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Art & Life with Cathleen Clarke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cathleen Clarke.

Cathleen, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I grew up in Chicago, and later my family and I moved to a small country town in Northern Illinois which was a huge change for me. We didn’t have the internet or TV channels in our home, so I passed most of my time drawing and writing poetry in my room. I found a lot of inspiration during that time from the isolation and lonesomeness of the country, which still has a major influence on my work today.

When I was 20, I found an ad in the newspaper to become a flight attendant and I figured this was my chance to move out and start a career. However, I realized shortly after that being gone all the time wasn’t for me. After going through numerous random jobs, I finally decided to move to San Francisco and pursue an art degree at the Academy of Art University. Four years later, I earned my BFA in Fine Art, Painting and Drawing and I eventually moved back to Chicago, where I currently live and work.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My figurative oil paintings explore themes of memory, isolation, and transient moments in everyday life. I was recently inspired by a quote by Edvard Munch who said: “I do not paint what I see, but what I saw.” I felt that this quote really expressed what drives me to paint as well. To paint not directly from real life or a photo, but to use that memory or image and turn it into something not seen through the human eye.

I find a lot of inspiration from old family photos, childhood recollections and found images, and I begin with a vision and allow the paint to interpret what is often overlooked or forgotten. In this way, the photo reference becomes a small piece in my process, and the end result is the memory and feeling I have from it.

I love the fluidity and texture of oil paint, which is what I use primarily in my work. It dries very slowly, so I have time to manipulate the paint after putting it on the canvas. I also love working in watercolor, it’s hard to control but really helps my work stay loose.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I think there are a lot of benefits that artists can find today compared to years past. The main benefit is social media, which has really helped open doors for me as an artist by discovering new artists that really inspire me and giving me a platform to share my work with people who would never see it otherwise.

Chicago has been a really great city for me as an artist. Compared to the cost of living in larger art capitals like NYC or LA, Chicago is much more affordable while also having amazing art museums, galleries, and an exciting contemporary art scene. Living in Chicago, I’ve connected with so many supportive people who have assisted me in growing as an artist and guiding me in the right direction.

When I first moved to Chicago, I started searching for galleries and came across the Woman Made Gallery which is a non-profit organization that supports female-identified artists. They’ve been super supportive during my time here, and I’ve been lucky to show my work in numerous exhibits in their gallery and pop up shows that they’ve organized. I think it’s important for cities to support these types of non-profit organizations to increase opportunities for emerging artists.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work can be found on my website at and on Instagram @cathleenclarke.

I currently have paintings available for sale through and at You can also contact me directly for any inquiries or requests through my website, or at

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Andi Azry

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