Written By Brett Levine
Photography by Jerry Siegel
For Claire Cormany, creativity has always been a part of her life. “I remember drawing the visions of sugarplums from The Night Before Christmas when I was 4 years old—literally, on the walls, with crayons, much to my parents’ chagrin,” she says with a laugh, her enthusiasm both palpable and contagious. “I was really lucky because my mother was an artist, so I learned the basics of painting and drawing at home.”
A self-described “coastal girl” who has a strong connection with South Carolina and grew up in Orlando, college led her to Samford University, Cormany says, where she studied graphic design: “I wanted to do something creative that could also become a career,” she begins. “And the campus! I think for a girl who was coming from a small town, I saw the campus, and it was someplace I really wanted to be.”
In 2008, Cormany began a series of works that began to cement her reputation as an artist. “I had taken an evening photograph of Chez Lulu,” she begins, “and I began to think about how we don’t normally paint what we see at night. So I painted this little (piece), maybe 16 by 20 inches, and I painted in all the twinkling lights—Chez Lulu is just covered in them. And it sold almost immediately. I realized that I really missed painting, and I wanted to focus on making more work, and seeing what I could do.”
What she could do was do what creative people always do, which is look for opportunities. “I applied to Artwalk,” she pauses, “but I never imagined I’d get in.” She did. “So I probably had eight works at the time, and I said, ‘OK, I have to start painting’!” This led to applications to Magic City Art Connection, the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, and the Bluff Park Art Show. “I think one thing people may not realize is that being an artist can be hard sometimes,” Cormany smiles. “I applied to Bluff Park five times before I was finally accepted.”
Now, she loves the shows that she does, and the people she sees at the festivals she participates in every year. “I love Magic City Art Connection because people are just coming out of winter and they enjoy being in the park at the beginning of spring,” she says, smiling. “But we’re so lucky to have so many great opportunities with all of our festivals, and all the hard work everyone does to contribute so much to the creative communities in Birmingham.”
Apart from the works for which she first became known, she describes her abstract works as also influenced by the surf, the sea, and the sand. Cormany, who also exhibits at Artists, Incorporated in Vestavia, works with a number of designers in town and accepts commissions for works. “I actually enjoy doing commissioned work,” she says. “I think at times some artists see commissions as limiting, but I just see it as my work. I don’t feel limited by what clients want, I actually see it as more of a challenge. As an artist, I can’t do anything that doesn’t come from me creatively, regardless of who the client is.” She also reaches out to clients and the community through her website. “I think of it as an online gallery,” she explains. “You may see work there that is not available now, but it will give you a good idea of what I do, how I work, and what I enjoy making.”
When she’s not in front of the easel, Cormany can also be found onstage. She is a musician in an indie-pop band, playing with a number of well-known performers in town, including Bo Butler, Shawn Avery, and Lori Cheng. “We’re still working on our name,” Cormany muses, “but we practice every week.”
Off-stage, however, she is happiest when in her studio, making and creating the pieces that drive her passion for painting. Open, bright, and airy—basically Cormany herself on canvas—her works are accessible, enjoyable, and vibrant. Their colors wash over you like the tide coming in, and their colors cover you with warmth and joy like the sun on a bright summer afternoon.
Claire Cormany’s works can be seen at clairecormany.com.