If you want to know how illustrator Clare Mackie came to be exhibiting her work at Forbes of Kingennie near Dundee – it all began with two kissing pigs.
Now based in Brighton, Clare has worked for prestigious clients like Chanel, IBM and Harvey Nichols. She has illustrated for magazines such as The New Yorker and Tatler as well as numerous books.
She’s also the talent behind the well-known Archie Foundation logo, which shows Archie the bear holding his beloved bunny Rabbie.
Clare has a distinct and quirky style and is “popping up” at the country resort off the A92 for only two days between June 17 – 18 to display 37 of her watercolours. She’ll even be accompanied by her rescue dog Pia the Staffie.
“Mike Forbes is one of my cousins. It was Valentine’s Day and I had put up a picture of two kissing pigs – he wanted to buy it for his wife,” Clare laughs.
“She was thrilled as they’ve got pigs on the farm and he said ‘Why not have a wee exhibition with us? I’d be delighted to host it’. I’m delighted to be going there.”
Romance, weddings and animals
Clare, 57, who grew up on a farm near Brechin, says preparing for the exhibition gave her something to look forward to during the cold and dreary February lockdown.
Since Forbes of Kingennie is a popular wedding venue, she has been “snuck in” between events. And she says the exhibition is themed accordingly: “Because they do a lot of fishing and weddings and it’s in the beautiful countryside, I’ve made it towards romance and weddings and animals.”
Clare attended school in Laurencekirk and at St Margaret’s School for Girls in Aberdeen. Afterwards, she did an art foundation year in Dundee before studying at Edinburgh College of Art.
The late Montrose landscape painter James Morrison was a friend of her parents and “took her under his wing” when she left school wishing to pursue a career in art. Clare explains: “He was a lifesaver … if it wasn’t for his advice, I don’t know where I’d have been. He was an absolute star.”
When she left art college she says she struggled to get work: “One interviewer told me ‘you’re never going to get work up here – your style is too quirky. You’re either going to have to go to Germany, New York or London!’”
So Clare opted for London and carved out a successful career there for 20 years. Now she lives in Brighton, which seems like the ideal place for her infectious, care-free personality. “Anything goes in Brighton,” she laughs. “It’s the funniest, quirkiest place.”
Working with Mary Portas
Although she has worked for some high-profile clients, she naturally shies away from glitz and glamour. “I’m just not into that big scene – it’s not really me,” she reveals.
“I remember once with Harvey Nichols I went to a board meeting as they were all being terribly official – and it was Mary Portas who was the art director. She was lovely but she knew what she was doing.
“I look back and think it was so interesting … and all the different people I met. But I didn’t think anything of it at the time. You just take it all in your stride.”
Clare is busy creating a ceramics range, designs for US greetings card company Caspari and commissions. She’s also working on a new logo for the Archie Foundation, of which she is a patron.
The free exhibition runs 11am-5pm each day in the resort’s Buddon Burn Suite. Find out more about Clare and her work here.