ART IS MY SU­PER­POWER

Arabella - - CLAYTON ANDERSON - writ­ten by Sheila Bla­grave

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:

Madrona Gallery

Vic­to­ria, BC www.madron­a­gallery.com 250.380.4660

Hef­fel Fine Art Auc­tion House

Van­cou­ver, BC www.hef­fel.com 604.732.6505

Gains­bor­ough Gal­leries

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”

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