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Cosmetic art: Fashion illustrator Clayrene Chan dips into nail polish for her creations – American Fork Nail Salon
July 24, 2018

Cosmetic art: Fashion illustrator Clayrene Chan dips into nail polish for her creations

SINGAPORE: If you thought the only artistic use for nail polish is to prettify your fingers and toes, wait till you see what Clayrene Chan does with it.

For the past couple of years, the 27-year-old Singapore-based Malaysian fashion illustrator has been making waves creating detailed, shimmering fashion sketches using nail polish and glitter.

She regularly uploads her works, which comprises her own take on haute couture gowns, on her popular Instagram account Artclaytion — an amalgamation of her name and “art creation”— which currently has more than 27,300 followers.

A sampling of Clayrene Chan’s nail polish art, including from her earlier series of works done with water (lower right). (Photo: Clayrene Chan)

“I first used nail polish because I wanted to do something really different from the rest,” said Chan, who will be holding a special workshop on Saturday afternoon (May 28) at the Faber-Castell Art Festival at Marina Square. She’ll also be exhibiting two of her works inspired by gowns worn at the recent Met Gala in New York. 

The Fine Arts graduate from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Loughborough University in the UK had previously worked on photography and installation. But after graduating, Chan hit upon the idea of using nail polish in her practice.

“I’m a cosmetics lover and I also love to travel around the world, so I thought it was a good material for me to bring around as my main medium.”

Her initial foray into nail polish art wasn’t that simple — she had started her craft painting on water first.

“Before I did fashion illustrations, I challenged myself to draw on water, and I’ve done a series of Disney-themed artworks,” said Chan.

But as her creations slowly became popular online, and after some of her followers requested she make works that they can actually buy and keep, she shifted her attention to doing paper pieces.

As a self-professed fan of Disney movies (and their princesses), she began recreating gowns from luxury fashion houses that she spotted on social media or fashion rags.

Before she started using nail polish, Clayrene Chan did photography and installation works, while still tackling the princess themes she continues to pursue today. (Photo: Clayrene Chan)

When Channel NewsAsia dropped by her studio at a factory building in Yishun, she had her eyes on the Cinderella-like gown by Michael Cinco that Aishwarya Rai wore at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival.

“I’ve always had this dream of being a princess, and I noticed all the runway gowns are very huge, and I really love them. I would go through my app, choose my favourite gown and I will paint them out to make my dream come true,” she quipped.

Drawing and painting fashion dresses may be a personal wish fulfilment for Chan but it has also put her in the spotlight.

She now conducts workshops and does commissioned illustrations and live drawings for events, collaborating with brands such as Christian Louboutin, Carolina Herrera, Bally, Longchamp, Diane von Furstenberg, Osim, and Faber-Castell.

Fashion designer designers are taking note of her works, too. Zuhair Murad looks to be a certified admirer, having reposted five of Chan’s creations on his Instagram account.

And just recently, she revealed she’s in talks with photo editing app Meitu XiuXiu to create her very own filter this year.

To create her works, Chan first sketches and paints her drawings using watercolours, acrylics, and pigment sticks. She then applies nail polish as a top coating, before sprinkling glitter for that added pizzazz.

Chan pointed out that nail polish isn’t an easy medium to use. “It’s oil-based, so it’s very tough to blend the colours. I have to be very quick and decisive on determining the next step to complete the painting.”

Who needs tubes of paint when you’ve got bottles of nail polish? (Photo: Mayo Martin)

So what kind of nail polish does she use? “I have around a hundred bottles, some of them sponsored by different brands such as Sally Hansen and Red Earth,” she said.

The amount of time she takes to finish a piece of art work takes anything from five minutes to two to three hours, depending on how detailed she wants it to be. Because her Instagram posts are very important in her line of business, those will take four hours, which includes all the editing she does.

But make no mistake about it, using a cosmetic product for illustrations she posts online doesn’t make what her work less arty.

“For me, this is art. And I tend to break the rules — like how people see nail polish as just for manicures. I want to create a legacy of me using nail polish to give new perspectives on (the use of) different mediums (in art),” she said, adding that her fine arts background has helped her a lot in shaping her practice.

Busy putting the finishing touches on her take on Aishwarya Rai’s Cinderella gown at the Cannes Film Festival. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

As for using nail polish in more conventional ways, well, she leaves that to the experts.

“I appreciate manicures and I prefer people to pamper me with the service,” she laughed.

“But whenever I go to these places, I would always tell them, ‘hey, we’re using the same materials but I do mine on paper instead of nails!”