After adding a pair of earrings, artist Duluth was ready for her close-up.
Lemp recently completed a yearlong project in which she created one original painting per week. She invented the Fancy Lady Friday series and has tracked her progress on her Instagram account, @clairesahara.
In watercolor and gouache, Lemp captures relaxing snapshots of Northland.
“Camping Calme”, a painting by Claire Lemp seen on Thursday August 19, 2021, at her home in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
A woman sits on rocks with her feet in Lake Superior, under a blue and gray sky.
Another is surrounded by grandma’s trees and a misty body of water as she cooks over an open fire. In another image, a woman wades through the water up to her knees, a camera strapped around her neck and cliffs hovering nearby.
Much of Lemp’s work stems from nostalgia, memory and emotion, she said. “I am always inspired by the feeling and often as attached to a place. “
Lemp started taking her profession more seriously about two years ago, after giving birth.
Taking the time to devote to this process has been valuable on several levels. Now she has a job to showcase and she has learned to let go of perfectionism.
“A lot of works of art just play around and do damage. Failure was a big part of that, and learning from things that didn’t work, ”she said.
Some weeks the art was more detailed than others and the project felt like a full-time job, but the launch of Fancy Lady Friday was “bringing life,” she said.
Claire Lemp is leafing through one of her sketchbooks on Thursday, August 19, 2021, at her home in Duluth. “Before, I was so worried about having a really nice sketchbook. Having one that’s really messy is really good for me, ”she said. “I want this to be a space for me that really feels free. Lemp has just completed a year-long project that she invented Fancy Lady Friday, where she did one original painting per week. She has tracked her progress on her Instagram account @clairesahara. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
It gave him a sense of focus and purpose during a difficult time.
Two years ago, Lemp began to experience chronic pain on the right side of his body, high fevers, rashes, sinus infections, and stomach problems.
“I have seen so many doctors. … I couldn’t believe it would be OK. I felt like I couldn’t trust my body anymore. No one had answers, and I continued to feel so disappointed and hopeless, ”she recalls.
She had never experienced this level of loneliness, isolation or grief before, and she felt unable to be there for her family.
“When I started to make art, it was like a space of liberation, a space of respite from all that. … I could remember the beauty, remember the connection and the experience, ”she said.
“It seemed to me a lot more useful than this disease, I didn’t feel like it had a purpose. It gave me a lot of hope in the middle of it.
“Hiding Place”, a painting created by Claire Lemp seen on Thursday August 19, 2021, at her home in Duluth. “It’s a theme in my life, hiding myself,” Lemp said. “A lot of me feel more comfortable behind the scenes.” Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
This week, Lemp’s dining room was filled with boxes of his prints in preparation for an art fair. She was holding a piece called “Hiding Place,” in which a woman leans against a flower above her as she gazes at a blossoming mushroom. “It’s a theme in my life, hiding myself,” Lemp said.
“A lot of me feel more comfortable behind the scenes.”
It was a joyful painting to create, said Lemp, who recalled getting lost in the process while her son took a nap. And, many of his pieces evoke specific moments in their creation or nostalgic images of his past.
Not everyone is drawn to her job, she said, but for those who are, she likes to hear what her job does for them.
Reflecting on Fancy Lady Friday, she said that good things happen when you start to take yourself seriously. “I can learn to do the things I was afraid of. … No one is going to give me permission except myself, ”she said.
Claire Lemp is browsing one of her many books from which she is inspired on Thursday, August 19, 2021, at her home in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Lemp, her husband Max and their son Gideon recently moved into their first home. She has her first dedicated studio there.
Natural light floods from two directions on the work tables, built by Max.
An old coffee mug holds its brushes with dried eucalyptus. The latter is mainly intended for decoration, but she sometimes uses it as a reference.
His gouache paintings rest in a tray offered for their wedding. “I am super affected by my environment. … I like being in spaces that suit me, ”she said.
Northland plays a role in his work – his characters are cross country skiing, fat bike or fly fishing – and this has been a key element in the development of the artist.
“I feel like I have become myself or come to life being here,” she said.
An old coffee cup contains Claire Lemp’s brushes as well as some dried eucalyptus. The latter is mainly intended for decoration but she sometimes uses it as a reference. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
On its shelves are books by illustrator Carson Ellis, one featuring Claude Monet, the cookbook “The Kinfolk Table” and several on drawing and the use of color.
She has stacks of hand painted swatches, with purple, sepia, neon green, and lavender brushstrokes. Color is her favorite element to work with, and also the most difficult.
Lemp wants her pieces to evoke certain emotions, and she spends a lot of time learning how to mix and use color.
Asked about her favorite color, she was quick to respond.
“Neutral colors are my favorite, but gray has so many possibilities. It can be a green gray, it can be a blue gray, it can be a warm gray, a cold gray, a neutral gray. … I love that grays can add subtlety and bring out other things.
“Greenhouse Dreamhouse”, a painting by Claire Lemp seen on Thursday August 19, 2021, at her home in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
With his watercolors, there are colored pencils, there are fancy pencils; high quality hot and cold press paper; and an outdoor painting kit.
She leafed through her sketchbook. “I took a model drawing class the other day, so there’s a bunch of nude women here,” she said.
Lemp’s work often features women of different sizes and ethnicities: three women relaxing in a sauna; an Asian woman soaking in a bathtub; a smiling plus size woman with sunglasses and swimsuit.
“I am aware that I am not perfect in this area or that I do not express everything, but it is a huge goal which is to show the diversity of beauty because beauty exists in so many different forms”, she declared.