By Karen Carruth

Photo: Emma Cheape

I’m a sucker for birds and flowers, anything that depicts summer and all the wonderful spectrum of colours it portrays, will always catch my eye. 
Which is why while scrolling through Facebook, an image which was filled in the foreground which a rainbow of wild flowers with a blue tit set against a vivid sky blue background made me check out who it was painted by, and it turns out it was the Highland artist, Claire Innes. And the joy of being a nosy journalist means that I can speak to the artist to ask her about her work, her inspiration and, more importantly, when ‘my’ painting was going to be made into a print so that I could buy it.
Claire works from her Fort William home which she shares with her partner and her two young sons. We find her working on three or four floral paintings on her dining room table – there is one on the table which has to be finished that day. She is pretty strict with herself, she tries to finish one painting each day, then she is satisfied she has put in a good day’s work. But now that I’ve had a mooch around her website, it’s not just flowers that Claire creates. 
Though she says she is going through something of a floral phase: “I think it is because I hate winter, I crave colour and spring-like things to cheer myself up,” she says.
She’s a naturally gifted artist, and remembers her first art set at around age 14, it was something she could just ‘do’; she joined a local art club and managed to sell her first painting at age 15. That was something of a buzz for her at such a young age. And she knew that this is what she wanted to do. 
She didn’t head off to be trained at college or uni after school, and has no regrets at all about that. She says she thinks it’s important that school leavers understand that there are plenty of opportunities out there in the creative sector. Academic results are not the be all and end all. She feels that the creative subjects in school aren’t given the same level of importance as academic ones. 
She started with landscapes, painting what she saw around her in the Highlands, and still has a love for this subject, though she has a wonderful range of paintings that are of city scapes. Edinburgh and Glasgow are shown in an impressionist way, full of colour, light and life. Busy scenes of familiar spaces that most Scots have a connection with. 
Her cityscapes are really popular with her customers, and they sell well abroad, particularly in Canada and the USA. I thought it would be to expats, but that doesn’t seems to be the case, Claire thinks. Scottish ancestry is held dear across the water and as she posts her work on facebook, they inevitably get snapped up. 
Depending on the subject, if it’s a landscape, Claire will head off with her sketchbook and her camera. The first sketches are put down in situ, or if it’s a city or building she is featuring, she takes photos which means she can start it when the time is right. The floral paintings are straight from her imagination. “I think art should be a perception of what the artist is seeing,” she says.
Today she is using fluid acrylic, but she works in watercolour and oil too. “It’s a more permanent paint, the colours don’t fade, like watercolour is prone to do. Plus I’m really impatient and fluid acrylic dries quickly, which means I can keep working. There is something of a slight snobbery about acrylic in the art world, but I think it’s a terrific medium,” she says.
Having been blessed with gifted art teachers at school who were artists in their own right, Claire laments that nowadays most art teachers come straight from university, and haven’t had the chance to carve out a career for themselves to pass on that knowledge to the next generation. 
She teaches art classes at the local West Highland College, which she really enjoys. “I think everyone can paint, they just have no confidence to give it a go.”
She has total beginners and is happy to guide any level of artist. “It’s a wonderful way to unwind and de-stress. You can get lost in a painting, as you need patience. I’m in talks at the moment about using art as a convalescence tool, which is exciting.
“I really enjoy seeing the different perceptions that the students have, there is no right or wrong in art, it depends what feeling they get from what they are working on.”
Having successfully created her own business, she realises that she has become far slicker at marketing herself, and she says it is mostly down to social media which is invaluable. She has a website, but Facebook is the easiest way to reach her customers directly. “If I put a painting on Facebook, it will more than likely sell right away,” she says. “And, Facebook is free,” she says, smiling. 
Demand is beginning to outstrip supply and she has been creating a small number of prints locally, but she is about to start offering prints of most of her work. Which means that more people are able to afford her work. “It’s really important that I sell my paintings, and they are accessible to all budgets. There is no point in painting something that no one can afford.”
She exhibits some of her work at The Edinburgh Gallery. “Having my work exhibited is a great way to let more people see my range, but I have never been a fan of the elitist world of art gallery openings. I’ve been asked a few times to attend such events, and gallery owners must think I’m crazy to turn it down, but it’s just not my world.
“Art should be accessible to everyone, I love that people identify with my work. Particularly with the cityscapes. People have been in touch to tell me about their connection with the locations, which is lovely.”
She is pretty busy already. Claire has committed to painting every castle in Scotland, though she thinks she may have underestimated how many there are. “I think it will be next year before I finish and manage to put on an exhibition, but I will get them all done.”
With that, Claire starts touching up the painting on her table top, she is motivated and ambitious, and is anxious to get this one finished before the end of the day, a one women production line at work.
Prices for original artwork start from £150, prints available from £50.

To see Claire’s work or to talk about a commission, go to: or check out her Facebook page for her most up to date work.