When it comes to the creative arts, Claire O’Brien is a true renaissance woman. She writes, she illustrates, and she creates beautifully dynamic animations. Online she portrays herself as an aspiring Picture Book Author and Illustrator, but she is much more than that. She has been an aspiring author and illustrator since the early 2000s when she worked as a fundraising assistant for the United Kingdom’s National Center of Children’s Books, Seven Stories.
Claire has been an exhibiting painter and printmaker, including exhibitions in Italy and the United Kingdom. Following a BA in Fine Art from the University of East London in 1997, Claire also earned an MA in Computer Animation from Teesside University. Some of the exhibitions Claire’s work showcased in was even publicly supported by the Arts Council of England.
She had a Fellowship with The DigitalCity to work on her original short film “A Small Room” which charmed the Northern Film and Media and attracted public funding. As a qualified teacher, Claire has taught drawing and animation at various colleges and, most recently, Teesside University.
“I love being part of the KidLit TV community,” Claire said, “KidLit TV’s videos are great and free! KidLit TV is generous, as is the community. I have learnt so much from the gang whether it’s just reading posts on the FB page or asking for feedback. I try to post any interesting links I find and give feedback where I can too. I think my biggest contribution to the kid lit community, as a whole is my Scrivener picture book template. It gets the most hits on my blog and is my most watched video.”
To find out more about Claire O’Brien and her journey as an artist, read KidLit.TV’s interview.
I didn’t really write as much as some writers did when they were kids so I feel like a fraud when these people say “Yeah, I was writing lots of books.” I drew more than I wrote when I was younger. I’d say drawn more than ever written really. I remember hating English classes. Even now I probably write more blogs than books, if that counts.
I’d go for an adventure with the Tove Jansson’s Moomins in their magical valley, we’d put something into the Hobgoblin’s hat and see what would appear.
Very English books of course. Many by Roald Dahl like Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits and Matilda were read to us at school. There was also a brilliant short story, very British as well, called The Balaclava Story that I loved to read. If you ever read the story you could tell that I was a bit of a tomboy when I was young.
I always wanted to be an artist. Just recently I wanted to do both.
You can create everything about it. It’s just like with animation. You’re in charge of everything. Animation is a bit of writing as well. You create storyboards and write out the story. You’re in control.
I’ve got two young boys, one that’s just turned four and the other, two. I tell them stories at night so that sparks ideas. Or even the things that they say inspires me! I write everything down. I also think everything influences writers and illustrators. If you find something you like or dislike on television or read it in a book, it can spark an idea.
The hardest challenge about my writing is creating characters. I focus more on the story than the characters.
It’s so good! The main thing I’ve got out of it is the critique groups. We meet once a month in Seven Stories where I’ve gotten honest feedback on my work, learned from reading others’ work and made many friends.
Using gouache has left a huge influence on my paintings. When I was teaching I had access to The Famous Artist Course which included golden age illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Albert Dorne. They set this school up and they taught the step-by-steps, where I learned how to use gouache.
Teachers should ask interesting questions, maybe set up a treasure hunt or some kind of adventure for their students and remember that reading should be all about fun.
Don’t give up. I’ve been working on getting published for four years. When you get a rejection letter you think you would be downhearted, but it’s a learning process. You just have to find the right match.