Portrait of an uncertain artist
Despite his successes, Ivan Clarke still has no idea what makes an artist.
The Queenstown landscape artist who unexpectedly developed the Lonely Dog fantasy world, is scheduled to speak about the notion at the inaugural Arrowtown Spring Arts Festival in September.
He is happy to share his artistic journey and says unanticipated questions can lead to unanticipated answers, which even surprise himself sometimes.
His life as an artist began in Auckland where his father was a commercial artist who had studied at Ilam Fine Arts School. He also held exhibitions and Clarke junior’s first painting sold at one. ‘‘I don’t think they told the buyer it was done by an 11-year-old.’’
Aged about 20 he entered the family business as a commercial artist and illustrator, until one day his father’s close friend and fellow artist Randall Froude arrived at his Auckland home.
‘‘Randall is a really gifted tutor. He has a way of communicating to people and his workshops have always been well attended,’’ Clarke explains.
‘‘He just made this throw away comment that I needed to be painting as a professional. ‘Why spend your time in the commercial world when you can enter the world of fine arts?’ In the next breath he said he was doing a workshop the next day a couple of hours away. ‘Why don’t you come?’ he asked.’’
Clarke did and over the BonVoyage –
the first painting in Ivan Clarke’s Lonely
Dog series. weekend produced two paintings to the one painted by the other participants.
‘‘I discovered then that’s what I really wanted to do moving forward. It was a turning point thanks to an old family friend.’’
Now aged 84 and living in Kimble, near Fairlie, Froude will also be sharing his knowledge at the Arrowtown festival with a workshop.
He has taught more than 3500 pupils, many who seek him out from all over the world, and says that in four days he can teach anyone to paint like a professional.
‘‘When you take the mystique that has been built into the public’s mind by the press over the years – that these artists are on some great pedestal – it’s a lot of garbage. We’re just doing what god’s given us. It’s a gift and the gift is there to be shared with others,’’ Froude says.
Clarke also considers his abilities as a painter as a ‘‘gift’’, which has seen him take an unconventional route to commercial and artistic success.
Primarily working as a landscape painter, he later discovered the creative world of fantasy with the Lonely Dog series. Warner Brothers bought the movie rights in 2009.
‘‘That was not premeditated. It just grew that way. Through the journey I’ve discovered writing – I didn’t know there was an author in me. It’s like I’m being led down this path and I don’t know what’s through the next door.
‘‘I am quite happy about that.’’
Queenstown artist Ivan Clarke, left, and the man who inspired him to become a professional artist, Randall Froude, will be making appearances at the new Arrowtown Spring Arts Festival.
Photo: Debbie Jamieson/Fairfax NZ