WOODBURY — Bruce S. Clark has been obsessed with color his whole life. That fascination stayed with him through his childhood, his teaching years, and started him on his career as a self-taught painter.
“As a child, I was always enthralled by the effects of kaleidoscopes, the color spectrum, and all things vivid and electrifying to the eye,” Clark explains, “even jelly beans and purie marbles — anything that displayed vibrant colors. Although I’ve had no formal training as an artist, the desire to work within the genre of colored abstracts gnawed at my creative soul. It began as an outlet to offset my mundane work and obligation. And I found excitement and joy in creating these abstract images of vivid colors and putting them on canvas.”
That call to paint came to Clark over 50 years ago and has been creating art ever since.
Clark and his wife moved from Vermont to Connecticut in 1961, when he began teaching at the Pettibone School in New Milford. In 1968 he was drafted into the Vietnam War and was stationed in Alaska for two years. He went back to teaching and retired 21 years ago. But he was always painting as often as he could.
“It all began in 1970,” explains Clark. “I had a bed board because I have a bad back. I took the board and got some cheap paints and just started creating. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I loved it.”
And it has become an obsession. He believes he has about 180 paintings stored in his basement and there are some 30 more on display in his house. Needless to say, they are filled with abstract shapes and vivid colors.
“My wife keeps asking me to do a pastel for her and I just can’t do it.”
Clark paints because he loves it.
“Initially I wasn’t interested in selling them,” says Clark. “But people kept saying that I should. I’ve exhibited at a few local libraries and mounted a show at Marty’s Café in Washington Depot. And I have a show with about 18 paintings at the Woodbury Public Library, which will be up for the month of October.”
Although he has never taken lessons, Clark is inspired by many of the great modernist masters, particularly Jackson Pollack.
“He is always on my mind,” says Clark. “and I try to emulate his work in my own style. Sometimes during the night certain colors will come to me and it’s an inspiration for my next work. Once I start something it seldom turns out the way I envisioned it. But that’s what makes it fun. I’ve used paste, sand, many different techniques. I never stop experimenting. Some people don’t know how I make them and I won’t tell them.”
And he never stops painting — well, hardly ever. He usually paints in the evening, but an idea can strike him at any time. He creates his art in the basement, primarily on the floor or a table, which he finds more comfortable than working on an easel.
“Once I get started on something I can’t stop; it becomes an obsession. I work until it’s done — sometimes an hour, sometimes two days. I have no idea when I start what it will look like in the end.”
In addition to his mania for painting, Clark is an avid reader and finishes about 100 books a year. And, you guessed it, a lot of them deal with art and artists.
There were and are a lot of crazy artists,” he says, “especially some of the early masters. But they were limited in what they could do, there were certain styles of painting they all adhered to. I would hate to be that rigid. That’s why I try everything I can think of to keep me inspired.”
Clark paints primarily with acrylics.
“They are much easier to us than oil; they hide a multitude of sins and you can paint over them.”
His paintings come in a range of sizes — depending on his whim and what is available to use at the time he has an inspiration — anywhere from 3 x 5, to 24 x 36. He also dabbles in metal sculpting.
“I have some sculptures in my yard. People seemed to like them, although I had never learned to weld. I just made them out of old pieces of metal I found. I dragged them out of the basement and painted them. I try to make use of everything I find.”
And that’s what keeps him inspired.
For more information about Clark’s current show at the Woodbury Public Library, 269 Main Street South, Woodbury, through the month of October, visit www.woodburylibraryct.org.