Clara Lemos (b. 1980) is a Portuguese self-taught abstract artist based in Boston, MA. With a master's degree in nutrition sciences and a PhD in human biology, she's forged a successful career as a cancer researcher for two decades. In 2021, amidst a pandemic and maternity leave, she discovered a profound passion for creating art, which has since become her life-changing mission.
Tell us your story, why did you become an artist?
While I don’t remember being very “artistic” as a child, I did develop a profound interest in art, fashion and design very early in my adult life. But for many years, my interest in art was purely as a spectator and it didn’t cross my mind to create anything myself. However, everything changed in January 2021. Back then I was on maternity leave in the middle of a global pandemic, and this offered me a lot more free time than I have ever had before. So, I thought it would make sense to try out a new hobby. Importantly, I was looking for something very practical and intuitive, and exploring acrylic painting seemed a fitting possibility. I did some research, watched many tutorials (blessed internet!), ordered basic supplies, and got my hands dirty. A week later, I was completely addicted. I spent all my evenings, after putting my son to sleep, painting, exploring, learning, experimenting. After my maternity leave and going back to a full time job with a toddler at home, my productivity and engagement suffered a bit, but creating art has been a priority ever since.
When you create a new work, how do you go about it? What comes first?
I suppose that a good description for my creative process is “trial and error”. I never have a plan for what I’m going to paint next - I mean, I have ideas of things that I want to try, but never a sketch or mental image of how the finish piece should look like. Typically, I just grab a canvas and start adding paint - different paint, different tools, different motions. Sometimes the piece reveals itself very quickly; most of the times, it takes a lot of do-overs until I see something that I like. This random process, as chaotic as it might be, is full of possibility. I never know what will be, but when something is, the joy is immense. It is magical!What can you tell us about your studio, what makes it special to you and how does it influence the way you work?
When I started painting, I did so in my living/dining room with a 5-month-old often lying next to me. After moving to my current house, I was able to upgrade from my dining table to a more dedicated studio space – I use one of the rooms in our house as an office/studio. It’s small, but has everything that I need, including all the necessary art supplies and a good collection of found materials that I can incorporate in my paintings. Having this space at home allows me to create art whenever I have some free time – with a full-time day-job and a toddler around, I rarely have long stretches of time to dedicate to my creations. Therefore, it is super important to have an accessible place where I can work in between meals, laundry and playtime. Is there a work of art in your life that has especially impressed you?
The Lovers from Magritte has definitely left a mark. I first saw the painting in my early youth, when I was very much into surrealistic art, and I just thought it was brilliant. And, while I’m much less focused on surrealism these days, the sight of this painting still causes a deep emotional reaction in me. Nowadays I’m not able to name one or the other painting, but I’m deeply inspired by the work of some incredible artists, including Antoni Tapies, Hideaki Yamanobe, Alberto Burri and David Ostrowski, just to name a few.
Reach to the stars: where will you be in 5 years?
In 5 years from now I want to be a slightly better version of myself. I want to keep learning, exploring and enjoying my creations. I don’t have a specific goal that I want to reach within the next 5 years – after all, expectations are the source of self-inflicted unhappiness. I just want to make sure that I’m always moving forward, as slowly or as fast as life lets me.
At certain point of my life, I would like to be able to dedicate myself to art full-time. However, this is a goal without a timeline – when the time is right, I’ll make it happen! Photos by Markus Hardt
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