Claire McCall Painter

Why do you find, using palette knives so satisfying in your work?  How many sizes do you use?

I love the buttery texture of oil paint and find the use of palette knives very satisfying as you can create thick impasto passages and then move the paint around as you wish to blend edges or create movement in the paint with directional strokes. I generally stick with 2 sizes unless I am working on a very large canvas. I use a medium size knife with rounded edges for background work and a small knife with a more pointed tip to work with fine detail on figures.

How did ‘place’ become such an important part of your art?

I like to think that the viewer can translate my paintings to their own place in terms of space and in terms of their own world. With figures generally turned away from the viewer, one can easily put themselves or family members in the painting.

Another Day Done

How large and small are your paintings?

My paintings vary from 30cm x 30cm to 120cm x 120cm  with various dimensions in between.

Comment on your statement, …”the drama of abstraction vs realism’ in relationship to your work.

When I start painting a work, I will first complete the background. My backgrounds are quite abstract with free palette knife movement and mark-making with the tip of the knife. The figures or a focal point will then be carefully constructed with a solid foundation amongst the thick impasto abstraction.

A Picnic Lunch

This is the more detailed realism for the eye to focus on initially before being swept around the painting.

Why are there so many of your paintings done at the beach?


Apart from the fact that I feel at home by the ocean, and I spend my vacation time in this environment, I think the beach landscape suits my style of painting with its texture and movement. Colourful umbrellas and people in a relaxed state are also an endless source of inspiration for multiple painting compositions.

Take your painting, “Beach Cricket” and discuss.

The Beach Cricketer is a figurative work that conveys a classic pose of a child playing one of the all-time favourite activities of a beach holiday, beach cricket. It is a memory that many people can relate to and can include lots of motions that help to convey movement in my painting. The figure wears a cap hiding the details of his hair and face. This gives the viewer a chance to put themselves in the picture.

Beach Cricket

Is it your aim to record the feelings of Australia and our times at the beach?

I do love the old impressionist works of figures at the beach by artists such as Edward Henry Potthast who convey a different era of beach costume and would love my paintings to be a record of this point in Australian history.

Beach Ball

Comment on your thoughts about entering art shows.

Art shows are a perfect place for an emerging artist to begin showcasing their work to a broader audience. It is not so much for the prizes as judging is a subjective process, but to regularly exhibit at art shows is to become known by regular art show enthusiasts and I have often been approached for commission work when my works have been seen by collectors at art shows on a consistent basis.

Where has this led you and your art practice?

I did enter the Camberwell Art Show with my very first painting back in 2003/4 in complete ignorance to the high standard of work that would be on display. Of course, it did not get hung, however I did use this show to measure my progress. In the next year, I did get hung, and sold a couple of pieces the year after. Three years after my first attempt at this show, I won ‘Best Representational Work In Show’.


My art practice has been driven by my unwillingness to give up even in the face of rejection.

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do” Discuss this quote in relationship to your own art.

The more you learn of course in art, the more you find out how much there is to learn. When you don’t know how, I guess it’s easier to simplify the process. I have developed my method over a number of years and all of the elements that go towards composing and completing my paintings become second nature, but it is a complex process which can only come together with many failures and successes behind you as experience to draw on.

Beach Umbrellas

Are the children in your art your own?

My earlier works featured my own children and often a friend’s children.

Age of Innocence

Take, “The Lifeguard” and add the other elements of beach life you paint and why?

The Lifeguard features a lone figure however adding a seagull flying past or the lifesaving flag in the distance can add context for the viewer and provide more atmosphere and elements for the eye to focus on.


What or who inspired your art and what and who encourages you now?

I have been inspired by many local artists in Melbourne. I am a big fan of the Melbourne Twenty Painters Society. Many members are impressionist painters and I enjoy their annual exhibitions. I am inspired however by many genres of art and I look forward to studying the works of the masters in galleries around the world as I find myself with more time on my hands now that my children are older.

Discuss painting light and particularly, bright light.

Light very much dictates my attraction to a scene that I might paint. I particularly like late afternoon light as it turns golden. I pay close attention to the direction of light and the colour of the shadows to give the painting an overall warmth. Bright lights can be added at the very end to really turn up the highlights.

At the Beach

When the weather turns, what do you paint?

I would normally gravitate towards sunny days to paint outdoors otherwise I can work from source photos.

Discuss your studio and one or two objects that your love having in it?

I love the very tall windows of my studio that give beautiful light to work in.

How do you capture the magic moments, in a sketch book or photos?

I very much prefer photos over sketches as I am  concerned with light and colour in my compositions.


Claire McCall

Victoria, Australia

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, May 2024

Images on this page are all rights reserved by Claire McCall