When local artist, Clare Villar, took voluntary redundancy in 2016 from her job as as a Public Protection Officer for Shropshire council, little did she expect her sideline work as an artist would take her all over the world.
Clare is an internationally acclaimed military artist presenting her work to the Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family. Her work has won her a slew of awards in 2018 alone from Business Excellence Award to Finalist for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, Creative Industries. It’s a place Clare admits she never thought she would be at this stage, and marvels that she is “very lucky to have found a niche.”
When Clare took the plunge to pursue her dream to become a full-time artist, she already had a good pipeline of commissions to paint pets. It’s a line of work she still enjoys and receives commissions from celebrities such as Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, and his four black labs and Irish fashion designer, Louise Kennedy, who commissioned a picture of her miniature schnauzer, Paddy Paws. Clare’s image of famous Paddy will appear on a new high end line of clothing, at exclusive Belgravia and Dublin shops.
Becoming a military artist began through her husband Johnny, a former major with the Royal Mercian Lancastrian Yeomanry. His Colonel, David Leigh, commissioned Clare to do a Roll of Honour for the regiment.
Rolls of Honour were popular forms with regiments over a hundred year ago as a way to commemorate the fallen, but have not been produced in the last century. Clare and David’s idea was to revive the tradition to honour acting soldiers. This first Roll took many months of painstaking work and several attempts to perfect.
With many hundreds of names, and intricate detail on each cap badge, there can be no mistakes, otherwise these labours of love need to be started from scratch. For example, the Royal Edmonton Museum commissioned honour rolls to commemorate the soldiers who died in battle in every world war. One for the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in Canada included 979 names and over a thousand maple leaves.
Steady hands and huge concentration are a vital part of her work. Getting every name exactly right and positioned correctly is “the stressful bit”, but she takes particular pleasure in replicating the cap badges. “There is always huge relief at finishing one commission without a mistake, and then I enjoy a G and T,” she laughs.
Now with 19 Rolls of Honour completed for regiments around the world including the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Queens own Yeomanry, the Kings Royal Hussars, as well as the Canadian Grenadiers, it’s still painstaking work, but with many rewards.
Clare’s work has been presented to the Queen, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Edward. Last year, she flew to Australia to present all members of the Invictus Games team a roll of honour depicting all competitors — an experience, she describes as “an incredible and humbling”.
Clare adds, “I consider it to be a huge honour to do it. A regiment wouldn’t be a regiment without the troopers…as well as the colonel and the commanding officers. I take huge pride in my part of military history.”
From her studio on the border of Shropshire and Herefordshire with a view overlooking peaceful fields she feels fortunate and determined to succeed. She is flourishing with over 17 commissions booked for next year and Natwest is making a short film about her work for its ‘Women in Business’ promotion. One senses there are more well earned celebratory G&Ts in the future for Clare Villar.