Around the world, graphic designers and printmakers are performing their professional responsibilities in numerous ways. Clare Napper is one of the most popular figures in the field of graphic designing in the Middle East. In the world of vintage art, she received a huge fame at quite a young age and proved her exceptional abilities as an amazingly creative artist. She has been doing a perfect job in the realm of graphic designing for more than 14 years.
Clare Napper is famous for providing immaculate designs and unique work predominantly vintage-style post cards, attracting a large number of clients across the Gulf States. With an independent and innovative soul, she has gained enough experience in the field of art and graphic designing and now standing tall in the world of vintage art.
YesGulf team is honored to meet and interview such an amazing artist who loves going against the grains and making a good mark in the vintage art fused with modern shades of graphic designing. Here’s what we explored about Clare Napper, her vintage art collection, branding projects, and passion for new ventures and wins.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how or where you grew up, your earliest learning experiences.
I was born in London, UK and grew up in a nearby town called Reading. I had an idyllic childhood, great parenting and was sent to a very strict and academic girls school. I probably should have applied myself a lot more like everyone else there to become something extremely worthwhile like a vet or a doctor, but after finally getting expelled for running into morning prayers dressed up as a gorilla, I then went further ‘off the rails’ to study art and design at university in Bristol. Here I stayed for four more years working as a graphic designer, then moved to London for a year before deciding I’d like to live in Dubai for a year. That was nearly ten years ago.
Share with us the growth and development of your career and life as an artist.
I graduated with a BA Hons in Graphic design from University of the West of England, UK and then went straight into my first design job three days after graduation which was the start of my 14 year career in branding and advertising. I worked at various agencies and for clients in Bristol, London, New York and then Saatchi and Saatchi here in Dubai. It was during these years that I honed my artistic skills – each job would require a different creative solution so I was able to explore many different styles, ideas and thought processes. However, working within the field of commercial arts and communications, I always felt that I was channeling my creativity to meet someone else’s business objectives. Therefore, in September 2013, I was very happy to quit agency life to set up my own studio and pursue independent projects like Highlife.
Why did you choose Dubai for building your career in fine arts rather than in London which is one of the most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities of the world – could this not offer you more winning possibilities?
I would suggest that you would find more winning possibilities in a place with less competition. In UAE, the art scene is still in its infancy, with lots of room to get noticed, and markets to corner. I would say this is a better recipe for success than a creatively saturated and highly competitive established art scene like London. The expat experience here was something that I could bring to public light through my art for the first time – I am not sure if I could have found anything so remarkable or newly insightful about living in London.
There are recurring images in your art prints and post cards. We see lofty buildings, racing cars, huge water bodies, landscapes, ladies nights, and people having fun shopping and dining out. What interests you about these specific images, running through your focal body of work?
I try to reflect the expat story and the ‘good life’ we lead here in the UAE. The collection aims to be tongue-in-cheek advertising of the places, services and situations that we all know and love around the Dubai, Abu Dhabi and beyond. If you have any more ideas please let me know!
We love how you’ve established your digital prints in a variety of mediums. What print methods or techniques do you prefer to use for your prints and posters? And why?
All my work is done on the computer, which means every print comes from the same original digital file. You could say that every artwork is an original – a bit like a piece of live music recorded in a studio onto a CD. I am happy that Highlife posters are not in limited edition – I don’t see why only a few people with money should enjoy my work. Saying that, each poster is printed to order and is produced from a 12 roller ink jet Giclee printing process, onto one of the best quality art papers in the world (Hannemuhle) –the colors will last a lifetime and the finish is great.
Here’s a questions that you probably get all the time…from where does your inspiration come?
The inspiration for my ‘Highlife’ posters is old travel and tourism ads from the Golden Age of travel – from 1920’s – 1950’s when cruise-liners, planes and trains were for the first time commercially able to transport people around the world to visit holiday destinations. This kind of travel was expensive, mainly reserved for the rich and famous, and so the advertising was elegant and inspiring for the upper echelons of society. I saw an interesting modern day connection between these kinds of posters and the ‘good life’ that we lead here in Dubai, so was inspired to re-present our everyday situations through this style to show the world how well we live.
What is your creative process and how do you develop and improve it over time?
My creative process works a bit like this: once I’ve decided on the concept behind the poster, I’ll sketch or make a rough composition in Photoshop. Then I’ll either go and photograph people and backdrops or find images online to get the exact scale and composition on the computer. Then is the long illustration part – tracing it all by hand using a digital tablet and pen. I then scour old travel ads for design style ideas that would suit this particular composition. Refining colors, layout and type is the most enjoyable bit. Lastly I add effects to give it that vintage look.
I develop my work as I go by listening to expats and residents to try to find the best insights for more posters. From a business side I also have to see what sells, which is sometimes surprising – at the end of the day I aim to create art that can provide the best expat ‘souvenirs’ of our life here. I also endeavor to improve my illustration skills with every piece I do – this comes with the luxury of time, something I didn’t have when I first started as I was designing the posters in my spare time around my day job.
Today, you are one of the most talented graphic designer and artists. What makes you distinct from other vintage artists?
That’s very kind of you to say, however if you look closely – you’ll see I’ve found a niche where I don’t really have any competition! UAE has no authentic vintage commercial travel ads in existence because it is such a new country. It was an empty ‘creative space’ ready for the taking.
What’s your thought behind creating vintage style artwork when the world is moving fast towards contemporary notions? Were you not afraid of the risk of failure?
When I designed my first poster collection, I was not in it for the success or the failure. In fact, it was a passion project that I had been keen to do for a while – at the time I was going through devastating heartbreak after a 4 year relationship ended. So I channeled my pain into this creative distraction which helped enormously. I was lucky to time it well with the recent surge in popularity of the vintage aesthetic internationally– perhaps it’s a natural reaction to hang onto nostalgia as a sense of familiarity as everything else in the world is evolving so fast.
Your post cards are quite impressive with obvious sarcasm and fun factor. Do not you ever think of turning your focus from Dubai to some other part of the world?
I have thought about doing future collections for other expat populated cities – Doha, Muscat, Singapore and Hong Kong for a start – we shall see…
Are there any other artists that impress you and in what ways?
Artists that have something to say impress me most. Work that reflects society, has a clear view point or political agenda always seems more worth producing than art that evokes nothing but aesthetic appreciation. Three current successful examples are Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Grayson Perry.
How do your favorite artists influence your Highlife posters?
For my posters, I look for inspiration from the old travel and tourist poster designers of the 1920s – 50s. Two of my favorite artists of this time were actually French illustrators – Roger Broders and Julian Lacaze – if you look at their work you can see how they have influenced my posters. For example, Broder’s ‘Antibes’ inspired my ‘JBR Beach’.
Finally, we are interested to know what you are working on at present and where you see yourself going next.
I am currently working on a collection of 16 new Highlife posters for an exhibition in November this year – perhaps the last of my Dubai collections – and also a revised and customized collection which will be aimed more towards tourists. After this, I am looking forward to embarking on my next creative entrepreneurial venture!
Our best wishes will stay with you always.
In the end, any advice for budding printmakers.
My advice is to learn your craft as perfectly as you can, always have a solid idea at the root of your work and don’t be afraid of failure!