Chickenpants! Starring Claire, Frida and Estella
We've loved her paintings forever, so we're so excited to bring to you the artist behind all those wildly colorful pugs, Claire of Chickenpants! (And her pug Frida and grandpug, Estella). This was a delightful interview and we must say, she was remarkably sane for a person who's both an artist AND a Pug Person. ;-) Enjoy!
PP: Claire, how did you become a Pug Person?
Claire: It’s been a part of me forever. My parents had a pug before I was born, so there’s pictures of me as a baby with this pug, we’re sitting together in her dog bed. So, from a very early age, that got set as my default dog, a pug.
PP: You’re so blessed that pugs were your default dog. It could have been a schnauzer. Or a rat terrier.
Claire: I know! And when anyone in my childhood would say “draw a dog”, I would automatically draw a pug.
PP: And you’re still doing it. What was your parents’ pug’s name?
PP (Shari): Aw, that’s my daughter’s name! It’s a very common dog name and she’s fine with that. I raised her right.
Claire: It’s an honor!
PP: I think so! And your current pug is named Frida. For Frida Kahlo, we presume.
Claire: Of course. She's like Kahlo in some ways, very opinionated.
PP: And tell us about your art history, have you always drawn and painted?
Claire: Yes, I was always the artsy kid. For many years I was doing soft sculptures, like collectible toys, and that’s where the name Chickenpants comes from. They were toys where the tops were chickens and the bottoms were colorful pants. Each one was unique and they all had their own names and backstories. After about 700 of these, I was like, “okay, time to move on.”
PP: That’s a lot of chickens. And pants.
Claire: So I moved on to pugs. I’m an 'all pugs, all the time' artist now. Once in a while I’ll do a Frenchie or a Boston, another flat face, but 99.9% of what I do is pugs.
PP: And how did that come about? After you finished your chickens in their pants, it morphed into pugs?
Claire: Well, at that time I was grieving the loss of my first pug, Topanga, and I made an art quilt of her face and embroidered her nicknames along the edges. And it was so cathartic and healing, I thought, “there’s something here.” It was a natural progression into drawing and painting pugs.
PP: We love going into your Etsy shop and experiencing the beautiful colors. What pug faces do you have in your head when you’re painting? Are you doing Frida?
Claire: Sometimes it’s Frida, sometimes it’s my daughter’s pug Estella. She’s a baby, a black pug, I’ve been painting her a lot.
PP: How old is your daughter?
PP: Wow! 12 years old and she has her own pug!
Claire: It was bound to happen.
Claire: We also have a Frenchton, that’s half Frenchie, half Boston.
PP: A non-pug?!
Claire: I know, I know. She’s cute, she's great, but definitely not a pug. After Topanga passed, we were like “I guess we could try another breed”, but eventually I knew I needed a pug in my life.
PP: What do you love most about pugs?
Claire: I don’t even know how to say it. They’re so special. They think they’re human and I’m more than happy to go along with that.
Claire: And they want to be with you all the time; they want in on whatever you’re doing.
PP: Including sleeping in your bed?
Claire: Of course. Tucked into an armpit. And Estella sleeps with my daughter.
PP: You’re training her right, Claire.
PP: What’s your main medium for your art?
Claire: I love textile art, but mostly I’m using acrylic wash at the moment.
PP: Have all the originals been sold?
Claire: Most of them, but I have a bunch of new ones. I have a wall in my stairwell where all the pug paintings are and it makes me soooo happy to see it.
PP: The Wall of Fame.
PP: Do you teach art?
Claire: Not really. I did some teaching to little kids, but those were the pre-pug days.
PP: You mean the days that don’t count.
PP: Claire, how do you feel about Pug People?
Claire: Ohhhh, Pug People are the best people. Honestly, that’s why I keep painting pugs. I love pugs, obviously, but Pug People? The best. Kind, outgoing, generous, accepting.
PP: And a little crazy.
Claire: Just that little sprinkling of crazy.
PP: Do you have a favorite memory of one of your pugs?
Claire: Topanga is always so present in my mind. She was such a loving dog, she always wanted to be friends. The first time we took her to a dog park, she was ecstatic. She got peed on by another dog, but she was still so happy, pure joy.
PP: May we all be so joyous when the world pees on us.