ART IS MY SUPERPOWER
When Clayton Anderson was growing up in West Vancouver in the 1970s, it was a quiet middle-class suburb of the vibrant city of Vancouver, proper. The youngest of three boys, Clayton spent most of his time outdoors – skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, swimming and exploring beaches and coves in the summer. Even then, the wonder of nature was being ingrained in his creative psyche.
“I think this might have been a foundation of sorts that informed my interest in landscape in later art through a high school friend, Andrew Free, in grade 9. We would hang out and draw super heroes in these sketch books we carried around. I immediately loved drawing, and devoted all my time to it. I instinctively knew I had found my thing.” Clayton was a quick study, learning and honing the basic skills, and then experimenting with other mediums; developing his own style. By grade 11, he had already decided to go on to art school and take graphic design and illustration. Calgary was the destination of choice. He lived there for four years in the mid-‘80s, and attended Alberta College of Art and Design, majoring in Visual Communications (graphic design). In 1989, he landed a job in the advertising department of Western Living and Vancouver magazines, and met his future wife, Debi. At the time, he was also topping up the coffers with freelance illustration work on the side. But the inner muse was calling…
Navigating rough waters
“Around this time, I started doing landscape paintings in my spare time for my own amusement,” says Clayton. “I was into realism, inspired by artists like Alex Colville, Andrew Wyeth and Robert Bateman. The situation at Western Living was not a good one, so I decided (perhaps rather rashly) to turn my back on the steady paycheck and take a stab at full Success was immediate. Clayton’s work approached (Humberston Edwards, West
Van, Jenkins Showler, White Rock). In 1993, he began publishing limited edition prints, Showler Gallery. February of that year Clayton moved to Gibsons, BC – a forty-minute ferry ride from Vancouver – and a few months later his career progress hit choppy waters. “1994-97 was a bit of a tough time for me. The print industry collapsed and sales of originals were inconsistent as I bounced and yearned for something different, although I had no interest in abstract or conceptual art.” The turning point came in 1998, when calmer seas prevailed. Clayton walked into Heffel Fine Art in Vancouver and met Robert Heffel, who liked what he saw and agreed to take Clayton Anderson on as one of their gallery artists. “I
was introduced to the work of the Group of Seven (in particular Lawren Harris, A.J. Casson), Emily Carr, E.j. hughes. These artists inspired hard realism to something more visceral and expressive. The next roughly ten-year period saw was my own. Gallery sales and prices and my in Heffel’s increasingly popular live auctions.” In October 1998, Clayton’s daughter Katie professional step outside of Vancouver and started showing in Calgary at Gainsborough Galleries. Things were good. He was living the dream; starting to believe he had “made it.” Then horror of horrors – ‘recession’ – arrived in 2007-08: Clayton describes the devastation from his unique perspective: “The economy goes into the toilet. This is the beginning of a bad six to seven years of dwindling sales and right. Not a good time to be in the luxury item business. By 2013, the stress had taken its toll. off, I wouldn’t have survived this downturn.
My career felt like it was over, my marriage on the rocks, I was not in a good place.” Enter 2014, and a silver lining in the painted clouds. Things began to turn around. Personal issues were resolved. Clayton rededicated himself own vision, and found that the vision was good. “I sorted out my messy gallery situation, and made it more manageable. Good relationships with difference. Sales are now on the upswing again, it feels like a new beginning. I know I bang on about sales a lot and, ultimately, they don’t matter if you’re following your bliss. But they’re how I make my living, so there is a practical side in my case.” A good work ethic, self-discipline, honesty, integrity, pragmatism – these are the values that guide Clayton’s life and work. His advice for aspiring artists: “Trust your instinct, it’s right a lot more often than you might think. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s the best way to learn. The hardest part for me is being objective about my own work. I am always impressed by the clarity of vision from other artists, especially contemporary artists such as Ross Penhall and Nicholas Bott. Jose Trinidad is another
whose beautiful work shaped my journey.”
Rockin’ the studio
“I love music. I have music playing in the studio all day long. Mostly rock music. For a break, I’ll listen to classical. I don’t have another job. Other than going for walks, or puttering around the house, art is where I’m at. I’m inspired by the environment where I live. And, here’s a confession, I can’t start a painting session without a coffee.” Clayton says the actual inspiration for painting is tricky to articulate. It’s a combination of observed reality, memory, imagination, even dreams. He also taps into the way other artists he admires handle their subjects. An idea with potential usually gestates for some time, even years in some cases, before work begins. Once it’s formed to a certain point in his mind, he’ll do some quick sketches, referencing photos he’s taken over the years and assembled in a huge reference library. “Once I get a composition I like, I’ll do a small colour study, or studies, and work out any problems that arise. If that’s working, I’m ready to transfer to the canvas. I use the grid technique for this. I usually work with a washy white paint on a black gessoed canvas. I do this when drawing
i.e. the spaces between the trees rather than the outline of the trees. I’ll work back and forth with white paint and black gesso for days Using his sketches as a guide, Clayton carefully builds up a series of colour glazes that give the work a translucent effect. No impasto. There are some variations, but that’s his general technique. After dabbling in oils and watercolours over the years, he admits to versatility of acrylic and easy clean up with water. When art is your superpower, life’s challenges are not so daunting. Indeed, for Clayton Anderson, he’s quite happy to spend every day rockin’ out in front of the canvas, producing his own boldly interpreted landscape visions. For a change of pace, he’ll get together on the weekend with a buddy for a cold Heineken and “anything barbecued.” All in all, it’s a good, satisfying kind of existence. With maybe one exception… “Oddest thing is, I’ve had a couple of paintings Fine Galleries representing Clayton Anderson include:
Victoria, BC www.madronagallery.com 250.380.4660
Heffel Fine Art Auction House
Vancouver, BC www.heffel.com 604.732.6505
Calgary, AB www.gainsboroughgalleries.com 403.262.3715
Left page, Mosquito Lake, acrylic on canvas, 30” x 40” right page, Wickinninish Cove, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 20”
left page, Church, Quadra Island, acrylic on panel, 36” x 24” above right, Mount Van der Est, acrylic on canvas, 24"x 30"
right page, Rocky Beach, Quadra Island, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 30”
Previous Page, Thunderheads Over Bonnybrook, acrylic on canvas, 36” x 48” This Page right, Island Spirits, acrylic on canvas, 40” x 30”
left page, Kennedy Lake, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 24”