By Peg Lopata, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Michele Clamp, 52, a native of England who now resides in Marlborough, is one of those artists that listens to her own mind. After a long career in computational biology, including working on the Human Genome Project, she retired early three years ago and now devotes her time to watercolor painting.
“Every day I can wake up and think about what shall I paint today and just go out and do it,” said Clamp.
While she admits she had a dream research job at Harvard University, she now says she cannot imagine doing anything else but painting.
Choosing to retire early required some forethought. Clamp and her husband saved and saved for years to downsize. They sold their house in Somerville and moved to Marlborough, which allowed Clamp’s husband to continue to do consulting work in the Boston area in a more affordable location.
“Marlborough’s a great place to live,” Clamp noted. “We’re lucky that it all worked out. Although our ability to spend like we use to is gone, I don’t regret it for a moment.”
Now she’s doing something that brings her joy as well as bringing joy to others. Though she’s lived in the U.S. many years, she brings that very English sensibility to her watercolors which favor subtle light and muted colors. There’s delicacy, but not cloying sentimentality. Her landscapes evoke simplicity, but are not overdone idealism. She admits that without the stress of relying on sales she paints freely.
“To rely on sales would affect my painting enormously. There’s the temptation to change your style or your subject matter to tempt buyers,” she said. “I paint whatever tickles me on a particular day, even if it’s soft focus kittens with bows round their necks then that’s the subject you have to go with and suffer the ridicule.”
Though kittens may not capture her fancy, she does have a fondness for painting owls.
Clamp has discovered that teaching painting is also very rewarding. As luck would have it, the Post Road Art Center needed an art teacher.
“I’m far enough along in my painting journey that I have some skills to pass on, but also close enough to beginning to remember what it’s like to start and all the frustrations that come along with that. My own painting has changed a great deal for the better since I started teaching. It’s been very gratifying.”
According to Clamp, giving up a safe, well-paying job to do something she wanted to do has been her best accomplishment so far in life, especially considering that she thinks of herself as risk-adverse by nature.
“Painting makes me happy. I love it because it’s so forward-looking. You finish one painting and you learn things and that launches you onto the next one,” she remarked. “It’s really hard work and sometimes I toil away not getting anywhere. Then later, things gel and I’m up another level. It’s all about possibilities.”
For more information about the artist and to see her works, visit https://micheleclamp.com/.
Watercolor paintings/Michele Clamp