Representing One's Community and Culture Through Art - 10 Questions with Emerging Visual Artist Christopher Clark
Christopher Clark is an emerging visual artist. His body of work celebrates black identity and captures the roots of black culture and its beauty. Clark uses various mediums such as acrylic and watercolor paints, ink, and mixed media. In the past twelve months he has participated in group exhibits at Downtown Cigar Lounge and Delo Studios.
In 2015 Clark embarked on a project to write and illustrate a children's book. The book's main character was inspired by his daughter, who at the time was 3 years old. Clark's objective was clear as he started work on the book. He wanted to make a story where the main character looked like his daughter and other children in their community.
Clark finished writing and illustrating his debut children's book, titled "Glonda's Hair," in early 2017. The narrative focuses on Glonda, a young African American girl and, as the title suggests, her hair. Clark uses the book as a teaching tool, encouraging young girls to embrace their natural looks and celebrate their individual beauty.
Clark received a proof copy of "Glonda's Hair" and is now working with a publishing company to secure distribution. Clark has also begun working on his second book, titled "The Little Artist," which will be a children's book of poetry paying homage to the authors of Clark's youth, such as Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein. Like "Glonda's Hair," "The Little Artist" is inspired by his daughter.
Clark isn't just an artist and a father. He is also an advocate for young black artists. Clark invests in his community by serving as a mentor, providing guidance to black youth interested in the arts.
10 Questions with Christopher Clark
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
When starting a new project I like to just let the ideas flow. A lot of times, when I’m painting for instance, I like to make it up as I go. I get bored with routines and patterns. I like to create a different way each time.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic endeavors?
Through my artistic endeavors I’ve learned that if I challenge myself then I’m capable of some amazing things. There have been a few times when I really surprised myself. With certain paintings I take a step back to admire them and I’m like, “Wow I did that”!
I’ve also learned to manage my time more wisely and that I need to have all of my plans written out, sort of like a blueprint.
How do you define success in what you do?
Success to me is being able to make a living doing what I love. Staying consistent and continuing to put out great work for the world to see.
How has fatherhood impacted your art?
My girls are the center of everything I do. A lot of the artwork I create is geared around them. I want to make sure they know as little black girls they are beautiful, intelligent, and can do whatever they put their minds to. I want to surround them with images of greatness. They really inspire me a lot from the paintings I create to children’s books. They make making art fun!
What role does social media play when engaging your audience and sharing your work?
In my opinion social media is crucial in this day and age. My career wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for social media. I primarily use Instagram and I’ve been able to connect with people from all over the world. I’ve sold and shipped artwork to France, Switzerland, and Australia. I’ve also been interviewed and featured in magazines and blogs in London.
Without social media I don’t think these opportunities would have been available to me. I’ve met so many people from other artists, to gallery owners, collectors, and curators. I have made many valuable relationships through social media.
What do you feel are some of the pros and cons of crowdsourcing an arts project?
Using GoFundMe to raise funds for Glonda was my first time using crowdsourcing, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But I think it worked out pretty good. I created something that I believed in and to my surprise many other people believed in it too.
One of the pros was being able to reach so many people. I was even contacted by a publishing company called Mascot Books. They saw my Gofundme campaign and want to publish my story.
Of course a con would be not reaching your goal, but everything helps. I’m thankful that so many people believed in my vision enough to want to help bring it to life. I’m very appreciative.
Can you describe the emotions you felt when you first held the proof copy of "Glonda's Hair" in your hands?
Aww man, when I received it I didn’t want to take it out of the plastic. I felt like I had just won the lottery or something. To see something that started as an idea inspired by my daughter come to life was more than amazing. It just made it more real to me. I really wrote and illustrated my own children’s book.
When the proof arrived I surprised her by bringing it to her school when I went to pick her up. Her teacher loved it and so did all of her little friends. My daughter’s face was priceless when she saw the book. How cool is it to be a 5 year old and be the main character in your very own book?
Now that "Glonda's Hair" is complete, how do you plan to market the book and get it into the hands of the public?
I’ve been using social media to market it since the day I created it. I’m working on a website for it now where it will be available for purchase. The publishing company I’m using will have it listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble's website. I also plan to go to different elementary schools to promote the book as part of a tour. I already have a few schools and community centers interested in purchasing copies too. It’s going to do great!
You are an advocate for black arts and volunteer as a mentor to aspiring young black artists. What type of encouragement did you receive as a young artist and what value have you gained by serving as a mentor to others?
As a young artist I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great mentors myself. My mentors instilled me with the importance of staying true to myself and my artistic style. They taught me to not be afraid to represent my community and culture in my art.
Mentoring has taught me the importance of giving back. I learn just as much from the children as they learn from me. It's important for young artists to see someone who looks like them, is from the same place as them, and has a similar upbringing to them. It lets them know that their dreams are possible.
On social media you recently posed the questions "what makes good art good art?" How do you answer your own question?
To me good art is more than just visually pleasing. Good art is something that you can feel. It’s something that you can relate to, something that inspires you, and something that moves you. Good art draws your attention and makes you think. Good art makes you not only use your eyes but also your mind and your heart.