2018 E.A.S.T ARTIST HIGHLIGHT | Billie Claire
We're exploring the world of the dozens of local artists featured at MMAC’s 2018 EAST gallery and their mediums. The goal of this series is to shed light on real-life Central Texas artists exploring what & why they create.
Introduce yourself and your work! I know it's tough to explain art in words, but what is your work like?
Hi! My name is Billie Claire, and I am an illustrator and digital artist, specializing in pencil and ink drawings, hand lettering, and digital design. (i.e. I design wall art prints, posters, greeting cards, and patterns for use on a whole bunch of things!) Every design I make begins in my sketchbook with a mechanical pencil and a very special eraser; and once I’ve tweaked and erased and fussed enough, I trace my drawings with my favorite Micron ink pens. From there, they are digitized and colored using Adobe Illustrator.
My designs tend to go in two different directions:
The first is what I like to call ‘floral profanity.' I really love making people laugh in a subtle way - so I enjoy creating very elegant floral designs that look very lovely from a distance, only to reveal a snarky statement of truth upon close inspection. The duality of elegance and sass is my most favorite thing.
The second is more of a ‘human connection’ route - I love encouraging others to be authentic and comfortable in their own skin. Our social media lives can appear to be so flawless and golden, and I love helping people identify that there is a whole lot more depth and complexity to people than just a well-staged photo. Whether it is dealing with anxiety and being sweaty allllll the time, or feeling lost in life and struggling with body image issues - you are not alone. We can be anxious and sweaty together.
Give us a little back story. How did you decide that what you wanted to do was "grow up" and be an artist?
I grew up in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, where I romped around in the desert building forts and catching lizards with my older sister. My mother was an artist and a stay-at-home mom, and I feel like she presented us with a new craft project every day when we were kids. From leather stamping and paper maché to handmade valentines and pottery; making and creating was ingrained at a very young age. That affinity for making things persisted; even through college I remember turning down parties on a Friday night to stay in and craft all night. When I graduated (10 years ago), and was tossed into the madness that is finding a job and defining your career… I remember sitting on the floor of my very first apartment painting a reclaimed table, and being like, “UGH! Why do I have to go out an find a real job when I really just want to stay home and craft all day!?” It wasn’t until 2015 when I started to take hand lettering and calligraphy more seriously, and then I remember making my very first Etsy sale in August of that year and being like, “OMG I DID IT.” Since then, Billie Claire Handmade has grown and blossomed, and I revel in the days that I get to sit on my apartment floor stamping buttons and drawing flowers, because YESSSSSSS.
When the going gets tough (as we all know it does), how do you persevere as a working artist? What do you do to stay motivated?
Oh man, the going does get tough, especially when paying yourself a salary every month is just hanging out there being like, “Oh hey! Make sure you hustle and make that mon-ay!” So, there are a lot of answers to this question.
One - you really have to love what you do. If I’m having a rough go, sometimes I just get back to the root of it all and curl up with my sketchbook and a pencil. Stepping out of the business realm and just practicing my drawing not only reminds me of why I am doing all of this, but it is also super relaxing AND productive at the same time. I love drawing SO MUCH that the problem is more that I can’t find enough time to do it, instead of feeling unmotivated about it.
Two - I remember reading a blog about how having one salary-based job is the most risky situation you could be in; because ALL of your income depends on one person or company, and if they don’t need you any more, you’ve lost your entire stream of income. It is a lot less risky to ‘have your eggs in as many baskets as possible.’ If one show gets cancelled, it’s ok, because that was only one small part of my income. And I know that by diversifying my skills and products, I can easily pick up or invent a new revenue stream to offset those differences. Sometimes when things are rocky, I remind myself of that. And then it becomes almost a game (in a weird and twisted kind of way) to figure out what I could do next to utilize my skills in a new way.
And three - under the motivation category… um, money. And not in the sense of, “I want to get rich and make all the monies!” But more in a sense of, “I need to eat and pay rent next month, soooo… I need to stay productive because of that.” When you are responsible for making 100% of your income, and can’t fall back on an hourly job, it can get scary. And don’t they say that fear is often the best motivator? (She says as she laughs and weeps silently.)
This is your first time showing your work at Motion Media Arts Center. What are you excited about seeing or doing this EAST?
I am SO excited to get to see and meet all of the 35+ artists that will be showing at the Motion Media Arts Center. Art is such an incredible thing - that over 35 artists can be housed in one building, and we all do completely different things that are all totally amazing. This is a weird analogy, but it’s not like we are all just cranking out different types of Kleenex and customers come in to see which ones are the softest and strongest. We can all fit under the umbrella of ‘art,’ but every single piece can connect with someone else in a completely unique way. And what you see and feel from one piece can be completely different from what I take away from it! And all of those thoughts and feelings were generated because one person sat down and said, “I’m going to create today.” It is such a beautiful illustration of how unique every human is; and to have such a huge amount of art in one space - it is exciting and overwhelming, and I can’t wait to see and feel all the things.
ABOUT BIG MEDIUM’S EAST AUSTIN STUDIO TOUR:
Big Medium's East Austin Studio Tour (EAST) is a free, annual, self-guided art event spanning two weekends in November. EAST provides opportunities for the public to meet the artists and artisans of Austin in their creative spaces.