In 2009, Clair Hartmann was selling her small format paintings at the local Riverfront farmers’ market in Wilmington, North Carolina, when she noticed just how many dogs there were. This recognition prompted an epiphany. “I want to paint dogs,” she thought to herself. “And I want to get really good at it.” What followed was a self-challenge to paint 100 dogs in 100 days, a project that honed her skills and left her more in love with her subject matter than ever. In a way, Clair had been working toward this point since she was a young child. Memories of her uncle sketching and painting clouds in the backyard during vacations nurtured early artistic leanings. Following high school, she attended The Art Institute for graphic design, then worked as a freelance graphic designer for 20 years before coming to paint full-time. But it wasn’t until she attended a demo by Charles Movallie at the Oil Painters of America Show that she really got in her groove, understanding that strokes and even missteps are an artist’s signature. Her uncle’s early influence has been followed by inspiration found in the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, Duane Keiser, Arthur Wardel, and Jeremy Lipking. Between time spent at the farmers’ market and with her two Jack Russell Terriers, Chumley and Frida, Clair is never short of canine muses. She likes painting dogs because they make her smile, something she communicates though her paintings. “They just want to love and be loved,” she says. In her paintings, Clair ventures to distill the essence of each dog, describing her work as “a soul connection in paint.” Each painting starts with an image that strikes her in its lighting and composition, which she then manipulates, sketches, lays out colour for, and then gets to painting, a unique intersection of, as she calls it, “painterly realism and imaginary realism,” capturing the very heart of her subject.
Commissions start at $325 for an 8” x 10” painting. Check out more of Clair’s work at clairhartmann.com.