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Exclusive Interview with An Artist: Claire McElfatrick

Exclusive Interview with An Artist: Claire McElfatrick
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To celebrate the release of our new White Logo Collection puzzles, we're getting to know some of the talented artists who illustrated and designed the artworks!

Kicking off, we have an exclusive interview with Claire McEflatrick, the talented artist behind our new 500pc circular puzzle, Tropical, and our Little Gibsons puzzle, Wonderful Wildlife. We spoke to her about her life and work, and we hope you enjoy getting to know her some more!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in a small village in Buckinghamshire, spending my childhood days sketching and doodling surrounded by glorious countryside. I was never without my sketchbook and coloured pencils and always dreamed of becoming an artist. I studied Fashion and Textile Design at De Montfort University in Leicester. Soon after graduating I landed my dream job as a greeting card designer for a leading UK publisher. I went on to have a wonderful 12 years there and eventually became a Design Manager giving me the amazing opportunity to work with some fantastic clients. I decided to become a freelance artist in 2013 and I now work from my home studio in rural Northamptonshire, where I live with my husband, two daughters and tabby cat called Huey. I am proudly represented by my wonderful agents at Advocate Art and have been fortunate to work on some fantastic projects with such amazing clients Gibsons of course! I still create lots of greeting card designs for various publishers but I also illustrate for children's books, puzzles, calendars and many more products.


How long have you been an artist for?

20 years! This makes me feel quite old! Although I have had a passion for art throughout my life, my professional career in art and design began in 2001 after spending a couple of years as a window dresser for John Lewis. I really loved this job as it felt like I was on the set of Changing Rooms - I loved that TV show! But I always knew I wanted to create my own designs so I freelanced in textile design briefly before becoming a greeting card designer for a publisher based in Northamptonshire. The past 7 years working freelance have been my most creative so far though, working on dream projects and expanding into different product areas - it has been such an exciting journey. I feel truly blessed to be able to do what I love for a living.


We have just released two of your beautiful designs, Wonderful Wildlife & Tropical. Can you tell us what is your creative process is like and where do you draw inspiration from?

Like many artists I always begin any design or illustration with good old-fashioned sketches, which helps me to plan out scale and composition before going to colour. My creative process changes slightly depending on the individual project, but my style usually consists of a combination of hand drawn/painted, collage and digital art techniques. My work often includes lots of textures and I work mainly in photoshop where I can bring different elements together. I'm always photographing interesting surfaces, like ageing wood or metal when I am out and about to create unusual textures for my illustrations. I pretty much take my inspiration from all that's around me, wherever I go my camera is snapping up something inspiring! I am completely drawn to anything with pattern, texture and bold colours but living and growing up in the countryside I will always be passionate about nature. I like to keep an eye on current trends so I love browsing Pinterest and having a good potter around the shops for fashion and home interiors.


You’ve designed quite a few puzzles for us now, what has been your favourite and why?

Ooh that is tricky, as it was an absolute pleasure illustrating each of them!  Although I think it may have to be the 'Christmas Around the World' Calendar as I got to illustrate 22 puzzles for it!  This was quite a challenge but it was really lovely as I was illustrating it during the festive season - my favourite time of year! Being an illustrator, you need to research your subject matters thoroughly and with this project I learned so much about all the fascinating Christmas traditions that take place around the world each year....the most unique has to be Mummering in Newfoundland! As a family we loved piecing together each puzzle leading up to Christmas...I thought I might get a head start being the illustrator but they proved to be much harder than I thought!


How does it feel to have won a Gift of the Year award for our 2020 Christmas Around the World Calendar?

So amazing!! I am just delighted to have been a part of this fabulous festive gift which is now an award winner!  It's great to see how well it was received, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to work on it with the lovely creative team at Gibsons.



If you could have a meal with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

An inspirational lady I would have loved to dine and chat with is Mary Blair - one of Walt Disney's favourite and most influential concept artists of the 1950s/60s.  Her unique stylized magical artworks are so full of vibrant colours and textures and was highly influential in enchanting classics like Cinderella, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. Mary Blair was also the concept artist behind the magical, whimsical attraction at Disneyland -It's a Small World ...My favourite! I love her use of bold unusual colour combinations and abstract patterns, which was daring and unique for her time. I would love to delve into her magical world and get to know what inspired her and what it was really like working with Walt Disney himself.  


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