Artist Todd Clark doesn’t have formal art training, just “the school of hard knocks,” he says. But this oil painter teaches art now. Lest you think there’s any irony there, you should know that Todd’s day job is as an elementary school teacher. Teaching, he says, gives a balance to his life (“I get to be sociable and interact with other people”). It also affords the chance to paint, especially during his summers off, he adds. So when he’s not teaching, he’s painting, or teaching about painting. Or tending to the 2 horses, 7 peacocks, 2 emu, 1 llama, chickens, guinea hens, cat and fish that live on the five acres Todd and his wife own. “There’s a bobcat in the bushes, too,” he adds.
GB: There’s nature depicted in your contemporary wall art for Greenbox, but it’s often abstract. The work on your website, on the other hand, is almost purely abstract. Where do you get your inspiration for those?
TC: I’m not using an external context. It’s more of an internal landscape; things that come from within. I am constantly experimenting and moving on to other things. It’s a purely visual vocabulary that I’m inventing, my own language that I’m using. A line I paint might represent a branch, but it’s not necessarily intended. Nature is my largest filter but I don’t necessarily paint it.
GB: Do you ever get artist’s block?
TC: I just keep painting. Eventually you work through it. You can walk away feeling bad, but that’s the way it is. I just persevere. Maybe when it’s too sunny to be inside the studio I feel blocked, but even then I just bring my stuff outside and make the most of it.
GB: About your studio—it’s beautiful. Did you design it?
TC: Yes, I designed it myself. It’s still brand-new. It was built two years ago. It’s right next to the house and we built a barn as well. Both the studio and the barn have same kind of design, with lots of metal and long lines. The studio has lots of wall space for display.
GB: Do you display what you’re working on?
TC: Yes, and every summer I have a July sale. It runs two weekend and the weekdays, and draws over 200 hundred people. I live in a rural area near Vancouver, and it’s kind of a conservative community. So it’s always kind of a gamble what to hang. But I am always surprised when local people buy things that aren’t conservative.
GB: So that’s what hangs on the walls of your studio. What’s hanging on the walls of your house? What kind of artwork for the home do you gravitate towards?
TC: Lot of local art that I support. I sometimes think of myself as a painter who paints so I can buy more art. Although I don’t have much more space on my walls. But usually I’m more interested in process. Usually I buy abstract. I get tired of stuff that’s too literal.
GB: What advice do you have for children or young people who want to become artists?
TC: Go for it. For sure. There is no path. They have to find their own way. You can do the school route but I don’t think there’s a particular path. Throughout my life I always thought of myself as an artist but steered away from it for practical reasons. But it’s always been a constant, even more so as I get older.
GB: Complete this sentence: [Blank] stifles my creativity.
TC: Anxiety does. Stress. Being too busy. But that sometimes fuels it too. Sometimes when I’m stressed I go to the studio and paint and it feels better.
GB: Complete this sentence: I really shouldn’t, but I…
TC: Do it anyway.
GB: If you could create an ice cream flavor, what would it be?
TC: Peacock. It may taste terrible but the colors would be beautiful, right?