally to be extremely difficult and just like paper more in general. 

Claire Kearns WIP

I very roughly sketch with pencil on Bristol board before working into it with a range of thick brush pens and a delicate dip ink pen with carbon black ink. I used to use fine liners but found that I was having to buy a new one every few weeks so a more permanent pen suits me better- even if it is getting a little battered now.

Claire Kearns WIP

After I’ve finished with the line art I scan it in (having an A3 scanner is so useful, I hugely recommend it to anyone who works larger than a4) then clean it up in Photoshop CC before colouring. I usually colour with a variety of found textures; walls, paper, fabric etc, I have all sorts; and a large collection of Photoshop brushes. I have also been known to work with more traditional colouring media such as drawing inks, screen tones and alcohol based marker pens. 

Emilio de la Morena by Claire Kearns

Emilio de la Morena by Claire Kearns.

What were the best things you learnt on your Graphic Design course at the Uni of Lincoln?
The best thing that I learnt was that sometimes you have to compromise a little on what you’re creating. Your client should have a say in things as well and although you may sometimes need to argue your corner against a bad change working with people is a give and take thing. If you choose to ignore what they’re saying and do what you want you’re not always gonna be able to create the best work that you can and you won’t push yourself out of your comfort zone and improve. Being comfortable is nice but it’s not always constructive.

Claire Kearns WIP

Who or what inspires you, and why?
I grew up watching a lot of Japanese anime and from that got interested in the comic medium- manga. Here’s where I found some of my favourite artists, Kaori Yuki (Angel Sanctuary), the artists collective CLAMP (Chobits, Cardcaptor Sakura, X/1999) and Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon). All three create beautiful intricate work full of flowing hair, beautiful wings and gorgeous clothing. You can take any of the pages in the thousands that they’ve created and they work beautifully as pieces on their own as well as telling a story when placed with their peers.

Kingston MA show by Claire Kearns

Kingston MA show by Claire Kearns.

I also have a love of Art Nouveau, especially Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley, Japanese woodblock ukiyo-e prints, Chinese brush paintings, and modern day artists Audrey Kawasaki and Tara McPherson. I have a large collection of art books that I like to sit down and flip through- everyone should own some, they’re wonderful.

I find following a lot of people on Twitter is great for getting inspiration as well. Sure it can be a little depressing when your peers work seems so much better than your own but you have to stop and remember that we’re all different and that its better to look at what you admire in someone else’s artwork and think about how you can bring that into your own work process than it is to flat out copy someone else’s work or even worse be struck down with a bad case of the green eyed monster. 

Grace Hamilton Necklace by Claire Kearns

Grace Hamilton Necklace by Claire Kearns.

You make amazing hair for your characters: where do you think this love of creating such intricate detail in hair comes from?
As silly as it may sound I think at least a bit of it stems from my own hair. Having grown up with insanely curly hair (hence the brand name!) I’ve always had much more of a challenge than other people while doing self portraits and as school art lessons featured creating a few of these I got lots of practice as an early age. I find hair is quite soothing to draw, its nice and rhythmical. I can happily sit and illustrate tendrils of hair all day- they’re like waves, beautiful and always different.

Liz Black by Claire Kearns

Liz Black by Claire Kearns.

You’ve been working for Amelia’s Magazine for a few years now, how did you get involved and what has been the highlight so far? 
Yeah, it’s been about two and a half years now, blimey. I actually started completely by chance. I was getting more active on Twitter and spotted a retweet asking for people to help with illustrations. I got in contact and went from there! It’s one of the reasons why if I spot a callout now that I’ll often retweet it – I could be helping someone else find Amelia’s Magazine for the first time and starting another beautiful relationship. 

My first few illustrations were for graduate fashion week and were the first real fashion based illustrations that I had created. I’ve definitely improved since then though!

For me the highlight is aways when the person that I have drawn / the person who created the product that I have drawn contacts me to say thank you or puts something on their website to say thank you and how pleased they are. That’s always such a great feeling. Getting to work on a live project from Triumph Bras was also a huge highlight for me, actual industry work is very invigorating!

Frankie Rose by Claire Kearns

Frankie Rose by Claire Kearns.

What would you say to other illustrators who are considering getting involved with the website, but haven’t quite made the leap yet?
I’d say stop dithering and just do it! It’s a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone, create something that perhaps you wouldn’t choose to do on your own and work to a much tighter deadline than you may be used to (especially if you’re still a student where deadlines can be quite expansive).

You’ll come away with some new work and a little practice at minimum and will likely have made a new contact and got yourself a little good publicity. What’s not to like?

