It's 2023 and the allure of Clair Rossiter's art continues to captivate hearts, making it the perfect moment to delve deeper into her world. Beyond the canvas, Clair unveils her passions, design secrets, and a collection of her most cherished creations. Discover the musical muse that accompanies her artistic endeavours— surprisingly, 'Stormzy' is one of these artists! As you read on, immerse yourself in the realm of Clair's unique style and the meticulous art of map-making, where every stroke of colour breathes life into her masterpieces.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Cheam in Surrey. My whole childhood was spent there, before moving away for three years to study at Falmouth University. I now live in Sutton, which is on the outskirts of London and a couple of miles away from where I grew up.
Can you tell us 3 interesting facts about yourself?
1. I have never been able to whistle or do a roly-poly (these things seemed highly important skills to acquire when I was younger, but do not affect me so much as a grown-up.)
2. I have a twin brother… I’m still one minute older though.
3. I’m proud to say that I received the lowest grade in the history of my school for netball! P.E. lessons still haunt me.
Aside from art do you have any other hobbies?
Art has always taken up a great deal of my day, and sometimes I feel quite bored as I have never devoted much time to anything else in quite the same way. However! I really love to cook whenever I get the chance- trying out a new recipe has become my way to be creative and relaxed, without any pressure of deadlines. I also enjoy going on walks or runs in nature when I have the time, and reading (though this is usually in the form of an audiobook, whilst I’m painting!).
Clair's Homemade Shortbread Biscuits
How did you find your unique style?
I think the most realistic answer is through years of practice, and continuously making new things, whether they are successful or not. When I studied illustration at University, there came a point where I felt like I needed to have settled on my own recognisable style, but the tutors always encouraged us not to focus too much on this. For me, it’s about drawing a lot and experimenting with different media. Sometimes you just hit on a project or way of working that intuitively feels comfortable, and you keep exploring that path. I’ve been a freelance illustrator for nine years, and whilst there is a common thread in my work, it has evolved a lot without me even realising it.
Can you talk us through your method of creating a piece of artwork?
Any project always starts with research, but that’s especially important with a map. It’s one of my favourite parts of the process. I gather as much information about the place I am illustrating as possible (using the internet, but even better if I’ve been able to visit in real life.) I use google maps to plot out the most important landmarks and features, before sketching everything to figure out a layout. Then, I place my sketches onto a Lightbox as a guide for creating the final art. I use gouache paint, colouring pencils and ink to create the colour artwork, which I then scan to my laptop. I tend to paint all of the elements individually, before using Photoshop to collage everything together.
What is an art tool you use that you cannot live without?
Probably my trusty A3 Epson scanner. I bought it second-hand from eBay when I graduated and had to carry it home on the tube, balanced on top of a suitcase as it was too big to fit inside! A good scanner is the best investment I ever made, as it allows me to work traditionally without worrying that any detail will be lost when I transfer it to Photoshop. Working with mixed media has always been a very important part of my process.
What piece of map art is closest to you?
Actually, the map of Falmouth that I created for Whistlefish is very close to my heart. Having spent three years studying there, it was wonderful to create something which has such personal significance. It was special because I dreamt of working as an illustrator when I was studying there- so being commissioned was very exciting. I relived a lot of happy memories when I created that map!
Clair as a Falmouth University Student
What was the most challenging piece of map art to create?
During lockdown, I created a large-scale ‘map’ which was focused around the Willamette River, for the University of Oregon’s dining area. It was 54 feet long and a huge challenge to create because it was so technically difficult for my laptop to cope with this size of the files. There were many late nights and crashes- I almost got to the point of thinking it was impossible! But I got there in the end.
What piece of your portfolio are you most proud of?
Probably the maps I have made for Whistlefish, specifically of towns in Cornwall. These maps allowed me to work naturally, with lots of mixed media, hand lettering and colour. It’s quite rare to get such an open brief and I genuinely enjoyed creating them, which I think is obvious! For different reasons, I’m probably equally proud of the books I created for Nadiya Hussain’s’ Bake Me a Story.’ This commission came after so many years of knockbacks as I tried to get into children’s publishing, and was a real shock.
What do you like to listen to when creating art?
I love listening to audiobooks, podcasts and music when I create art. I actually really struggle to work when I don’t have some kind of background noise in my ears! In terms of music, I like listening to 'Oh Wonder', 'The Paper Kites', 'Bear’s Den', 'Jonathan Ogden', 'Stormzy', 'Sufjan Stevens'… Usually, I choose albums that I have listened to hundreds of times, as they allow me to get into a sort of flow state. In terms of podcasts, I regularly listen to 'Nomad' podcast and 'The Diary of a CEO'. I tend to enjoy listening to a long conversation that is philosophical and introspective.
Have you got anything new on the way that we can have a ‘sneak peek’ of?
Most of the work I’ve got on at the moment is for clients so is tricky to share. However, I have been working on a self-initiated map of London, which is going to be part of an exhibition called ‘Illustrated Guide to London’ at ROSL Arts from the 14th of July to the 24th of September. I’m also developing new Christmas designs for my portfolio whenever I get the chance. Here’s a little peek at a few bits!