Practice Session #5 - Claire Wilson of Smudge Studio

Experiments with new ways of making

Claire Wilson, of Smudge Studio, is a fine artist, creative educator, and textile designer living in Brooklyn, NY. Through her work, she explores the beauty of the female form in studies, and botanical imagery while considering the use of colour, shape, and line. Having spent her career creating fabric designs in the fashion industry, colour palettes are the foundation of her practice. Claire will be opening up her studio to us for a virtual watercolor session on Tuesday, April 27, from 4-5pm. Guests are encouraged to follow along at home, get your tickets here to join us. We were elated to be able to talk to Claire more about setting rituals, using art as a tool for healing, and how she maintains a playful energy in her practice.

What would you say is consistent in your creative practice? Do you have any specific routines or rituals you could share? 

I've found that blocking out time on the weekend has been key  - I recently have been starting Saturday mornings with the Practice class and then continue my studio time for the rest of that day. I find that I like to work in concentrated blocks of time.

Usually I'll make a warming drink like an oat milk chai, light a candle and some palo santo or incense. I try my best to tidy the space the night before and leave my tools ready to go on my desk and quite often a half finished project so that there's no build up to finding the flow of working. Sound is really important and I've been slowly building Spotify Studio playlists, and am always on the hunt for interesting podcasts.

Have you discovered anything new about your creative rituals during the past year or found any new surprising additions? 

I've discovered that I'm prone to procrastination when the creative process is just beginning so now I embrace it - I'll set a timer and do some research or mix paints until I feel warmed up to draw and paint. I think the past year has proved to me that studio time is an essential part of my week and so it helps to schedule in time blocks and my rituals have become habitual so there's a consistency in having a creative outlet. 

How do you work through emotions while you work? 

My creative work has truly been my solace in the past year - I experienced some very difficult losses and there have been days when I'm in my studio just crying and painting. Creating art was the only way I could process the feelings of grief and uncertainty and I think 2020 was the most prolific I've been since art school. I feel as though I'm now in a place where my work can include more of a narrative theme around some of the emotions I've been feeling.  

What sort of steps in your practice are geared towards harnessing and supporting your emotions? 

I've found that just as in my day job I feel more supported when I have systems or processes in place- so if I'm feeling particularly anxious I'll add steps into my practice to include research like paper tests or colour mock ups so that diving into a finished painting doesn't feel too overwhelming. I can tend to be a perfectionist and am training myself not to discard any work - instead I'll take a break and return to something later. I often hate a painting until I'm halfway through so I'm learning to trust that a piece can and will improve over time- or not and that's totally okay too!

I also enjoy taking life drawing classes as it helps me to focus on something and take me outside of my emotions - during that one minute or ten minute pose I'm so focused on capturing the essence of the subject that I lose all sense of time and my own thoughts and worries.

What role does play have in your practice?  How do you cultivate it?

My entire career has been very controlled, scheduled and includes a creative process that is very technical and measured when I'm creating textiles for mass produced garments. To counter balance that I now love to incorporate some play into my  practice - with no expectations or end result in mind. My coach suggested carving out time to just play with materials and create textures. This has been very freeing and I'm building up a library of elements that could be used for collage. I think incorporating collage has really helped me to cultivate a more playful approach to my work. At the start of this year I felt paralyzed and overwhelmed and the idea of committing to a painting was too much. Now I'm experimenting with a new way of working that feels much less permanent and it has become an interesting process of problem solving.

Where are you finding inspiration these days? 

I've been thinking a lot during lockdown about the spaces we inhabit and have been really enjoying creating intricately cut paper environments as a means of escape. So I've been reigniting my obsession with homes and interiors, and how they interact with people - the figures that I create during life drawing classes. Just this past week I finally took the leap and I signed a lease on my first ever studio space so I'm looking forward to inhabiting a larger space where I can work into larger scale work and experiment with some new materials as an evolution of my watercolour work.