Claire Kearns WIP

Can you give us a snapshot of your studio space? what would we find if we took a peek in?
I’ve only actually had a proper studio space for the last two years. Growing up as the oldest of three I mostly worked from the kitchen table or my bed and did the same throughout university because of a lack of space. I have drawers full of art materials including a large collection of inks, fine liners, pastels, paintbrushes, papers etc and also have a lot of meticulously ordered boxes of beads. My drawing board was a brilliant purchase to  help prevent an ever increasing amount of headaches and backaches (remember to look after yourself guys!). I wouldn’t be without it now. I work alongside my boyfriend at the moment, his desk is just out of shot to the left of the image. It’s nice to be able to have a creative space that we can work in together and as our studio space is half of our living room it also means that when things get on top of us its easy to just stop and take a break on the sofa for a while.

Claire Kearns Beads

What kind of jewellery do you make in your ‘spare’ time?
I mainly make bead necklaces for myself to wear. These are usually bright and colouful with some form of a pendant. I collect beads from all over the country and always make sure to check if a city has a bead shop when I visit. Just today I’ve sat down and made necklaces with a Sailor Moon pendant, a dotty clay rose and a large metal fish. I’ll enjoy showing off all three of them. 

Claire Kearns Beads

I also have a large collection of hama beads (perler beads to a lot of the world) extremely small beads that are placed onto a grid in a pattern and then heated so that they melt and fuse together. I use them to make geeky imagery which I then attach to necklaces and make into brooches and earrings. I’ve got a nice collection of video game inspired jewellery because of this. I’ve only been working with jewellery for about a year so my stuff isn’t perfect but it’s a really enjoyable pastime and I love being able to wear what I produce.

Kingston MA by Claire Kearns

Kingston MA by Claire Kearns.

What is the best book you’ve read recently?
I’ve not finished it yet but unless it takes a massive detour somewhere bad then I think Wool’ by Hugh Howey is the best book that I’ve read for a while. I picked it up completely on a whim while I was stuck in town with nothing to do and a money off voucher for WHSmith and am glad that I did. It’s a dystopian story where man is living in an underground silo as the world above them is too poisonous to inhabit. Where the ultimate punishment for a crime is to be sent outside to clean the sensors that allow a view of the world to be projected into the silo for them all to see- the only view of the outside they will get from birth to death. It’s a little 1984 meets the Hunger Games and it’s short chapter format means that I can pick it up and indulge in a few chapters when I feel like it. It’s quite addictive though and I have found myself moodily looking across at the cover wanting to know what happens next. Also, I have a huge amount of respect for the author as he originally self published the novel as five parts on the Amazon Kindle store. Shows me that with enough determination and hard work you can make your dream come true. 

Outside of traditional fiction I’ve also recently been enjoying the manga series Nana’ by Ai Yazawa. It’s a fairly gritty and realistic setting based on two girls; both with the name Nana; who by chance end up living together in Tokyo. I can’t go into it too much without ruining the story but there’s laughter, there’s tears and there’s heart pounding moments. It’s definitely one that you can relate to and I’ve been quite happily buying all of the volumes for my bookshelf- I have 16 of them so far. Ai has a background in fashion so her work is rich with real fashion imagery and it’s really refreshing that the characters actually change their clothes every day (so many comics are guilty of the one outfit problem).

KTZ by Claire Kearns

KTZ by Claire Kearns.

I hear you’re a fan of video games – what should a novice like me start with?
I’ve been playing video games since I was a child and got into them majorly when my parents bought me and my sister a PS2 (I still have that exact PS2 now, it’s well over a decade old and ailing a little bit it still works).

As for a good game for a beginner, it depends what sort of thing you’d be looking for. I personally am a big fan of jRPGs such as Final Fantasy (VIII in particular) and Shadow Hearts. The gameplay isn’t too fast, they’re full of interesting characters and the story lines tend to be quite appealing and interesting. They are, however, big time sinks- I’ve been playing my current game Persona 3 for 42 hours so far and will likely have at least another 20 hours to play before I finish it.

If you’re looking for something a bit more bite sized then a good puzzle game is always nice, especially with friends around. Bust-a-Move is the only game to have ever united my entire family. I once woke up to hear my parents playing it together in the middle of the night. A decade after I initially purchased it I still like to get it out now and then for a tournament or two.

Yeashin by Claire Kearns

Yeashin by Claire Kearns.

What do you hope for the future when it comes to Curly C illustration, the brand?
I’d like to be able to quit my day job and work exclusively in the creative industry. Mobile phones isn’t the worst job in the world but it certainly isn’t where my heart lies. I’d also like to see my work in more commercial areas of the industry, as well as in peoples homes. The idea of people opening a book or looking at their walls and seeing something that I created warms my heart and is something that keeps me going.

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