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Poster Backstory: Hilary Clarcq — ARTCRANK Denver 2014

Written by in Profiles

The Perfect Balance of

Curiosity & Simplicity: 

Hilary Clarcq Loves to Ride

Thrill-seekers can certainly relate to Hilary Clarcq. An avid snowboarder, mountain biker, and surfer, her idea of stress relief ( a process she refers to as “disk defragmentation”) involves hopping on her bike and tearing down a dirt trail for the sheer “giggle-inducing joy of riding.”

Graphic artists and design professionals, too, can relate to the Boulder-native. A senior designer with DD9, a website design and development agency, Clarcq has a voracious appetite for aesthetic elegance and visual appeal.


“I think of the Internet as an International Park where we have an obligation to plant helpful content and prune visual clutter, so contributing good design is essential to that end.”

Perhaps above all, though, anyone who has ever been daunted by the task at hand or  doubted their own abilities would truly count Clarcq among their ranks. “[T]he same issues face me at the start of any project: A spastic desire to draw everything at once, matched by soul-crushing self-doubt.”

This contrast  of desire and doubt shows through in many of her personal illustrations. A peek around her personal website reveals designs that are at once both innocent and sultry. Her works from ARTCRANK 2013 to this year take her alluring, often mysterious characters from midnight beaches to mountainside trails: Separate  images that both convey not just beauty, but friendship and childlike wonder as well. This year’s poster, she says, “is about offloading stress and letting loose with friends on everyday adventures.”


Clarcq notes cycling’s particularly calming and inspirational effects. “Bicycling is a special method of transportation in that it allows you to connect to your surroundings more intimately than by car, for example.  I think artists seek to connect with the world in a similar way; not by speeding through it, but by slowing down and deeply observing the things around us.”

That kind of slow, pensive approach belies a highly perfected, revision-heavy process.

“I often start with a feeling I want to explore rather than a specific subject. First, I make around 20 thumbnail sketches that might capture that feeling or idea and then narrow it down from there.  Once I pick a direction, I try to work on color and value early on, and then continue to evolve the subject matter and other elements until it feels cohesive and complete.”


But within each of these stages there are subroutines that serve to perfect every detail — this thanks to a dad she calls a “design thinker” whose constant scrutiny over details large and small have led Clarcq to approach all of her projects with an eye toward “maximum efficiency.” In this year’s ARTCRANK poster, for example, Hilary created a subtle color variation by employing halftones rather than adding an entirely new color. The result: an image that is both more efficient and more compelling.

To execute her finished design, Hilary took advantage of the dizzying array of Neenah Paper options to breathe life into her concept: a ‘70s-style throwback set in the Martian-esque desert mountain landscapes of the West.

“I chose Neenah ROYAL SUNDANCE™ Cover NATURAL for the smooth finish and the vintage-looking ‘Natural’ color that complimented the other colors very well. The weight and texture of the paper were a good match for my design.”


Stu Alden of Ink Lounge (also the host of this year’s Denver ARTCRANK show) oversaw the printing of Hilary’s poster and echoed her choice of paper, especially given the challenges inherent in Clarcq’s design.

“Working with Hillary was great. She had a complicated piece to print — mainly due to halftones and critical registration — but [she] made time to come in and check colors and be involved in the process. The paper worked really well, holding the coverage and was nice and smooth, which is perfect for screen printing.”

Hilary Clarcq’s everyday adventures might range from solving intricate design problems to shredding a challenging slope on a bike or a board. But her approach is always the same: Find the perfect balance of curiosity and simplicity. Or, as she puts it, “Like childhood, but without the ignorance.  So maybe we’d go riding in the Garden of Eden, but when we’d eat the apple, things would turn out OK.”