The first thing that strikes you about Clare is her height. I immediately feel like a giant next to her tiny 5 foot frame. But what she makes up for height is her ability to talk the roof off.

“I know I talk a lot, you might want to take notes.”

I meet Clare in her home, where she lives with her sister and niece. Despite having her niece hang off her every word, Clare takes charge of the conversation and asks us what we want to know.

Tell me all about your work, I say. That’s a good place to start.

Like many creatives before her, Clare’s story is one of falling into the craft naturally.

“I started doing portraits for friends and family. They were mostly gifts for their family members.”  The work grew organically from there with more commissions rolling in, despite spending very limited time on any marketing.

“It’s all word of mouth at this stage.”

Clare’s love for illustration has seen her take over the reigns of Geelong Illustrators, an offshoot membership program from Geelong Creatives specifically for illustrators. And it seems she’s got some big ideas and plans in the pipeline.

“I’m planning on offering regular illustration classes to help illustrators work on their skills.”

This was something that Clare was evidently passionate about – working on your skill. Clare believes that many artists lack confidence in their skill and that by simply making a habit to work on it regularly, this can be overcome.

“It’s not like everyone has to see every little bit of work you do. Plus you can only get better each time you work on it.”

The other big project in the pipeline for Geelong Illustrators was a huge wall mural to be designed for the new Geelong Wholefoods space.

“They told us there were no guidelines. We have complete freedom. Which makes it hard!”

Clare is clearly excited about the opportunity it presents, not just for her but for the whole Geelong Illustrator community.

“Everyone can be involved. Each artist can do a section of the mural and there will be parts of the mural separate to the main one. It doesn’t even have to match – everyone can do their own thing.”

I expressed my surprise at a cafe willing to pay local artists for this kind of work.

“Oh they pay. They will support local artists which is so good. We’ve got quite a few cafes and restaurants reaching out to us for commissioned works.”

The topic of conversation then moves to the challenges faced by illustrators. I asked her how she feels about asking for money

“It’s hard with friends and family but I do deserve to be paid for the work I do.”

The ultimate goal according to Clare is to be able to have the creative freedom to do the work she wants to do, with her clients loving it. it’s a constant battle to offer a service that provides an income and match it with her need for creative freedom.

“I’d like to do more of my own style but at the same time, I have to respect what the client requests.”

It looks like Clare has found a temporary solution to this problem. She’s about to embark on a 3-6 month trip around Australia on her own.

“I’m catching the ferry to Sorrento then starting at Arthur’s Seat. I won’t have a car so I’ll be using public transport the whole way. I’m going to use the trip to do a personal art project, ‘Art on the Road’ where I plan on drawing portraits of the people I meet and connect with along the way.”

Her nerves are obvious as she talks about her trip.

“I’m scared to do it, but that means I should.”

Feature: Clare Holder

Website www.themiddlebyclareholder.com.au

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Author: Kate Toholka, House of Sage

Photography: Monika Berry, House of Sage

Geelong Creatives + Geelong Illustrators member