Featured Mural Artist, Designer

Claire Foxton

July 2019

The line up for Make IT Made IT this year is as eclectic as it gets (as usual)! From Signwriters to Paper Weavers to Carpenters and heaps more; It's a full day of inspiring talks, discussions, exhibitions and masterclasses with a delicious lunch thrown in to keep you up to speed with all that note taking. To warm up for the epic conference later this week we had a quick Q&A with Keynote Speaker, Mural Artist & Designer, Claire Foxton, about how her painting began as a side hustle, how delightfully varied but also stressful her days can be, and how she'd always find ways to make some pocket money from her craftiness as a kid.

Any hilarious stories about you as a kid being creative?

I was always trying to find ways to make some pocket money from my craftiness as a kid. My favourite example was repurposing my dad’s empty beer bottles and turning them into these dorky (but elaborate) Christmas dolls. I sold them to family members for $10 a pop, and they still embarrassingly bring them out at Christmas time. I also used my creativity for not so innocent things as a kid - once designing a logo and letterhead for a fake dance school with a friend and collecting ‘sponsorship’ money from people in her street - just enough to order a pizza, (delivered). So bad!!

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Graphic Design & Visual Arts at the University of Wollongong. In terms of design, I started freelancing when I was in first year. One of my first design jobs (done for free) was to design a poster for an Amnesty international gig at the UniBar. The headlining band, Blue King Brown, noticed my poster and ended up hiring me to work for them. I see that experience as a mentorship in a lot of ways. They took me under their wing and helped me form relationships with other acts in the same Aussie music scene, like John Butler Trio & the late great Gurrumul. I loved music design because it sat somewhere between art, design & branding.

My painting was very much a side hustle at that time - there was no way I thought it would (or could) become my main source of income. One of my first real art gigs, aside from a slew of terribly executed portrait commissions, was painting ‘live’ at a garage band night at the local Golf Club. I painted the back of the local chippy menu board in front of a rowdy crowd of locals. I’d never been so terrified in my life but it’s the moment I realised I worked well under a bit of pressure. I went on to paint ‘live’ at quite a lot of charity events through to my early 20s. I’d start with a blank canvas, and over the course of 4 or 5 hours I’d paint a portrait. I think those experiences were invaluable to me when I started painting walls a few years ago.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I’m a graphic designer and artist - the ratio is about 50/50 at the moment but it constantly fluctuates. One doesn’t exist without the other and there’s a lot of cross pollination between the two. Over the past 3 years I’ve been focussing more on painting large scale murals. I’ve been lucky enough to travel parts of Australia and the world painting portraits of interesting everyday humans on all sorts of public surfaces.

My mural work is a hybrid of abstraction and photorealism and is influenced by my love for design and my appreciation for the human condition, in all its diversity. I like using my work to tell stories and I especially enjoy exploring the link between people and place.

What are some of the best and worse parts of your job, day-to-day.

One of the best parts of my job is It’s so varied. I enjoy variety. It keeps me interested and engaged. I’m never bored! Yesterday I was working on the branding of a new burger joint. Today I’m talking to paint companies about what products I can use to help paint cure in temperatures under 10 degrees for an upcoming mural. I’m also working on safety documentation for another mural, and later today I’ll be starting to plan out my talk for the Make It Made It conference, hosted in Newcastle in July.

One of the worst parts of my job is it’s so varied!! Sometimes the variation can feel frantic, and if you’re like me (completely unorganised) it can cause stress. I find myself getting better with that as I get older though. I’m able now to say no to the jobs that I know either don’t fulfill me, aren’t valuable to my progress or don’t align with my views and intentions. A big part of my creative journey has been in identifying these things.

Whats the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be prolific, not perfect.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

There’s no right time to start. You don’t need to have all the tools and all the skills in your belt before setting out. Sometimes simply not knowing how, and jumping in to have a go anyway is the best thing you can do - it can open you up to new ways and can go a long way in developing a style that is truly authentic to you.

Determine your own metric for success. It could be as personal and broad as ‘feel creatively fulfilled’ and should never be born from comparison or external gratification.

Say yes to everything in the beginning. By trying a little bit of everything you’ll start to work out what floats your boat and where your skills best intersect with your passions.

Website: clairefoxton.com.au

Instagram: @claire_foxton

Get more Clarie Foxton insights & wisdom at #MIMINEWY2019. For tickets and to check out all the other legendary MIMI speakers this year, jump onto the Make IT Made IT website: makeitmadeit.com.au

Follow Make IT Made IT on Instagram & Twitter to keep up to date with all the goss too!

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