Meet the tutor: Claire Chandler

Introducing Claire Chandler, a new tutor at West Dean running short courses in acrylic painting. Claire Chandler is a professional artist and art tutor based in south London. In this interview we find out more about her practice, current work, inspirations and where it all began.

Can you share a bit about your journey and how you got started with painting?

I've always loved drawing and painting. From a very young age, I remember my Mum drawing a squiggle onto a piece of paper and then telling me to turn it into something using my pencil and crayons. I could always be found after school painting in the art room and was drawing at every opportunity.

My parents were so supportive always telling me ‘do what you love’. After my A-levels I went on to study an Art Foundation at Northbrook College in Horsham. That was such an exciting year, trying out photography, textiles, sculpture, printmaking… but my mind was already made up, I wanted to focus on painting and I was thrilled to get a place on the Fine Art degree course at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

After University I pestered the art galleries in London for work experience before landing myself an arts administration role at Marlborough Fine Art. It was a fascinating insight into the art world, I met some of my heroes, Lucian Freud, Paula Rego and Frank Auerbach but it didn't satisfy my creativity, I continued to paint during my evenings and weekends.

I worked as a PA at Christies Auction House and was an Event Manager at the V&A Museum before completing my teacher training in 2014. I’ve continued to work part-time alongside my painting practice. I really love sharing my enthusiasm for art with others so I feel I now have the perfect balance of work and studio time.

Can you share a memorable experience or moment in your career?

By far, my most memorable moment has been winning an artist residency in the New Forest National Park. It was the most incredible experience having precious time to focus purely on my painting with no other distractions. Spending time away from home to focus on my practice gave me the time and energy I needed to develop a new body of paintings in response to such a beautiful place.

This residency was such a productive, positive and peaceful experience, I loved every minute!

What inspires your work?

My paintings begin with charcoal drawings made on location, in response to the landscape. Elements from these drawings are then pared back, simplified and worked into with layers of colour emerging as abstract paintings made with energy and emotion. Rather than creating a visual reproduction of a place, I use energetic brushstrokes and a colour palette that evokes the calm and tranquility of a location and my personal response to being there.

How important do you think it is to experiment and play in the creative process?

Critical, you only learn by playing and experimenting. Playing is so important when using new materials, pushing the boundaries, and taking risks. You learn to adapt through play, you develop skills, confidence and build self esteem, having fun in the process.

What advice would you give to beginners nervous about starting to paint?

Just do it! The first mark is the hardest. Completely cover your white canvas or paper with a single colour so it's less intimidating. There's a brilliant children's book called The Dot by Peter Reynolds, it holds a really important message about just making one mark and encouraging creativity, I’d highly recommend it!

Could you share five reasons someone should try painting for the first time?

1. It's fun! I can't imagine anything more joyful than being able to splash, pour, drip and brush paint onto a surface.

2. You're learning something new. Painting encourages you to challenge yourself and explore new things, whether it's your materials, learning about people and places, opening your mind to new ideas or reading about other artists, I believe it encourages curiousity!

3. Painting can be so relaxing, you lose yourself in the moment.

4. It’s inexpensive - creating art doesn't have to cost much. A paper and pencil is perfect to start with. Household paint and cardboard packaging is great for experimenting with mark making!

5. It opens your mind to new ideas and ways of looking at things.

You are teaching a number of short courses in acrylic painting at West Dean in the Autumn and Winter – what can students expect from these courses?

I hope you’ll have fun, relax, be free and enjoy yourself. I will encourage you to let go of any preconceived ideas, come with an open mind and be inspired!


Get started on your acrylic painting journey with Claire in London on 16 July, at West Dean on 17 - 19 January, or for those to take their practice to the next level, Claire will be teaching an intermediate course on abstracting the landscape with acrylic 28 - 31 March.