Pulling on our ingrained familiarity with comic strips like Garfield and Peanuts, Leicester-based illustrator Clarice Tudor has crafted a practice rife with original, jubilant and flawed characters – often playing the role of your wholesome, supportive friend, as well as people you’d rather not know. They exist in an accessible absurdist world, coloured with a youthful wit that evokes the tone of Vine compilations and exhibits an opinion that is unapologetically her own.
When we asked Clarice what got her into illustration, she explains that “during my art and design degree at the University of Leeds, my tutor informed me that ‘illustration is not a real medium.’” She adds that she would “pinpoint that as the exact moment my eternally disobedient heart chose its vocation.”
In defining her work, Clarice tells us that her practice is rooted in self-expression. “Self-deprecating humour is my go-to, but every now and then, I’ll stop roasting myself and start roasting Jeff Bezos.” The characters Clarice creates, more often than not, aren’t people, but animals: “I gravitate towards cuteness and animals. I think people find it easier to empathise with something naive and innocent than (god forbid) a real human being, ew!” In removing the human from the equation, and in doing so removing the bias towards any one person you know, you are forced to consider Clarice’s commentary head on – “I’d like to give a big shout out to anthropomorphism for making it easier to look at ourselves,” Clarice says, adding “there’s something inherently funny about such ugly thoughts beaming out of an adorable face.”
Clarice’s desire to be understood is one of her main drives to create art, explaining how she believes “comic strips are often used to take a concept, thought or piece of commentary and reduce it into a format which is easy to understand, often humorous and (hopefully) easy to look at.” She continues: “I struggle to express myself coherently in conversation. As a result, when someone asks me anything about myself, I will respond with a reductive summary and a self-deprecating joke.” In classic Clarice fashion, she adds “guess what boys? Now it’s my career.” Realising that “these are actually some really sad sentiments to have shape your art,” what ultimately drives Clarice’s work is “taking ugly feelings and making them more digestible.”
What she finds most rewarding is “the way people engage and connect” with the work she produces – “it can feel like I’m providing people with resources to express things which aren’t always easy to talk about.” She tells us: “It thrills me that people use my art to express themselves even if it’s just them sharing it to their Instagram story with the caption ‘called out #mood’.” When asked what some of the highlights of her recent work are, Clarice says “the real highlight is making people chuckle. Call me a big softie but laughter is definitely my favourite sound. I can’t lie!” The heart that Clarice has, one of humour, kindness and care, bleeds through her work, becoming intertwined rather than contrary to the nihilism and self-deprecation throughout. The resulting work is joyous, hilarious and genuinely relatable, with a tone of voice that is perfect in archiving the modern world right now – a necessary perspective.