[The above image is a detail of “The Getaway” by Claudia Hammer.]
Claudia Hammer (claudiahammer.com) is one of those artists that fellow artists admire and students love. If you want to excel at your technique, take one of her classes. You’ll sweat, no doubt about it, but what you will learn will make you think you’re amazing.
LEO: What type of artist are you?
Claudia Hammer: My concentrations are still life, portraiture and figurative works in oil paint, charcoal or pastel.
LEO: You switched to doing fine art full time after working in advertising art for many years. Why?
CH: In 1992 the advertising world was starting to make the shift to computers. What I really loved about advertising up to that point was that I could make a living at what I loved to do most, draw. I did everything by hand, all the layouts, the mechanical paste-ups, line drawings for the newspaper, fashion illustrations, drawing of trucks, marker renderings of bottles and even storyboards. I was an illustrator everywhere I worked. To stay in advertising I would have to learn how to do all that on the computer and that did not sound like fun. I chose to develop myself as a fine artist.
LEO: Why did you decide to do a “painting a day” project? How long did it last?
CH: I started my “painting a day” venture in May 2009 to learn how to paint wet oil paint into wet oil paint. All artists out there will know what I mean when I say this. It scared me a bit because all my work up until then had been exacting, meticulously planned out and layers of paint and glazes were applied. I wanted to experience the joy and freedom of painting something quick with loose brushstrokes so I took the challenge of painting small paintings in a limited amount of time, 1.5-3 hours. I did this for 6 years and I learned a lot! You learn so much about yourself when you take on a challenge like this. I recommend this to everyone who needs to get in their brush mileage to make themselves a better painter, drawer, at whatever it is you do. Practice, practice, practice. I know you have heard it before, but it is true!
LEO: You are also a teacher specializing in life drawing. What is it about the human figure that makes you focus on it?
CH: Sewing has been a part of my life since I was 10 when I made a dress for my three-year-old little sister. Now, it did have seams but not a hem or any facings, but she could put it on and parade around in it. Because my interest in sewing has not waned, at night you can find me hand beading a purse, sewing a garment or knitting. Love to keep my hands busy.
So as a teenager I loved the fashion illustrations in Vogue and Bazaar for Bergdorf Goodman [and] Saks Fifth Avenue and would imitate them. I loved drawing the figure maybe because of the challenge, so I became a fashion illustrator. In order to do that, I needed to be able to draw the figure. I worked full-time, so I got permission to take Tuesday mornings off to attend Life Drawing [classes] at the Louisville School of Art in Anchorage, taught by Mary Ann Currier. I did not know who she was, [it] just fit into my schedule. After a few semesters I tutored under Lois Haynie for fashion illustration. Later I got a job working in the advertising department for Stewart’s department store and later for Byck’s. After 35 years of drawing I decided to paint and so now I do painting.
The challenge of drawing or painting a person is endless and fascinating to me. I practice it every week on Friday mornings and I consider it my daily [painting] for that day. It is a very good discipline.
LEO: What are you working on now and what do you plan to do next?
CH: Working on larger pieces is my concentration now so that I can find a gallery to represent me. I am treating the still life as if it were a daily [painting] when I paint it, preparing the 18 inches by 18 inches panel and sketching it in the first day and painting it the second day. I am constantly working on my brushwork and challenging myself.