Sit Down With Our #090 Featured Artist
Instagram / Clarissa Grandi
Featured Artist / #100 ScrawlrBox
Clarissa is a geometric artist, author, and teacher. First and foremost an educator, her passion is introducing beginners to the truly accessible art of geometry.
She delights in sharing her ideas, materials, and techniques with others, and her background in mathematics teaching enables her to demonstrate and explain difficult concepts simply and clearly.
In her own art making she enjoys exploring the interplay between the precision of human-made geometry and the more organic and chaotic geometries and symmetries found in nature.
Her geometric multimedia artworks have been exhibited in Mathematical Art exhibitions around the world.
With your multi-skillset career wise, what made you want to be an artist?
I’ve enjoyed art since childhood and spent a couple of years at art college after leaving school, and before becoming a maths teacher. Discovering geometric art finally helped me to connect the two sides of myself – it feels as if it was meant to be!
Is there an art medium you couldn’t live without? Why?
If I were allowed nothing else, then I think the one medium I could continue to make art with would be a gold marker pen. A geometric pattern outlined in gold, on coloured or black paper, is simply perfect just as it is.
What do you love most about the Derwent Charcoal pan paints?
I was keen to try the Derwent Tinted Charcoal paints as I already have the Graphitint paints, and very much enjoy using them. I am LOVING the way the charcoal particles float, disperse and settle when mixed with water, to create interesting textured effects. They are such fun to play with! And the muted, moody colours are the perfect fit for my palette. The paints dry with a hyper-matte finish which contrasts beautifully with shiny gold pen. Yum!
Where do you start with your geometric patterns? What’s a good starting point?
You can create stunning geometric patterns with just a drawing compass, pencil and ruler. There are lots of free YouTube tutorials to help you get started, or you can enrol on one of my online Zoom or Skillshare classes. Be prepared to have to practise at first, especially if you’ve not used a compass since your schooldays. However, you’ll soon find your groove, and a whole world of wonderful patterns will open up to you.
Is there a specific type of geometric style you are drawn to?
Oh, tough question! There is such a rich tradition of geometric decorative art to draw inspiration from, from Roman, Greek and Ancient Egyptian patterns through to Arabic, Asian and Celtic designs, and many, many more - I’m forever discovering new favourites. I’m currently a little bit obsessed with Medieval Italian church floor designs - the ‘trompe l’oeil’ effects are so cool – an ancient form of op art!
What do you enjoy most about teaching geometric patterns to others?
Teaching geometric patterns is so rewarding. Even complete beginners can achieve stunning results by carefully following step-by-step instructions. I also love introducing others to the calming, meditative aspect of this artform. The slow, repetitive nature of the construction process brings on flow state incredibly quickly. But I think what I love most is how everyone starts by creating essentially the same pattern, but then goes on to decorate it in so many different, creative ways. That’s the most exciting part: seeing everyone’s finished piece.
Do you have a preferred colour palette?
I am nearly always drawn to muted, earthy tones, teamed with greens and blues (and, of course, the odd gold highlight). I find muted colours restful. However, every now and again I get my acrylic pens and go just a little bit crazy! It’s as if I need to recharge with some bright colour.
Would you say your background as a mathematics teacher heavily influences your work?
I have maths teaching to thank for first introducing me to geometric art. And I think the aspects of mathematics that I enjoy are the very same qualities I try to convey in my artwork: elegance, simplicity, harmony and balance. However, sometimes I think that my art is now influencing my maths teaching! I do get very excited whenever an opportunity presents itself to talk to my students about the application of geometric constructions or the golden ratio!
Do you have a favourite project that you have worked on?
One of my favourite projects was the #Inktober challenge I undertook in 2021. I explored working with inks in a very free and loose way, contrasting the chaotic results with geometric designs and drawings of wildflower seedheads that I’d foraged that summer. The elegant curves of the seedheads, the hard lines of the geometry, and the chaotic effects of the ink all contrasted with each other beautifully. You can see some of my pieces on the #GeoInktober2021 Instagram hashtag.
If you could choose one colour to work in for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ha, difficult question! Hmmm, apart from gold, (which I’m not counting as a colour, so that I can get a second choice) it would be green. I absolutely love deep, earthy, greens, such as the Derwent Tinted Charcoal Dark Moss green, or Aquarius Green by Roman Szmal. I find green so calming and restful - it feels like home.