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Camper Community Series | Claire Milbrath

Claire Milbrath is a Victoria-based painter and the editor-in-chief of Editorial Magazine. Claire's work delves into the portrayal of her alter egos, offering a unique, intimate, and personal perspective. Frequently her characters, "Gray" and their Bichon Frisé make appearances in the work, engaging in leisurely activities, enjoying the mundane, or inundating in moments of introspection.    

Her publication, Editorial Magazine Started as a small online publication in 2011. It has since evolved into a thriving international community, drawn to the boundary-pushing exploration of art and fashion.  

We visited Claire at her home in Victoria, where we spoke about inspirations, her connection to the ocean and the meditative nature of her work. Read the interview below. 

Claire wears Fall 2023 Camper.  

Videography by Justin Pelletier 

Photo by Guy Ferguson

Can you give a brief introduction, who you are, where you live and what you do? 

I’m an artist living in Victoria, BC Canada. I also run Editorial Magazine. 

How would you describe your art practice? 

I paint figurative scenes, oscillating between exterior and interior spaces as an attempt to uncover my psychological landscape at the time. I’m drawn to repeating patterns in wallpapers, textile, or gardens as a way to meditate and also to externalize my mental chatter.

Having recently moved from Montreal to Victoria, how has this transition informed your work? 

The noise of the city had a numbing effect on me, and coming to Victoria I’ve found more space and quiet to tap into my deeper self. That quiet can be unnerving sometimes, but I think being more aware of my emotions and thoughts have enriched my art practice. Being so close to nature has brought about a kind of reckoning with life’s cycles and impermanence and I’m interested in depicting that theme my work. I’m especially focused on the beginning and end of the seasons- Spring and Winter.

Can you tell us about your publication, Editorial Magazine, and how it came to be? 

I started Editorial Magazine over a decade ago, as a platform to showcase unknown or under represented artists. It’s been a wonderful curatorial experience and has created a community of artists for me to connect with around the world. We take about a year to put together an issue so when it's released it’s cathartic, to share what I’ve been looking at, tinkering with, for so many months. 

What are some of your favorite aspects of living in Victoria? 

The ocean! It’s the once instance of beauty you can truly enter and submerge yourself in. It’s borderline erotic in that way. I love being close to my family, and our weekly art day where my sisters and Mom come over to paint and talk. 

You mentioned taking a dip in the ocean every morning. Can you tell us about your connection to the ocean? 

I’ve been swimming every morning for almost 3 years now. It’s the best form of therapy for me. It’s a small fear to overcome on a daily basis and that gives me strength. I still find it very cold. 

Your home is seems to be an extension of your art practice, how did you find it and go about creating such an inspiring and personal space? 

I’m currently living in my friend’s home for two years while she’s away. I’ve moved a lot in the last three years but bring with me my belongings which I see as part of my practice - floral couches, floral sheets, lace curtains, textiles, stuffed animals, toys. 

What are you currently reading, and who are some favorite authors? 

I’m reading Jane Eyre, and Carl Jung’s Undiscovered Self. I try to read one fiction and one non-fiction in tandem. I like gothic novels, set in places that sound like Victoria - foggy landscapes, wind-swept trees, old Victorian homes. My favourite author is Daphne DuMaurier, an 1940s writer whose book Rebecca was made into a Hitchcock movie. 

What is the most challenging part about being an artist? 

Being an artist is a privilege and I try not to take it for granted. I think the hardest part of it is the doubt, the mental warfare that can take place in the studio. I’m grateful for my other creative practices which connect me to other artists and keep my feet on the ground. 

What T.V. shows, movies, music or podcasts have you been listening to lately? 

I’m currently going through the work of Paul Schrader. I loved Taxi Driver and now I’m exploring his “man in a room” trilogy. I’ve been reading a lot about Calvinism, a stricter sect of Protestantism and it’s interesting seeing how Schrader channels his Calvinist background into his protagonists. 

What has been your favorite issue or article from Editorial Magazine and why? 

Last issue I got to interview Ottessa Moshfegh and that was a highlight of my career. I’m grateful when aspects of the project feel scary or challenging, as I think back to most jobs I’ve had as being tedious or lacking passion. My favourite part of the project is stumbling upon a visual artist who lacks gallery representation or press, and getting to share their work with our readers. I love Mas Guerro’s work in the new issue.

What Campers are you currently wearing, and what drew you to this pair?

I love the Casi Myras. I’ve succumbed to the “ballet flat mind virus” as my editor calls it. I grew up taking ballet and I love to feel some level of costume in my daily outfits. 

There is a recurring figure in your works, you refer to as Gray, who you consider to be an alter-ego of yourself. Can you speak about this symbolism? 

In Jungian dream analysis the “dream is the dreamer,” meaning everyone in the dream is some version of ourselves buried in our subconscious. I feel that way about the figures and animals in my paintings. The blonde, androgynous figure in my work acts a spectre for myself, a way to depict moments of isolation, joy, desire, etc. 

Where do you find inspiration? 

Flowers, gardens, music, museums. I love Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring. I recently visited the tulip farms in Holland, sprawling blocks of colour, lined by Dutch houses. It’s given me a lot to work with back at home. 

Do you have any upcoming projects you are excited about? 

In January I’ll open a solo show at De Boer Gallery in Los Angeles. I’ve been working on paintings for the show for the past year and I can’t wait to share them. 

Any plugs or shout-outs? 

Our new issue of Editorial Magazine came out this summer and I think it’s the best one yet. You can find it some indie bookshops or on our e-shop here.

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