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Artist Spotlight: Claire Parrish

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

Claire paints glowing, expressive abstract pieces with a hint of whimsy. Her work is organic and soft, yet her voice is clear and strong.

Let's talk to her a little bit.

How did you get started painting?

I have been painting as long as I can remember. Art was the only subject in school that I felt like I thrived in. In 2017 I did a mission trip to Cambodia as an artistic intern. We were the pioneers of a new art therapy program, and we came up with art exercises and new ideas they'd never been introduced to before. We had a change to bring art to these people and meet them where they were. That trip expanded my entire worldview and gave me the first inkling that art was something I wanted to do forever.

I did my first art show in 2018, and that's when I realized: hey, maybe I'm kind of good at this. I started to explore more art fairs and local shows and made some connections in the area. I had a lot of support from friends and family in Mississippi, but I moved up here to Washington in November, so I'm working on expanding my reach right now. I had so many collectors that were local.

Do you have any shows planned this year?

Yes, I'll be part of the Urban Craft Uprising on August 8th in Point Ruston. I haven't done a show up here yet, because Washington's a little stricter with their regulations. After I went on the mission trip in 2017, I started experimenting with acrylics in my backyard. I made a complete mess; it was a disaster back there. Then I went to my first show in 2018. It took about a year of practice before I started making some stuff that I was okay with.

After that, I did another show called the Richland Fine Arts Festival that propelled me forward. I met people that gave me solid feedback and advice. I think every artist needs that.

What are you working on right now?

I'm painting colorful, bold, local landscapes from Washington. They're abstract and expressionist abstract, with no real shape. With abstracts I like the freedom of knowing nothing I can do is a mistake, but every decision I make can elevate the piece. It gives me so much freedom to put my feelings on the canvas, but it also gives me a chance to back up from a canvas and really evaluate it. I specifically love playing with colors in abstracts and seeing different colors come together, and seeing how I feel when they're combined. It's all about expressing my emotions through the paint.

What do you express?

Whatever my current state is. The latest one I did was called "Transitions" and was specifically about the move from Mississippi to Washington and was me processing that giant move and trying to figure out how to go about that emotionally. Painting is my creative outlet when I feeling really down or happy. It's a way to express those feelings and give them a physical form.

I paint landscapes when I'm looking for more calm and centeredness. It's almost like meditation for me, whereas abstract art is more screaming, crying, throwing things on the canvas, and processing. Landscapes are focused and intentional.

Do you always use acrylics?

I've played with watercolor a few times, but I love acrylics because I can layer so well. I like using mixed media like oil pastels, regular pastels, whiteout (because I like the texture), colored pencils, and recently I've been playing with putting fabric in my landscape paintings.

My studio is in my garage, and it's a huge space. I went from painting in my backyard to having more space than I've ever had. I may not stay here forever, but I'll be here for a long time. I'm four hours from the coast with pebble beaches a few minutes away. It's amazing.

How do you choose your colors?

Sometimes it ranges. I usually choose one color as a base color to focus on first. I love creating contrast with dark darks and light lights. Color choosing had always been the easiest part of the process for me. Every once in a while I'll give myself absolute freedom in my abstracts and let go of all the color theory. Sometimes those are my favorite paintings, but other times they're a jumbled mess. Either way, it gives me the opportunity to combine colors I would never put together otherwise, and sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.

I feel like I gravitate towards earthy tones, but sometimes I have to force myself to get out of those tones so I'm not so stuck. Payne's gray is my absolute favorite. I also love Golden's Titan Violet; I have yet to find a color that pretty.

I'm trying to figure out where I want to grow right now. I'm looking for opportunities to expand myself.

Do you have an advice for other artists out there?

My philosophy is if you enjoy making it, then you should keep doing it. I want to embody positivity. Creativity is for everyone, and that outlet is always there for people, regardless of what they create.

Claire Parrish is a mixed media painter living in Washington state. See more of her work at or @claireparrishart.

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