Claire Chandler Q+A – Winner of the 2023 Little Van Gogh Artist Residency

  • Structure and shape can be the building blocks of any great work of art, however the composition does not always have to be representational. :

The Little Van Gogh residency is an opportunity offered to an artist in the Little Van Gogh network. Inviting an artist to take a week out of their usual practice, they are awarded accommodation and studio space in the New Forest national park.

This year the Little Van Gogh residency was awarded Claire Chandler.

Our Head or Art Luke Baker recently sat down with Claire to reflect on her time spent being a part of the residency and how it will have a lasting impact on her practise moving forward.

What drew you to apply for the Little Van Gogh residency?

I was immediately drawn to the fact that the residency was based in a beautiful National Park.  My paintings are inspired by spending time outdoors in the landscape, I couldn’t think of a more inspiring location in which to spend a week drawing and painting.

I knew that being able to focus purely on my art would be an incredible opportunity for me.  Not having any other work, teaching or family commitments would really allow me to push forward my creative practice.

What did a typical day being a part of the residency looked like – Did you have a specific routine that you stuck to?

Having never been on a residency before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; would I feel inspired? Would it be lonely? Would I not feel like creating anything at all?  I had shared my intentions and made a plan when I applied but what if I felt differently once I was there?

I naturally wake very early and from the very first day I was excited to get out and explore. I was out drawing by 6am, as soon as it became light.  I immediately felt so grateful to be here surrounded by the woodland, open heathland and beautiful light that I didn’t want to waste a single moment.  The forest was only a 15 minute walk from the studio, it was so quiet and there were very few people about.  I found it was the perfect time to sit amongst the trees or by the river, drawing.  I would be so absorbed in my work that I’d be surprised to see that I was suddenly surrounded by New Forest ponies!

I spent 2-3 hours each day walking, finding different locations to draw, spending time sketching, then I would head back to the studio for lunch. I might chat to the other artists. Some days I had access to the large studio workshop, if it was free I might do some painting in this space. Some afternoons it rained heavily so I stayed inside my cosy studio reading.  The evenings I spent alone, but I enjoyed the quiet, it was so peaceful compared to home!

Were there any particular themes or elements within the residency environment that have inspired you?

The studio is set alongside other artists’ studios, a beautiful contemporary gallery, workshop spaces and gardens.

I found that I was inspired by the conversations I had with other artists and local people.  I found the environment itself motivating, seeing others coming and going, making their own work, people popping in for workshops and the current exhibition all added to my overall experience.

Did working away from your usual environment challenge you in anyway or did you find it to be beneficial?

It forced me to think creatively about my materials as I only had a limited supply with me.  I challenged myself to complete a whole sketchbook as I didn’t want to leave a single page unfinished.  I didn’t imagine I would have time to start painting whilst I was there so I only took 3 small canvases.  However, I did work on all the canvas and paper I had brought with me, particularly in my evenings when I had access to the workshop space.  During the day I focused more on my drawing practice which is so important as these drawings become a constant source of ideas for my paintings.

What does the being a part of the residency mean to you and do you think this experience could have an influence on your practise moving forward?

I feel extremely privileged to have had this opportunity, Spudworks is a very special place and a wonderful charity.  They were so kind and welcoming to me as an artist in residence.

Although I was only in Sway for one a week, it almost feels like longer as I became so immersed in my drawings for the entire time I was there.

I am excited to see how my paintings develop from this experience.  When I returned home I hung all my charcoal drawings on my studio walls. I’ve stretched 6 large canvases and I’m almost ready to begin working on these.  I am excited to see how the drawings in my sketchbook, made on location become a catalyst for my paintings. The weather was quite wild towards the end of the week so I think this will definitely impact my work, I’ve already felt the need to work larger to reinforce the size, feel and atmosphere of the landscape I was immersed in for that whole week.

What are you hopes and dreams do you have for the future? Do you have a specific goal in mind that you would like to achieve?

Firstly I would love to exhibit the drawings and paintings that stem from this residency.  I would like to share with others my enthusiasm for this gorgeous place!

My dream would be to spend a week in all 14 of the National Parks in the UK. A residency in each place! It would be so amazing to create a series of works inspired by all of these beautiful places we are so fortunate to have in our country.

I imagine they would all be completely different experiences too.