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Artist Claiborne Riley at Palette
Photo Cred: Tasha Tolliver via Palette Home 2020


PH: Describe a moment you first knew creating art was something you just had to do:
CR: My mom and her sister painted all the time when I was little and I guess I started then, and never really stopped.  I’ve always had an easel, or a sketch book around. I majored in studio art and was a printmaker in college, I was an advertising Art Director…but it wasn’t until I became a decorator and had some success selling my paintings to clients that I realized that I had to become a full time painter.  I have always painted, but I never had the courage to call myself a professional artist until somewhat recently.
PH: Do you have artistic rituals?
CR: Yes, I always have my music playing and I need solitude.  Also, I paint in my studio in the lower level of our house and when a piece feels like it’s getting close to done, it comes upstairs…and I just prop it somewhere that I will see it a lot as I am going about life, and catch it at different times of day and coming in from different rooms, and that way I sort of ‘live with’ the work and make a lot of decisions based on how I feel after spending some time with a piece.
PH: What are you trying to communicate with your art?
CR: A lot of what I make is landscape-based abstraction, and I think that from a design standpoint, what better teacher than nature.  I’m not necessarily trying to communicate any one thing, rather, I am trying to evoke a feeling or capture the essence of an idea that I’ve seen in nature, sometimes it’s a sense of balance and peace…sometimes its a sense of dissonance and discord.  I always like to reveal a little bit of the messiness found underneath it all, too.
 PH: Favorite Quote?
CR: "I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life.  If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed.  Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it.  Lukewarm is no good."  -Roald Dahl
 PH: Shark diving, bungee jumping, or sky diving?
CR: None, both feet planted securely on the ground for me.
PH: What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to?
CR: A silent retreat.
 PH: Tell us about the best vacation you’ve ever taken.
CR: Positano, Italy….where my husband asked me to marry him. I can’t wait to take my kids to Italy.  It holds a special place in my heart because I spent a lot of time there after college…I want to take them when it will mean something to them.
PH: Where is your favorite place to go on a weekday afternoon when you have no plans or obligations?
CR: My studio or the VMFA.
PH: What are you most afraid of?
CR: Ignorance. Also snakes.


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