12/20/13 By Janessa Osle
Martin Clarke, talented Western Australian artist and author of Oil & Acrylic: Oceans & Seascapes, discovered his artistic talents later in life. After training and working in the field of science for many years, Martin accidentally stumbled into the world of painting in 2001. His introduction to art was a bit unorthodox—he had just built a new house that had a lot of bare walls and, because he couldn't afford to buy any new art, he decided to throw some color on the walls himself.
After his first few raw abstracts, Martin was captivated by art and wanted to improve and sharpen his skills. "I got hooked—I read a lot, participated in forums, and painted like crazy! Eventually pieces started improving to the point where people started buying them—much to my amazement," says Martin.
Many of Martin's favorite artists, including Larry Mitchell, Andrew Tischler, Jim Thallasoudis, Dave Brayshaw, Daniel Hutchings, Clyde Aspevig, and Scott Christensen, have been a source of inspiration because of their beautiful renditions of land and seascapes. "Each of the above has inspired me to try to improve my color, composition, and realism. Whenever I need a lift, I look at their works," says Martin. As for other important people in his life, Martin has been fortunate enough to have the unceasing support of his wife and two galleries, Boranup Gallery and Wills Domain, in Western Australia.
Although he started out working in acrylics, Martin switched to oil painting six years ago and has stuck with it. "I enjoy the long open time, the technical challenges, and its versatility," says Martin.
Even though Martin has experimented with still lifes, portraits, and landscapes, his favorite subject to paint is the ocean. "It has a thousand moods, changes incessantly, and is a constant challenge," says Martin. Having been a surfer for over 40 years, Martin has an affinity for seascapes and believes that, because of his long familiarity with the sea, he is able to bring something original to his work.
When it comes to composition, Martin spends a lot of time thinking about the scene he wants to create. "I have a reference library of about 20,000 photos—plein air does not suit the size of the pieces I paint—and I'll often pick elements of various photos and mix them to produce the scene I want," says Martin. He tries to maintain a good balance by having a focal area of interest and strong supporting elements. According to Martin, "Where possible, I'll make use of paths to lead the eye to my focal area—I have recently done a number of pieces featuring beach stairs, which create an excellent path to my focal point." He also pays close attention to color harmony and light.
Like every good artist, Martin is continuously improving his skills by challenging himself and painting similar scenes repeatedly until he is satisfied with them. "The sense of realism in my paintings has improved, largely because of better use of color and more appreciation for value and chroma," says Martin. Even though he has encountered failures, Martin sees them as good opportunities for learning and growth.
In order to stay motivated as an artist, Martin likes to look at the works of other great artists, preferably in a gallery, which inspires him to start painting again and to try to achieve results equal to those of the great artists. Working full time though makes juggling work, family, sports, and painting a challenge. "But there is rarely a wasted moment in my life, and I certainly never get bored," says Martin.
In addition to painting, Martin enjoys surfing and cycling—riding over 200 miles a week! He also enjoys the occasional race to challenge himself physically. Being a very well-rounded individual, Martin also likes reading (mainly science fiction), listening to science and history podcasts, watching movies, and traveling with his wife. With a daughter living in Los Angeles, the U.S. is on his list of places to visit.
For artists just starting out, Martin advises to read everything you can about painting, go to art galleries, study brushwork, and learn as much as possible about color. Subject matter is also extremely important—Martin believes that you should pick a subject for which you have an affinity, one that excites and stimulates you. "Experiment and don't worry about failure. Don't listen to detractors and those who only offer negative critiques. Seek a mentor or someone who can offer a critically positive eye—my wife has been totally invaluable in this regard," says Martin. He also advises that success is not instant, so paint, paint, and then paint some more! "The road to good work can be long and hard with many pitfalls, but it's also an amazing, stimulating adventure, which can be very rewarding personally, intellectually, and even financially," says Martin.
The main message Martin wants to send out to novice artists is "Go for it!" You never know what you're capable of until you try, and art truly enhances and enriches one's life in so many ways.
Janessa is Assistant Editor at Walter Foster Publishing. With strong opinions about everything, Janessa has an insatiable appetite for life and a profound love for the Ramones (and music in general), literature, art, nature, and her cats.
Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!
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