Claire Lawrenson | Capturing nature through watercolors

Mount Tallac Sunset and the tools of the trade. | Claire Lawrenson

Meeting Claire Lawrenson for the first time invoked the same feeling I had when I first saw her Wild + Wistful Studio greeting cards: They struck me as purely lovely and effervescent. Lawrenson can capture a simplicity and naturalness in her subjects and use her creative eye to translate that to beautiful greeting cards that are sure to bring a smile to one’s face.

The front of two of her cards read, “You are one in a million” and “Have a stellar birthday,” in a whimsical font against a starry winter sky. “Hello from Truckee” another reads, with a watercolor portrait of a snowy mountain peak and Donner Lake glistening in the background.

“What I like about watercolor over anything else is that I want it messy, but I also want it to be perfect. I consider myself a sloppy perfectionist.”


Originally from Ripon, Lawrenson moved to South Lake Tahoe to be closer to her sister and work at Heavenly Mountain Resort as a snowboard instructor. In 2012, she moved to Truckee with her husband and three years later took a watercolor class at Atelier Truckee. She had previously dabbled in sketching, acrylic painting and drawing; she studied interior design in college, but after trying watercolors, she became obsessed.

Sketching Eagle Lake, Desolation Wilderness in September. | Claire Lawrenson

“What I like about watercolor over anything else is that I want it messy, but I also want it to be perfect. I consider myself a sloppy perfectionist,” she says.

While practicing watercolor painting, Lawrenson also became inspired by the fellow makers and crafters around her who were doing their own thing and willing to share their knowledge. For instance, Lawrenson credits jewelry maker Krista Tranquilla for helping Lawrenson turn her watercolor hobby into a business after Tranquilla taught a Sierra Business Council class on how to use Etsy.


She also took a watercolor class at Sierra College and in April 2018, decided to take on a personal challenge by posting a piece of art on Instagram for 100 days, tagged #100daysofartinspiredbynature.

Sketching at Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, in May.
| Jes Albery

“It was a lot of effort and a lot of work. I would forget to post [on some days]. But then around Day 45 it became a habit,” she says.

Lawrenson would work on her art during lunch breaks, during hikes, from her kayak or on chairlifts and by the end of the 100 days she was enjoying the process.

“I saw a lot of progress in my sketching and painting,” she says. “It definitely changed the way I look at art and it improved my skills. I did feel self-conscious about putting it out there at first. I was releasing things that I wasn’t necessarily happy about. But I found that people liked this project; my friends said they enjoyed seeing what I was doing every day and that helped me be less hard on myself. I notice [her progress] but it surprised me that others notice that, as well.

Claire Lawrenson in Olympic Valley. | Joanna Rutkowski

“I do a lot of hiking, camping and snowboarding. I’m inspired by the scenery around us and the activities I do. When I was doing the 100 Days of Outside project, I was sketching outside more. When I started out, I was thinking, ‘What would make a good card?’ and then I would paint and make a card out of it. I have basic sayings, but then I try to think of ones that are more interesting. I’ll write down a bunch of ideas and send them to my sister and good friend for approval.”

Working with TIP Printing & Graphics in Truckee, Lawrenson was able to find Forest Stewardship Council — certified carbon-neutral paper to print her greeting cards on that are tucked into plant-based, biodegradable sleeves.

Her favorite thing to paint is mountain scenes and wildflowers and she is constantly improving and adding more detail. Since Wild + Wistful Studio’s launch, Lawrenson has started teaching watercolor workshops a few times a month at Atelier to share her passion with other people.

“I have a travel-sized sketch kit and small box of paints and I take that with me pretty much every time I hike. Whenever we get to the destination, I like to stop and sketch the view. It’s a fun way of remembering where I’ve gone,” she says.

Wild + Wistful Studio greeting cards are sold at Bespoke in Truckee, Trunk Show in Tahoe City, Blue Wolf Studios in Kings Beach, and Wildwood Makers Market in South Lake Tahoe. |