Sit and Look Into The Light
Artist: Robert James Clarke
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As a small boy Robert James Clarke was bitten by a large German Shepherd and the memory of this incident stayed with him throughout his childhood. Being around dogs was never something that he was comfortable with and so it is ironic that the celebrated artist is known for his works of dog portraiture and has won him acclaim within many prestigious galleries of London and New York. Clarke, is a skilled draftsman and a visual artist and has for many years worked in various fields of Creative industries, he is regularly commissioned to portrait celebrities’ canine friends.
Born in Luton in 1963, Robert James Clarke showed early artistic promise by winning local art competitions and completing ‘O Level’ and ‘A Level’ art before the age of 16. After a foundation course at Barnfield, Clarke was one of the few to be accepted to study at St Martin’s College of Art. Clarke’s large abstract canvases and animal drawings were displayed in group and solo exhibitions in Cork Street, London and Galleria Pointe, Hamburg in 1990 but his “work was changing and becoming more and more figurative.”
Artists are generally poor and not cash rich, often breaks in the creative industry are hard to get. And so it was that Clarke like so many artists, needed a regular salary to enable him to live in a decent home and pay his rent and bills and found other work to enable him to continue painting in his spare time. After a spell of teaching, Clarke decided to move to advertising at Magic Hat and remained with them for 6 years as Senior Art Director before returning to figurative and bird paintings full time and he opened the gallery PEA in Clerkenwell, London in 2001. It was then that Clarke’s then girlfriend made the decision to bring 2 puppies into the family. After spending most of his life in fear of dogs this decision was not taken lightly at home and for a while it was a great cause for concern for him. However, Clarke inevitably found himself attending puppy classes, in meeting other dogs and puppies he found that socialising with other owners and watching their interaction with their beloved four legged companions he soon gained confidence around other dogs and his fear and the memory of that time before vanished.
Clarke’s bird paintings were regularly sold at FRANK, Kent and Elphicks Gallery in London, but it wasn't until a client who noticed his work asked, “does he do dogs?” that Clarke’s career in canine paintings took off. Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London & New York signed Clarke a month after his first painting of a Smooth Fox Terrier was sent to the gallery as a Christmas card.
Since the success of his first solo exhibition ‘A-Z of Dogs’, Clarke has held exhibitions both sides of the Atlantic and has been commissioned for his dog paintings in Los Angeles, Miami, New York and London. He has painted a number of well known dogs including Kate Moss’s Archie, Alan Carr’s Bev and Joyce, Tim Walker’s Stig, as well as Fergie’s (Black Eyed Peas) and Meatloaf’s canine friends. Clarke has also recently appeared on Chanel 4's "Posh Dogs" programme which gave a "fly on the wall" insight into the world of dogs and their owners. He meets his human clients at home with their dogs and talks about their personality traits, their habits, and their luxury dog collars and designer dog beds. He takes away with him his notes and a favourite photograph to the client of their dog to work on in his studio.
Clarke is working with London Charities such as Wild At Heart Foundation, I Heart Whippets, Senior Sighthounds and All Dogs Matter to help raise the profile of dogs needing fostering and adoption that may have been abandoned or in desperate need of forever homes. His most recent exhibition entitled Rescue Meexhibition was celebrated at the Julian Hartnoll Gallery, London in April in which he very kindly painted 5 of the Wild At Heart Foundation Dogs to raise much needed funding for all of the above charities. His philanthropic work has gone onto help dogs in need and yes by special request of Robert all dogs were most welcome to attend with their humans at his exhibition.
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Robert James Clarke Art www.robertjamesclarkeart.com
Wild At Heart Foundation: Funding & Supporting Animal Wellfare Around the Globe www.wildatheartfoundation.org
I Heart Whippets: 2 biannual on-line auctions to raise funding for rescue whippets www.iheartwhippets.co.uk
Senior Sighthound Project: Raising funding for whippets and greyhounds www.sighthoundezine.co.uk
All Dogs Matter: London based dog rescue centre www.alldogsmatter.co.uk