Paint the Glaciers Blue with Claire Giordano

Artist Claire Giordano is passionate about protecting the world’s natural landscapes, expressed through her watercolor paintings. With her online SheJumps courses, she hopes to share that love of the outdoors through creating art alongside you.

Photo courtesy of Claire Giordano


Years ago, Claire Giordano stood in front of a glacier to paint the cool hues of ice and snow with its silty rivers. What she didn't expect to see was an overwhelming amount of brown rocks beside the glacier, marking a clear sign of an unnaturally fast recession year after year. This has led Claire to take an active role in awareness of climate change through her impressive watercolor paintings.


Claire lives at the intersection of environmentalism through her work as an artist, writer, and educator. She's been featured in Alpinist, REI, and more and is the founder of the Adventure Art Academy, where she teaches immersive virtual art classes filmed while on hikes. At SheJumps, she's combined her love of nature and art to create a series of online courses that all skill levels can participate in. For Claire, these courses are a way to share watercolor techniques and bridge the gap between our human impact and the natural world.

Photo courtesy of Claire Giordano


First things first: How did your partnership with SheJumps begin? Where do you hope it evolves to?


I’ve followed She Jumps for years, and always admired the organization’s work. I got to experience firsthand the amazing network of support and expertise that She Jumps activates when I was a recipient of the Snowpack Scholarship, which allowed me to take an avalanche course. Then, as the pandemic continued into 2021, I had the opportunity to teach a virtual art class and we had over 230 students attend! It was incredible to see folks from across the states (and a few from around the world!) tune in to learn how to paint a Northwest landscape.


These virtual classes with SheJumps are a collaboration founded on shared values and love for the outdoors, and I am so excited for the continued partnership. I hope to, pandemic allowing, to connect with students in-person someday!



Many of the art pieces you create are stunning landscapes that range from glaciated mountains to desert canyons. What draws you into painting these outdoor compositions?


Painting outside is such an incredible experience. It demands all of my attention and focus, and is a truly immersive experience. I love the challenge of figuring out how to paint a place and the exhilaration when things “click” in a painting. I embrace the frustrating or uncertain moments when I don’t know how to paint a landscape and still try, experimenting and learning along the way.


I also hope that my paintings might be little windows for others to experience these places with me.


Artwork courtesy of Claire Giordano


Over the past year, you’ve instructed both online and in-person watercolor classes. What would you say is the level of experience and art tools needed to participate successfully?


I work hard to create fun classes for students of all levels. Often, watercolor is portrayed as this mysterious medium that requires hours of careful color layering and a tiny brush to paint all the details. But this doesn’t have to be the case! When I teach, I like to show students how fun, experimental, and amazing watercolor can be if we let go of what we think something must look like, and instead focus on painting shapes and letting the watercolor do a lot of the work for us. I have a phrase I often repeat to students – that I want to approach a painting with a “spirit of exploration rather than expectation.” I think this mentality summarizes how I approach teaching and work to create a space where “failure” is not a bad thing but is instead a beautiful collection of colors and lines to enjoy.


My style of watercolor and how I teach it is deeply informed by my experience creating outside when time is of the essence, and I don’t have hours to sit beside a cold glacier and paint. Working in these conditions forced me to develop a fast style that simplifies a landscape into as few layers as possible. And one of the most rewarding things as a teacher is sharing these techniques with others and seeing them have fun (and get awesome results!) with a medium that was frustrating before.


Photo courtesy of Claire Giordano


Do you find that creating art can often coincide with the overall well-being of a person? Do you have any personal experience that rings true to this?


Art, and creative practices in general, will mean different things to everyone who engages with them. I often remind students (and myself!) that it is more than ok to paint landscapes just because we want to and think it is beautiful – we don’t need a deeper reason to create!


With that said, for me, painting is often a space of solace, reflection, acceptance, and growth. It is a safe space to experiment, to create amazingly wonderful “failures” that I always learn so much from, and to push my comfort zone.


I also believe that art can be an immensely powerful conduit for learning about the environment. I experienced firsthand how art forces me to slow down and look closely at the evidence of a retreating glacier written on a landscape in the shapes and patterns of ice, snow, and rock. When I do this, I feel connected to these places and the changes happening, inspiring me to advocate on their behalf.


And it is one of my sincere hopes that others who learn from me – whether through a zoom class or the Adventure Art Academy - might choose to use art in this way too; as a foundation for a personal connection to nature and as inspiration for environmental stewardship.


Photo courtesy of Claire Giordano


Lastly, but not least: If mountains could talk, what would they say?


Listen. See. Act.


Our mountain landscapes are changing rapidly around the world as climate change leads to the recession of glaciers, loss of snowpack, shifts in phenology, and other impacts. These changes will drastically impact the mountains and have far-reaching consequences for human life, as many people rely on the water held in ice and snow for drinking water, agriculture, and hydroelectric power - to name a few.


The mountains we love to visit and recreate in are changing. Look for what is happening, be curious about what is causing it, and act on behalf of these landscapes.


Photo courtesy of Claire Giordano


You can learn more about Claire’s work at claireswanderings.com, check out her virtual watercolor classes adventureartacademy.com, and follow along on her adventures through Instagram @claireswanderings.


 

SheJumps is an inclusive organization. We welcome all women and girls (transgender and cisgender) as well as non-binary people who identify with the women's community. SheJumps strives to be an ally in the fight against racism and acknowledges that our events and programs take place on traditional, unceded Indigenous lands.


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