Painting the Town
Artist Claire Howard
Poolesville and the surrounding agricultural area have been the inspiration for artist Claire Howard, whose studio is a converted chicken coop.
Right from the start Claire Howard’s natural talent and inclination were apparent. “I was the child who loved decorating the classroom bulletin boards, volunteered to paint the play backdrops, and wanted to decorate just about anything I could find and make it pretty,” Howard says.
Her family encouraged her, and early on, she “saw the beauty of the mountains, skies and seasons through my dad’s eyes … My grandmother spent many happy hours sketching with me.”
Although careers in nursing and interior design, as well as raising four children, distracted her from her core passion, Howard often spent her days off traveling by bus to New York City or Philadelphia to visit art museums. She admired “the vibrant use of color and subject matter” of favorite impressionists Mary Cassatt, Claude Monet and Frederick Childe Hassam and spent hours trying to memorize their paintings. Once she got home, Howard experimented on canvas and she continued her education at night classes in art and design at the University of Maryland.
When Howard, now 62, and her husband Frank relocated their family from Potomac to a Victorian farmhouse in rural Maryland 14 years ago, it opened up a new world for the oil painter.
“We had a dream-come-true move to our small farm (Lindenwood) in Poolesville,” she says. “With the property came a converted chicken coop that made a fabulous, light-filled studio, a place where I could paint the beautiful agricultural reserve I so loved.”
Howard describes Poolesville as “a charming small town that is a mixture of Mayberry and Bedford Falls.” For 12 years, she has found fellowship in the foothills of Sugarloaf Mountain as an artist member of the Countryside Artisans, and shows and sells her paintings, prints, Giclées and cards during the group’s self-guided studio tours. The Gallery at Sterling and Burke in Georgetown also represents her work.
For the blossoming of her artistic skills, Howard credits “the geographical elevation that presents breathtaking skies in every colorful season.” She became devoted to capturing on canvas the amazing vistas of rural back roads, farms and natural country scenery, much of it in her own backyard.
Howard has developed a unique method to express her distinctive creative blend of Impressionism and realism.
“I began exclusively using only one palette knife to convey the landscape’s textures, and have refined this technique over the years to include the beautiful cloud formations and making it almost indistinguishable from brushwork,” she says.
Painting from photographs rather than en plein air is Howard’s choice.
“I intentionally prefer capturing what moved me to stop and photograph a certain place at that time. I am usually driving or walking when my eye will catch a particular light and it catches me by surprise. I have learned to stop right at that moment and photograph it because it will never look quite that way again,” she says. “There is no going back another day.”
Inspiration determines the paintings’ names. “I title all my work to describe the feeling I had in my heart when I saw it. My seascapes and landscapes reflect what drew me to that place. It is always that feeling and emotion I wish to hold onto and share,” she says.
Howard’s love of art has infused the lives of her children and grandchildren, who, she says, “love art history, architecture and photography. They grew up with paints on the kitchen table, an easel in the kitchen corner.” She is paying her passion forward to her viewers as well.