Metro-East Living

Most of this artist’s paints are transparent, but his final product is full of color

Art on the Square artist Scott Clark talks about his oil paintings

Scott Clark, an artist who will be part of this year's Art on the Square in downtown Belleville for the first time, talks about his oil paintings that take about a year to make and can have anywhere from 50 to 60 layers of paint.
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Scott Clark, an artist who will be part of this year's Art on the Square in downtown Belleville for the first time, talks about his oil paintings that take about a year to make and can have anywhere from 50 to 60 layers of paint.

His canvas is often birch, and most of his paint is transparent. The final effect is colorful nonetheless and widely open to interpretation.

Scott Clark likes it that way.

What may remind one viewer of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” might remind another of a landscape from his or her childhood. Clark may find that it evokes a completely different memory or emotion for him, but he’s not offended by others’ interpretations.

“I think that’s kind of the purpose of art, it drives us to an emotion ... drawing on experience of that person,” he said. “And one way you look at a piece or work, it may be different a year from now.”

“That’s the purpose of art — poetry, music, sculpture, whatever it may be.”

Clark, of Columbia, is a native of Belleville and currently principal at Forder Elementary in St. Louis. He’s been showing his work in galleries since the early 2000s, and treats his art as something much more than a hobby but not quite a full vocation. Maybe after he’s retired from education he can, he says, but for now he enjoys the relationships in both worlds too much.

“This is what I do at midnight,” he jokes of his art career.

I think that’s kind of the purpose of art, it drives us to an emotion.

Scott Clark, artist at Art on the Square

He starts with a plank of birch wood, working a thick layer of oil paint onto the wood in his 225-square-foot studio that he built. That oil will later provide dimension to the final piece. Clark lets that dry for two weeks to harden, then starts adding layers of nearly transparent paint. Each layer dries for two days, and he puts on 50 to 60 layers. The final product is often a study of light and shadow, with the title giving a hint as to the emotion it may evoke.

He started a series more than two years ago called, “A Beginning and an End.” Pieces started early in his wife’s pregnancy, and the series ended with the birth of their son. They include “For You, Anything” and “We Came Back Changed.”

Another series — “Your Secret Is Safe With Me” — he says “recognized the traumatic and often tragic circumstances experienced by individuals who have confided in me.” It’s a nod to his 17-year career in the Mehlville School District.

The color draws them in, then they see the title and that invokes some sort of memory or emotion.

Scott Clark, artist at Art on the Square

He had been a somewhat serious art student earlier in life, but began struggling with his figure artwork. He got away from it for a while, concentrating on school, but found himself drawing sketches when he was interviewing a hearing-impaired student for one of his final classes. A couple of years later, he pulled out those drawings.

“These would translate well to abstract,” he said he thought at the time. In 2009, he started the series of paintings called “Senses.”

“Never before has it flowed so well,” he said of his art.

Because of the way his paintings are created, it’s impossible for him to replicate — “There’s 50 to 60 layers. Did I use blue or green? I don’t know” — and he does not want to do prints of his works.

He finds it hard to take commissions, finding that same struggle to create as he did before he went to abstract. He’ll take commissions based on colors, but knows he’ll “overthink it.”

This is his first time as an artist at Art on the Square, having been a spectator since the beginning. He’s excited to meet art lovers and converse with other artists, and he knows abstract painting takes a little adjustment for some folks.

“The color draws them in, then they see the title and that invokes some sort of memory or emotion,” he said.

Art on the Square starts at 5 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday in downtown Belleville, around Public Square.

Abstract painter Scott Clark

  • Where: Art on the Square in downtown Belleville this weekend
  • Online: https://www.scottclarkartwork.com/
  • Price range: 4-by-4-inch all-natural works — ochre from his travels in Roussillon, France, and paper made himself from hosta plants in his yard — for $60. He expects to have 2-by-4-foot pieces for sale for about $700, and other pieces that are 18-by-24 inches for $250.
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