Any GirlBoss knows the challenges of working in a male dominated environment, but it is one where Clare Villar strives. Her wonderful animal portraits have been commissioned by A-list celebrities and her impressive military artwork has gotten her an audience The Queen.
We catch up with Clare Villar and talk about how she carved out a niche for herself in such a unique industry, the complexities of her work, and how timing, focus, and positivity can make the difference in achieving your dreams. For Clare Villar, her incredible military art work has made her a shining star amongst brass medals.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you decide to become a military artist? Have you always had a connection with the military?
I actually trained as an Illustrator from Falmouth University in 1995. After qualifying, I decided to go to London where I worked for various publishing houses before getting married and moving to Ludlow, Shropshire in 1999.
I had been doing my animal portraits as a hobby and actually had a waiting list of a few months. It was at this point I decided to take the leap of faith to pursue my dream of being a full time artist. My husband was serving with the Royal Mercian Lancastrian Yeomanry at the time; and the current Colonel, David Leigh, commissioned me to do a Roll of Honour. Rolls of Honour where popular about a hundred years ago and they depicted the fallen soldiers; names from the wars. Our idea was to reinvent it to include the current serving soldiers names. It took about six months to design the Roll and another three to four months to produce it.
Could you explain to our readers what kind of artwork a military artist does?
To describe my Rolls of Honour, they are approximately A1 in size and depict all the current serving soldiers names hand written in calligraphy with hand painted cap badge, they normally contain about 650 to 700. Once I have completed an enormous one for the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in Canada, which included 979 names and over a thousand miniature maple leaves.
I am so lucky to have found a totally unique niche market with my artwork. My work has been presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, and Prince Edward. In 2018, I won the Business Excellence Award for my military artwork and in July 2018 I was selected as a finalist for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, Creative Industries.
My artwork has enabled me to travel around the world, to Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Germany with potentially other countries in the pipeline. The Australian Invictus Games Team commissioned a Roll of Honour to depict their competitors in 2018 and my WW1 Roll of Honour was presented to government VIPs in Canada.
You also work on some fabulous animal portraits – do you have a favourite piece/subject?
I started my career doing animal portraits. I still love doing these as it’s so different and a welcome break from my military artwork, although that has now reached a different level too. I have been commissioned by various public figures such as Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Trisha Goddard, and Will Greenwood to name only a few. My favourite piece was when I was commissioned by Nick Mason a few years ago to paint all four of his black labradors. It was amazing and I am very lucky to exhibit at his house every two years, which he opens to the public.
I have also just been given the most amazing opportunity to work with Louise Kennedy, who is internationally recognised as one of Ireland’s most successful fashion designers. Their flagship store is in Belgravia in London, and I get to work with her on a new clothing range, specifically in regard to my animal portraits. It is an exciting project and I have to keep pinching myself that it is actually happening!
Girl Bosses are fearless and confident – and you are constantly dealing with Generals, Coloners, and Brigadiers. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a GirlBoss so far?
Working in a very male dominated environment has made me fearless and confident, but generally the type of people I deal with are polite, professional, and treat me with the utmost respect.
The challenges I face on an a daily basis have to do with the complexity of my artwork. I can’t make any mistakes otherwise I have to start from scratch, and when you are writing 650/700 names in calligraphy then a huge amount of concentration is needed. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced was whether or not I was going to be taken seriously as an up and coming military artist. I’m competing with mainly male artists in this field, but my advantage has been that my artwork is completely different from anything else on the market.
My biggest challenge as a GirlBoss is juggling all aspects of my life from family, career, and my artwork. I am in charge of my own destiny and if I had any advise for any women out there, worried about taking the plunge into uncertainty, is that timing is vital. You need to be ready to take the plunge and do your homework. You hear every day that you can achieve your dreams, which is true, but it comes down to hard work, belief, drive, and passion. Without these it won’t work, you have to be ready to take the knock backs and rejection, but this will make you stronger and more determined to succeed.
You need to have a positive outlook because negativity won’t achieve anything. There are a lot of women in business that I respect and learn from. Lady Karren Brady being one of them as she is supporter of my business, her outlook and message is clear and incredibly powerful. We can all succeed, it’s up to us to determine our future and our success.