Artist Claudia Bicen
Artist Spotlight: Portraits in Pastel by Claudia Biçen
By Jeremy Joven
Published Nov 2013
Claudia is a self-taught British artist currently residing in San Francisco. After selling her first painting at London’s Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers when she was 17, she went on to obtain a BA in philosophy & psychology from the University of Oxford and an MSc in social anthropology from University College London. Fascinated by the human condition, Claudia has worked with communities across the world in both mental health and therapeutic art settings. Her portraits have been selected for a number of prestigious international exhibitions including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in London and the Pastel Society of America in New York, where she was awarded the Herman Margulies Award for Excellence. Why San Francisco? For a city of less than a million people, San Francisco is world-renowned. The people of Northern California are welcoming, the trees are huge, and the potential feels limitless. I have never been to a city where the people are so happy and grateful to live there. When did you start drawing? I took art classes in high school but stopped them when I was 17 to focus on academia. A year-and-a-half ago, I was struggling with my career choices and being so far from home, so I started to draw as a way to escape these feelings. Despite having a full-time job, I was creating a new portrait every week, and I quickly realized that I had found what had been missing from my life. What inspired you to do portraits of people? It never felt like a choice to draw portraits; it just made complete sense: I find endless beauty in people and detail. Being a portrait artist enables me to go out into the world and connect with people. I get to learn about their lives, listen to their stories, and try to feel out what they are all about. Then I go away with tens of reference photos and attempt to create an illusion of reality by spending hours on the tiniest details of their faces that make them unique. How does your education in philosophy play a part in your art? My educational background plays a huge role in my artistic practice. I spent the majority of my education exploring the workings of the human mind both scientifically and philosophically. I was recently invited to attend Project 387’s artist residency in Mendocino, where I worked on a project exploring how embracing the fact that transience is a necessary part of life can contribute to a greater sense of well-being. I spent over a hundred hours meticulously drawing portraits of local people on tree stumps in the forest before leaving them vulnerable to the natural processes of deterioration and decay. Walking the mile-long loop through the redwood forest, offered viewers an opportunity to meditate on the transience of all things, including themselves. Since leaving the residency, people on the land covered the pieces with plastic and even removed one portrait from the forest. This reaction points to our deeply rooted desire to attach to things, despite our existence in an ever-changing, impermanent world. If you were to do portraits of your heroes, who would they be, and how would you depict them? In an era when science was presented as religion arch-nemesis, Albert Einstein’s scientific genius led him towards, not away from, spirituality. Rejecting organized religion, he lived in awe of the universe, the oneness of everything and our place within it. Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” My artistic depiction of Einstein would explore this wisdom and the connection he felt to everything around him. Upcoming exhibits // December 2013 Youngstown, OH Pastel Society of America — Annual Competition San Francisco, CA Gauntlet Gallery: “Sex, Drugs, Money & Guns” Visit