Local abstract artist Ty Nathan Clark shares journey

After deciding to pursue his passion for art full time, local artist Ty Nathan Clark began to find his niche in abstract impressionism and inspiration from a variety of sources. Madison Day | Assistant News Editor

By Madison Day | Assistant News Editor

Poetry, Wind, Depth — these are the three words local abstract, impressionist artist Ty Nathan Clark might use to describe his artwork. Born in Sacramento, Calif., Clark moved to Texas 19 years ago with his wife, a Texas native. They lived in Austin for several years before moving to Waco about two years ago.

“As a working artist it’s a little difficult to be in the middle of nowhere — art wise at least,” Clark said. “But what also drew us to Waco was the fact there’s a university here. There are always new and fresh ideas present.”

With the success of Cultivate 7Twelve where his work has been featured and other galleries across town, Clark said he is excited about being a part of the artistic blossoming going on here.

“The seeds have been planted. You have more people moving here from outside of Texas with MFA’s and art degrees, looking to do art stuff. It’s an exciting time, because there’s nothing here, so if you’re a part of that foundation for the future, that’s really exciting,” Clark said.

Clark graduated from Azusa Pacific University’s school of Fine Arts and began his career in the marketing and public relations field, but he always had aspirations of becoming a full-time artist. Drawing inspiration from his uncle, world-renowned sculptor Conway “Jiggs” Pierson, Clark’s passion for art began around the young age of 3.

“I knew that someday art would be the main goal because I’ve always created, but never had the ability to do it more than weekends with business in the PR and marketing world. It just takes so much time,” Clark said. “When my wife and I had the chance to take a leap and give it a shot we did.”

Like his uncle, Clark started off creating sculptures and more traditional paintings. But once he began abstract painting, he fell in love with the art form and never looked back. However, he said he realizes that he has not yet truly found himself.

“I’m still trying to find myself as an artist— it takes forever to truly find your work as an artist,” Clark said. “A lot of young artists try to force that, and I think I learned, once I went full time, that it’s going to take a long time to really feel comfortable with your work. So I think I’m still trying to get there.”

Clark said he knows he will continue with abstract art, as he wants to be poetic and create mystery within his work, as opposed to painting something that is already defined for the viewer.

“I know the stories I want to tell, and I know what I hope the audience will receive when they look at my work. So now I’m just trying to figure out ways to really fit as much of a story into an abstract context that the audience can gain insight to, rather than just looking at it really quickly and saying I don’t get it,” Clark said.

Clark incorporates multiple mediums in his works.

“Putting things into the piece, whether that’s numbers or words or different layers and mediums like thread, cloth or canvas pieces—that causes them [the viewer] to spend a little extra time at the piece and contemplate it,” he said.

Clark said he gains inspiration for his work from his artistic role models, films, literature, thoughts, dreams and memories.

“Every body of work I do is based on a theme, and each body of work contains about 13 to 20 paintings. I have a list of different subjects or ideas that I want to paint on, and then what I will do is take that idea and go with it – my last series was on memories. It’s called lessons and remembering,” Clark said.

Clark immerses himself and study the topic he wants to paint on. Once he feels like he has a good understanding of the subject, he begins to paint and tell a story through the body of work.

“For about a month or two I would just study literature, nonfiction books on memory and the human brain. I watched films on memory, listened to music on memory and really just immersed myself in the theme,” Clark said. “Then I’ll start to write ideas from everything I’m reading and learning. I’ll write essays and write poetry on it.”

Clark said that a lot of young artists don’t want to study art history or don’t want to study people whose work is similar to theirs because they think they’re going to copy it or get too much influence from it. His advice to them is to do just the opposite.

“Every great artist copied the artist before them. There wasn’t an artist that was just completely original,” Clark said. “I do that constantly, I practice my favorite artist’s techniques or strokes, and then I adapt it to my own style.”

His biggest piece of advice to young creatives is to “just make art” and not worry about anything outside of what you’re creating. He said at one point he became so worried about how people would receive his art that he just sat and stared at a blank canvas for days.

“Then I read a quote that’s on my wall from Andy Warhol: ‘Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they like it or hate it. While they’re all deciding, just make even more art,’” Clark said.

Currently, Clark has artwork in the Sozo Gallery in Charlotte and in the Rude Gallery in Denver. He has art openings coming soon in Waco at Cultivate 7Twelve, in Austin and in Los Angeles at the Mash Gallery. Additionally, he has art dealers working in Miami and New York City.

Building his career, Clark has become more well-known throughout the Waco area, including among Baylor’s student community. Houston sophomore and art major Meredith Cagley is a fan of Clark’s work and loves the many textures and dimensions he uses.

“Clark utilizes various textures to create a layered and chaotic finish to his work that elicits a very complex and troubled emotion. The pieces feel like they are meant to resemble the chaotic and messy nature of human emotion, and he portrays this through his use of contrasting brush strokes and coloration. Each piece feels different from the next, just like every human experience feels different as we grow through them,” Cagley said.