Local Artist Feature: Claire Giordano

Local Artist Feature: Claire Giordano

As every long time customer will attest to, our shop has quickly been evolving the last couple of years. One of our favorite decisions has been to partner with local artists to feature their creations. With breath-taking landscapes lining the walls of our shop, we have not been short of inspiration lately. 

Today, we'll be featuring one of our artists, Claire Giordano, on the blog. Raised in the forested foothills of the Pacific Northwest, Claire is happiest perched atop a mountain with a paintbrush, sketchbook, and a snack in hand. She strives to create art that fosters a connection between people and place, and hopes that her work inspires others to get outside and adventure. We were lucky enough to interview Claire and dig into the questions we really care about, art and the outdoors.


Do you have a favorite spot to go out to and create your art?

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness will always hold a special place in my memory. It is where I completed my first long day hike as a kid, and I have been exploring it ever since. As an artist, I am also drawn to the beautiful contrast of the crystalline blue lakes with craggy grey peaks and evergreen trees. Every summer I do a multi-day backpacking trip in the wilderness area, and always bring along my small paint palette and paper. I also love revisiting my favorite places at different times of the year, relishing the simple joy of observing differences and the changing of the seasons.


Care to share a gnarly story of unexpected conditions/trip gone wrong?

Last summer my friend and I were supposed to go on a backpacking trip with a team of scientists who were monitoring glaciers in the Cascades. While they collected data, I would create paintings of their process and the places. It was not to be, however! My friend had borrowed a new ice axe, and as she lowered her pack the axe sliced her leg right above the knee. It was a mess, but luckily both of us are wilderness first responders and knew what to do. We kept pressure on the wound and after about 30 minutes I was able to steri-strip her up and with the help of an ace bandage she hiked out three miles to the car. Five hours later her leg and tendon were all stitched up, with a gnarly scar to remember the misadventure. 


Is hiking your favorite activity, or do you backcountry ski, climb etc.?
Hiking and backpacking are my favorite ways to move around the backcountry. Hiking (especially uphill, which is almost everything in Washington) forces me to slow down, to pay attention, and to take in my surroundings. While I also love skiing (I hope to learn enough to safely and competently backcountry tour someday) and dabble in mountain biking (my favorite speed is slow) hiking/ mountaineering gets me places that nothing else can, and the very nature of the activity helps me to be present to my surroundings.


What is your all-time favorite canvas/materials you use?

Watercolor. It is a beautiful, tempestuous, fidgety, and unpredictable medium that has just as much potential for disaster as it does for incredible accidental beauty. For a while I hated this unpredictability, and tried to force the paint into what I thought was an ideal mountain or shape. My black and white paintings were the breakthrough moment, however, when I finally relinquished control and let the magic of the medium happen, mirroring the uncertainty and fluidity of nature.


Favorite piece you've created?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer, as every painting (even if I don’t like how it turned out) teaches me so much about the landscape I am observing. So, the painting I choose is not necessarily my best work, but the memories associated with it are the most fun. In 2016 I had the lucky fortune to go on a trip to the Enchantment Lakes. On our third morning camping in the high lakes basin, I woke up at sunrise to paint the vivid colors that greeted us every morning. As I was painting, however, I heard a slight sound behind me and turned around to see two mountain goats watching uncomfortably close! I quickly scurried away, only to realize I had left my sketchbook behind, so I cautiously approached and reclaimed it (I was worried they would try to eat it, since my sweaty hands had likely left salt on the cover).


Favorite snack food/treat on the trail?

It is a tie between chocolate and those fish shaped gummies you get from trader joes. Or bagels (my number one favorite food for mountaineering; bagels are edible even when frozen and squished). Oh, and I can’t forget about plain dates; these little dried fruits back a serious sugar punch, and always taste good. I am a firm believer that everything tastes better outside.


Do you have a goal/next step that you're working towards?

In addition to painting more landscapes, I want to create more pieces that help communicate scientific concepts, especially around climate change. Last year I made a small series of paintings for a local climatologist, and I hope to do more work like that, which combines my love for art with the desire to communicate complicated or hard to visualize data/ concepts.


Lesson the outdoors has taught you that you hold dear?

That every moment counts. Whether I am slogging up a hot steep trail or sitting beside the most beautiful lake, there is something to be learned and enjoyed in all pursuits of life. And to make them count, I need to try to be as present as I can to them.


Do you create alone, or do you have a select few friends who come along?

Creating art while outside on a hike is a sometimes tricky endeavor. The supplies are the easy part; the hardest thing is finding time (and in the winter not getting too cold). Some hikes are simply too long to be able to stop and paint for an hour (my preferred amount of time), and a lot of people like to get somewhere and then quickly turn around. So, I have been incredibly lucky to have friends and family who don’t mind admiring the view or exploring while I paint. My favorite art in the mountains buddy is Nikki Frumkin (@drawntohighplaces) whose art is also currently hanging in the shop!


Thank you Claire for sharing with us, and we look forward to our next artist feature. Claire's artwork is showcased and for sale in our store. To see more of Claire’s work, follow her on Instagram or check out her website: www.claireswanderings.com