Brushstroke tigers and lady gliders | Clara Jonas

By Anya

Clara’s brushstroke fingerprint is one you’ll see all over Cornwall. She has graced the pages of international surf publications, illustrated the bag of Origin coffee you may have sat in your cupboard and penned the gliding girls in all their sliding glory on the back of Women and Waves’ exclusive t-shirts. 

Her fusions of design and illustration capture the essence of what it can feel like to be both a modern woman and surfer. Graceful with an edge; qualities the cryptic Clara Jonas herself identifies with both in and out the water.

We are sat on the decking behind her house in Falmouth, faces turned up towards the afternoon sun. It’s a double Cornetto ice cream kind of day. With wetsuits dripping in the background, she tells me about the eclectic fuels that drive her relationship with art, illustration and surfing. 

“I’m inspired by folklore,” she says, “I’m inspired by mythology, lots of strange bits and bobs really. Liaising with women, especially on projects in the surfing industry like Women and Waves is incredibly rewarding, we are underrepresented in this sport.”

“The peace and space you get when you’re out in the water does really inform your work creatively.”

Having completed her BA degree in Graphic Design earlier this summer from Falmouth University, Jonas is enjoying some new-found ownership over her time and energy.

“It has been a really nice balance for me currently working freelance. I’ve wanted to be able to surf more, be outside, enjoy the waves. I have clarity and draw my most inspiration from the sea. As cliché as it sounds, I think this is the case for a lot of people. The peace and space you get when you’re out in the water really informs my work.”

Jonas is part of a new breed of creatives planting modern design into a Cornwall’s long-established art scene. But for a place so synonymous with traditional mediums, what shape is the new role taking in changing the landscape?

“I think it’s putting Cornwall on the map as a contemporary, creative place,” says Jonas. “There’s so much going on.

 “You’ve got freelancing and co-working spaces popping up, companies based around more ethical and sustainable ways of working and things informed by leading a lifestyle set by the sea. In my opinion, that is the right way for things to be developing.”

Cornwall’s coastlines play a central role to Jonas’ work which captures the native flora and fauna alongside more tropical references to warmer waters. Having lived in Boscastle most of her life, she grew up and into cold water culture.

“Strip it back and let go of the expectations,” she says when I ask what she’d tell her younger self about surfing. 

“I feel like, when surfing is part of what you want to be doing, you have a passion for the environment, the people, the space that it brings to your life. Your priorities become a little bit different. Life-balance is more important. I think this is why a lot of creatives live in Cornwall. The modern design side of things is changing Cornwall in a positive way.”

Last November she penned the mantra, ‘take pleasure seriously’ into her notebook, when the waves were big and the neoprene suits were thick. But Jonas is neither precious nor serious. Her collaborations explore the clichés of surfing. Curated Instagram posts are accompanied by sarcastic comments. She recognises the pressures of surfing’s exclusive image and attempts to perpetuate a more realistic spin. 

“Strip it back and let go of the expectations,” she says when I ask what she’d tell her younger self about surfing. 

 Summer wave styling in Newquay last year

Summer wave styling in Newquay last year

“I’m not into surfing anything big, I made my peace with that a while ago I think. When I was younger I thought I had to go out in crazy big waves on teeny tiny short boards.  But I’ve been longboarding a lot recently. Small, clean 2-3ft waves are my happy place. Sunshine, not much wind, just something mellow. Not much of a test.

“When you’re starting out you see all this cool stuff and a cool community, everyone being confident and uber sexy and you think you should be like that too. But getting in the water is the main reason you’re enjoying surfing, so strip it right back to that and take every moment for what it is. Every little victory. Be really present with it.”

Check out Clara’s website or follow her work and wanderings on Instagram

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