Claire Milbrath’s new paintings and an ode to the Bichon: a symbol of joy, playfulness, love and companionship

Every year, the self-taught painter and editor of Editorial Magazine likes to put out a zine as an affordable and accessible token of her work. Here, she tells us about her latest body of work featuring a very fluffy friend.

5 January 2022

I like to think of Claire Milbrath’s new works as the meeting of David Hockney’s chalky interiors with Misaki Kawai’s delightful animal illustrations. In her new zine Paintings, the self-taught painter treats the viewer to a beautiful array of compositions, often featuring an uplifting Bichon with a perfectly round bouffant and the sweetest of expressions. “I brought the Bichon in at a low point,” Claire tells us, “around the time I decided I needed to start painting more joyful scenes.”

The fluffy dog came about to counterbalance her alter-ego Gray who is often anxious and sad. The Bichon, on the other hand, is a symbol of joy, playfulness, love and companionship. Claire, who is also founder and editor of Editorial Magazine, adds: “I see the Bichon as an ‘inner child’ character whereas Gray feels more like an adult to me. The Bichon wants Gray to be happy!” In turn, if we look closer, we can see how the Bichon offers comfort and companionship to the subjects of Claire’s work. Their little paws are more like nurturing offerings, often perched on Gray (the human in the works) as if asking for a loving embrace.

In the duo-portraits of both Gray and the Bichon, Claire explores two sides of the dog-human relationship, and also, two sides of the painter too. The Bichon represents a number of things for the painter, but she also relates to the character of the little dog which was bred to be a companion to aristocratic ladies. “I relate to the Bichon in my love relationships,” she says, “loyal, needy, naive. Bichon are often waiting for their owner to come home.”


Copyright © Claire Milbrath, 2021

Claire isn’t the first (and certainly won’t be the last) artist to be drawn to the charm of the Bichon. Previously, fellow London-based artist Charlotte Mei has depicted the dog in her illustrated adventures Pipette and Dudley. Elsewhere, the artist Uou Cute is known to bring her very own spin to all manner of cute dogs, while the New York-based Haleigh Mun has also been known to pen the curly haired dog with her purposefully childlike style too. Clearly, for many, the Bichon is an uplifting figure, bringing smiles to both artists and viewers with their doe-eyed expressions.

This also isn’t the first time we’ve featured Claire on It’s Nice That. Previously, we’ve explored more of her work with Editorial Magazine and dug into the themes of her paintings before Bichons made a recurring appearance. On how her practice has developed, she adds, “I’m opened up to my work, sharing more emotionally, more of myself in the imaginary world of my alter ego.” Leaning on painting as a means of therapy, she uses it increasingly to work out issues in her personal life. “I’ve tried to shift away from themes of paranoia and anxiety that were prevalent in my work, opting for more joyous scenes,” the painter continues. “I make the paintings to cheer myself up, and I want the paintings to make people happy.”

Claire tries to produce a zine a year though it isn’t always possible due to how busy she is. “The art world is inaccessible so I like to create affordable, smaller tokens of my work so that non-collectors can connect to my pieces in a material way,” she says. These little zines capture the intensity of the brush stroke and the energy of the artist all in one bite-sized publication. “My hope is that my paintings will bring people joy,” the painter finally goes on to say. Elsewhere, Claire recently completed a new exhibition God Shaped Hole at Deboer Gallery in LA. Featuring an amalgamation of her latest works, she’s now excited to start a new body of works from scratch, some of which she’s hoping will be more spiritual paintings.

GalleryCopyright © Claire Milbrath, 2021

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Copyright © Claire Milbrath, 2021

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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