“It comes naturally to me as a medium”: Clara Rubin on her subtle and delicate gouache illustrations
After moving back to her hometown of Milan, the artist now spends her time painting the sun-drenched compositions that the city provides.
- Ayla Angelos
- 2 February 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
A sense of calm is evoked through the work of illustrator Clara Rubin. Creating everyday scenes – like poolsides, cafes, kitchens, bathrooms and wardrobes – she applies a signature soft aesthetic and, upon doing so, transports us to a time where restrictions and winter months are a thing of the past.
Clara spent around eight years in London during her 20s, and looks back on that time with great fondness. “Living in London has been the most amazing long experience of my life and it influenced my work a lot in a positive way,” she tells It’s Nice That. After graduating from a BA in illustration at Camberwell College of Arts, she proceeded to meet a roster of inspiring people before moving back to her hometown of Milan. She’s now working from her Italian dwelling, creating work with gouache for the fact that it requires little space. “Milan is great, it is a beautiful place,” she says, “though there isn’t an art scene compared to London.”
Although missing the buzz of the art scene in the UK’s capital, Clara’s Italian surroundings provide plenty of inspiration – including the sun-drenched architecture that serves as a good starting point for any of Clara’s illustrative pieces. This eye for spotting the smaller moments around her and transforming them into a work of art is something that she’s nurtured for quite some time; she’s always been an advocate of the arts, and first took the medium seriously in her final year of university. It was one of those moments where everything clicked: “It was becoming more and more natural to me,” she says, citing her reason for turning towards gouache as her primary tool for its practicality and limited upkeep. “At the beginning, it seemed easier to use than the oil colours, then I decided to stick to it because I love it – it comes naturally to me as a medium.”
Gouache is similar to watercolour for its translucent texture, and it’s also one of painting’s best mediums for ease and versatility. Clara particularly likes it for the delicacy and subtly that it brings to the page while giving her work more of an illustrative feel rather than a typical painterly aesthetic. While working in this way, Clara spends as much time as possible learning and observing for life around her. “When possible, even in the winter (before the pandemic), I would pick a location and sit there painting,” she says. “I love how much inspiration you can find when looking straight at the subject, compared to looking at a photograph.” Although, when taking on a commission and working for a client, her gentle observations are laid to rest while she gets her head down on the brief. The deadlines tend to be tight, so there’s much to be done in the studio instead.
Besides pulling inspiration from her environment, Clara has long been fascinated by visual communication and the wider art landscape; often she will dive deep into research while absorbing content found in art magazines and blogs, including daily observations of photographers and artist websites. “I’m constantly collecting images I like,” she adds, citing classics such as David Hockney, Matisse, Felix Vallotton, Henri Rousseau and Fornasetti as key influences, plus contemporary photographers like Dafy Hagai and Jessica Hans. Additionally, her Camberwell degree provided a great bank of references and succeeded in developing an appreciation for the arts, not to mention preparing her for a career working as a professional in the field. “As much as I love Milan, I think there is a bit of a lack of support and culture at the Italian art schools. I don’t think the art schools here are taken seriously enough; there is a much bigger emphasis on economics, humanities and science studies.”
One of the subjects that Clara often finds herself coming back to is the sense of place. Having moved and experienced different cultures on a personal level, she’s learnt to analyse the landscapes and scenes around her to then pull into a charming illustration. One of her recent works includes a painting of her new home in Milan, depicting the living room and mezzanine space from a different perspective. She’s also completed a commission for a German lighting company called Tobias Grau. Briefed to create six images for its social media channels, Clara produced six illustrations, each portraying the company’s lamps. “They gave me a lot of freedom, I could paint as I do for my personal work,” she says. The result of which sees the illustrator place the lamps in her family house on a lake near Milan, which proves that, even when working on a commercial project, she’ll always find a way to include her love of a location as the subject matter.
Clara Rubin: Rimowa (Copyright © Clara Rubin, 2019)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.