City artist’s work becomes online viral sensation

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AFTER a series of articles in US magazines, Claire Duguid’s hyper-realist works featured on a search engine’s homepage and suddenly she was bombarded with commission requests.

A young woman looks thoughtful as she gazes down, the light reflecting perfectly off her blonde hair. It looks like a stunning photograph of someone caught unawares, a snapshot of a moment in time. But take a closer look – a much closer look – and you will soon realise that this is not what it appears to be at all. This image wasn’t captured with a camera, incredibly it was painstakingly painted.

Claire Duguid was drawn to 'hyper-realist' or 'photo-realist' art. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Claire Duguid was drawn to 'hyper-realist' or 'photo-realist' art. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The artist behind it, Claire Duguid, has become something of an overnight sensation after her remarkable talent was featured online in the United States and soon shot around the world.

When we meet, the 32-year-old, based at the WASPs artists studio in Dalry, is still struggling to believe the sudden level of interest in her work.

Her talent for what has been described as “hyper-realist” art has after all been with her for some time. At the age of five she stunned her teachers when she produced a carefully crafted image of trees demonstrating both colour and perspective.

“The teacher called my parents to the school specially to see it,” says Claire who lives in Fountainbridge.

“They still have the drawing today on the living room wall.

“When I was very young, about two or three years old, my Gran used to look after me and we would do knitting and sewing and drawing.

“She said even back then she noticed that I had a talent for it.”

Having flirted with the idea of going to medical school, she went on to study drawing and painting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art.

After graduating, Claire went on to run the gallery in Stockbridge and was selected by the Royal Society of Arts to exhibit her work at an exclusive show in London.

Her highly detailed portraits demand a huge amount of dedication and the full-time artist spends anything up to three months working on a piece.

She says: “Some people have called me a hyper-realist or photo-realist, but I find it hard to label myself like that because I’m my own biggest critic.

“I’m always pushing myself.


“When I’m working on a painting, I take lots of photographs of it and look at them when I get home – I need to keep stepping away from it to see it from an outsider’s perspective.”

Despite her amazing ability, it was not until Claire went to art school that she began to paint seriously.

“I was drawn to painting in this style because it’s really difficult to capture a life and the energy that comes from a person and that’s what I’m trying to do.

“I’m trying to create a sense of intrigue in my paintings.

“Nothing I paint is ever easy and each work that I do poses new problems to overcome, but for me it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction.

“The attraction for me is the excitement of being able to make something beautiful out of the most basic of materials.

“But it takes a lot of commitment because to create something in that level of detail takes a long time – that’s why I spend so much time doing research because I need to know that I really love something before I start working on it.

“When a painting is finally coming together and looks exactly as you wanted it to, it’s almost euphoric.”

Now, her work is being talked about all over the globe.

Her talent became the subject of a series of articles which appeared in the US, including the New York Daily News, and a slideshow of her work appeared on the Yahoo US homepage.

“Before I knew it I had people who were reading about me in Saudi Arabia, Canada,” she said.


“I didn’t even know I was on Yahoo until a stranger from the US contacted me through my Facebook site.

“People were e-mailing me from everywhere from Vietnam to Nigeria and at one point, the e-mails were coming in faster than I could open them.

“The story went completely viral and in two weeks it totally changed my life – it was absolutely bizarre seeing the slideshow on Yahoo next to stories about Kim Kardashian and Johnny Depp.

“Honestly, it was the most exciting two weeks of my life.”

Since then, Claire has received hundreds of requests for commissions from as far afield as China.

But the artist, who only takes on a few commissions a year, says she intends to concentrate on exhibition work.

Her dedication to her craft sees her spend a lot of time by herself and to get out of the studio and meet other people, she works part-time at the Blackbird bar in Tollcross.

“I’m used to the solitude now,” she says. “People don’t realise that being an artist can mean spending almost every day in a room on your own.

“You can find yourself working alone for days at a time or in the studio at 3am in the morning – sleep deprived – because with oil paints you can’t just put your brush down, you have to finish what you’re doing.”

Claire’s biggest influence is the German visual artist Gerhard Richter and describes attending a lecture exhibition on his work at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art as a “turning point”.

“He’s a huge influence. Here was someone who worked with photography and painting in the same way as me.”

Despite her new found fame, she says at the moment “I just want to continue making work”.

“One day I would love to have paintings in the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.”

Don’t bet against it.

Genre resembles photograph

Hyper-realism is a genre of painting and sculpture resembling a high-resolution photograph.

More emotive than photo-realism, works are not strict interpretations of pictures.

American artist Chuck Close, known for his large scale portraits, and Ralph Goings, best known for his highly detailed paintings of hamburger stands, trucks and banks, are linked with the style.

Photo-realists, such as Charles Bell, who painted large scale still lifes, use cameras and pictures to create a painting that appears to be photographic.