West Liberty University student and artist Claire Pittman has always had a passion for art. Even at a very young age, she was constantly creating something from finger paintings to drawings of cartoon characters. However, this same passion that served as an escape was something that Claire was also hiding. She recalls how she was often singled out for being different and feared that showing her passion would only make it worse. Yet, she learned to celebrate both her passion and individuality.
“Funny enough, what I was hiding would ultimately bring me out into the light,” Claire said. “And being different would be what makes me, well, me.”
One of Claire’s biggest inspirations for her artwork comes from her grandfather’s sunflower garden. Growing up, she would revel in the beauty of the towering giants. Each year, her grandfather would cut the sunflowers down for Claire and her sisters to use as walking sticks, and they would sometimes pick apart the petals to press into books.
“My grandfather still plants them to this day, knowing that I’ll be over to take reference photos to use for future artwork,” Claire said. “Those sunflowers were such a crucial part of my childhood, and I long for those times.”
Perhaps another inspiration to Claire was her own art teacher in school, whom she credits for opening her mind to see the world, herself, and her art in a whole new light. During a summer internship, Claire’s mentor provided her with her first teaching experience. Through this, she was able to realize her true compassion, understanding, and patience for children.
After realizing her calling to work with children, Claire began planning her next endeavor. She started throwing around the idea of hosting summer art classes for kids on social media to pique an interest. After gaining some inquiries, she got right to work on getting the classes organized. Claire was not only seeking to plant an appreciation of art in her students, but to introduce them to the craft of self-expression.
“Self-expression is human nature,” Claire said. “To open children up at an early age, and to keep them open through the years with art, that is a wonderful thing.”
Once she had her students, things were up and running. For each class, Claire welcomed each of the kids into her home. The group would gather around her kitchen table where she would engage them in a simple, open conversation. The kids would share how their days were going, how they were spending their summers, and any stories they wanted to tell. Claire cherished these exchanges with her students and loved listening to them.
Next, the group would slide right into that day’s art project. Claire would work along with them, guiding and giving instruction. However, she made sure to allow them to have their own creative freedom in creating their artwork. Once finished with their projects, Claire would have a snack ready for the kids before they dismissed. She also made sure to snap plenty pictures before the day was over with her students and their work.
“It’s such a wonderful routine, I wish I could do it every single day!” Claire said.
The bonds that Claire and her students made over the course of the summer are the biggest reward she credits the experience in giving her. She loved the sharing of stories and getting to know all about them, right down to their favorite colors and artistic outlets. Claire is forever grateful for those that stuck with her and gave her the chance to do what she loves. There is no denying the tremendous inspiration the kids gave her, as they helped her find a whole new passion and love for art and teaching it. Claire hopes that she gave them that same inspiration as well.
“I hope the students have learned to love art and to love making art,” Claire said. “They are so inspiring to me, and I hope that they flourish with the new perspectives that I gave them.”
You can keep up with all of Claire’s artistic ventures and creations by following her on Facebook, Instagram, and Society6! If you have a talent or passion like Claire, consider sharing it with those in your community by offering lessons or classes!