The Artful Collector: “Where Are They Now? Spotlight on Alan M. Clark

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Alan M. Clark "Half-Scairt" Private commission completed 1988, Acrylic on hardboard 23.5" x 35"
Alan M. Clark “Half-Scairt” Private commission completed 1988, Acrylic on hardboard 23.5″ x 35″

It’s hard to believe that we met Alan 28 years ago – I think it was his first SF Worldcon – In Atlanta, GA.  He was just beginning his art career, and we were receptive collectors, attracted to the incredible variety and quality of artworks being generated by artists then working in the field.  The field was exploding with talent, and we were buying.  So it was very disappointing to us to learn – when we connived to get this new artist to show us his portfolio – that he had nothing for us to buy.  Everything we pointed at, was “gone.”  Ever resourceful (a trait we’ve learned, is a permanent trait), Alan sorta casually mentioned that he “had a dream” and that – if we were willing to provide the funds – he would be keen on making that “dream” into a painting.

The dream went something like this: “you know the way you sometimes see something from a distance that looks nothing like what it really is, when you get up close?  Well . . . that’s the way this dream was . . . I thought I saw a figure, a creepy, scary, dead thing, tangled in the fence of a pasture….almost human, mangled by crows, tattered from wind and rain, caught up in the barbed wire and left to rot. But then, as I drew closer, I could see it wasn’t that at all…merely bits and pieces of paper, twigs and leaves, that had accumulated in the spot over time.  And you know that feeling . . .  of being “half-scairt?”

If this wasn’t the first, it certainly was among the very first, of our private commissions.  Which hardly ever were infljuenced by our input.  Some images, we felt, deserved to be brought into existence, and by golly – this was one of them. Although the wait for them to be finished was hard on us.  Two years after we agreed to underwrite the painting of his dream, he delivered “Half-scairt”  – we were astounded to see it was exactly as good as we thought it would be!  Alan went on to paint others, in a similar style . . . in what he called his “Deadwood” series; hiding figures, camouflaging them among the obvious elements of a Southern forest, or swamp, and in the process developing a wholly distinctive, “Southern Gothic” style.  And most of these ended up on or in books, as illustrations.

Alan M. Clark "Banshee"
Alan M. Clark “Banshee” Interior Illustration titled “Little Washer Woman” for the art book, “Lands and Legends”, Michael Publishing. 2013. Acrylic on hardboard, 32″ x 24″

Even “Half-scairt” saw print as an interior illustration featured in “Not Broken, Not Belonging“, by Randy Fox & Alan M. Clark, published by Roadkill Press 1994.  It also won a Lunacon ’89 judge’s choice #1 horror best in show award, along the way.

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Alan returned there after receiving a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1979.  His father was a neurologist, his grandfather a head of the anatomy department at Vanderbilt University for many years, and there were several medical doctors in the family. These early associations would later greatly influence his writing, and art.  He definitely brought to his art a sensibility and approach that – just like many writers of the American South, whose stories are set there – are characterized by grotesque,macabre or fantastic elements.  Or, as he has always referred to it, “spooky art.”

Alan M. Clark LongAfterDaVinci.jpg
Alan M. Clark “Long After da Vinci” Cover art for “The Rising: Selected Scenes from the End of the World” Deadite Press. 2012. Acrylic on board, 18″ x 12″

His “Imagination Fully Dilated” Vols 1, II (1998, 2000), and “Pain Doctors of Suture Self General” (1995) were memorable tour de force of dark fantasy, set to a forensic pathologist’s tune.  For his newest anthology, “Imagination Fully Dilated: Science Fiction” seventeen authors each chose one of Alan’s many science fiction paintings to base a story on – proving that strong images can inspire great writing.  Or, as Alan says, “Art is never the product of a single mind but occurs instead when imaginations meet.”

Alan is a rarity: he loves to collaborate on projects, he loves to “do his own thing” (writing and publishing), and he is equally successful as a purely “freelance” artist.  His artwork has appeared on books for publishers as diverse as Ace Books and Night Shade Books, ROC and Cemetery Dance Publications, McGraw-Hill and Borderlands Press.

Alan M. Clark "In the Night, in the Dark" Cover art for the Double Down book, "Only the Thunder Knows/East End Girls" 2013, Acrylic on hardboard, 16" x 24”
Alan M. Clark “In the Night, in the Dark” Cover art for the Double Down book, “Only the Thunder Knows/East End Girls” 2013, Acrylic on hardboard, 16″ x 24”

His magazine work includes covers and interiors for Amazing Stories, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, Cemetary Dance, and Weird Tales.Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His company, IFD Publishing, established 1999, has released 6 traditional books and 23 ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. In publishing he is partnered with Elizabeth Engstrom and Eric Witchey in putting out ebooks.

Alan M. Clark "Out of the Deep" Personal work, 2014. Acrylic on hardboard, 2'x4'
Alan M. Clark “Out of the Deep” Personal work, 2014. Acrylic on hardboard, 2’x4′

Today, Alan is still writing, illustrating, and publishing –  In fact, his writing is “realy taking off” as he puts it, and you can find links to it all, books – art – blog at www.ifdpublishing.com  Alan’s 8th novel, “Say Anything but Your Prayers” comes out from Lazy Fascist Press in August, 2014. It’s the second in his Jack the Ripper victim series, about the lives of the canonical Ripper victims. He is really “into” historical fiction about dreadful events in history, he says . . . his last novel “The Door that Faced West” came out early 2014, and was about very early American serial or “spree” killers of the Tennessee and Kentucky frontier.  He is also beginning to illustrate his books…something he didn’t want to do, at first.  But “now it’s time to start”

Alan M. Clark "'the Underground in Ruins" Personal work, 2014. Acrylic on hardboard, 2' x 4'
Alan M. Clark “‘the Underground in Ruins” Personal work, 2014. Acrylic on hardboard, 2′ x 4’

Something else that’s new…are what he calls his controlled accident abstracts.  These large, original paintings are in acrylic on hardboard, each 2 ft. x 4 ft. . . . worked in both horizontal and vertical formal . . . and each is “one of a kind.”  These paintings are a new and exciting departure for Alan, totally unlike his illustrative work, and just like his early gothic paintings, they encourage viewers to seek out and find the images hidden within . . .ask him about them and you will hear a wonderful story!

Alan M. Clark "The Deeper the Puddle" Personal work, 2014. Acrylic on hardboard, 2'x 4'
Alan M. Clark “The Deeper the Puddle” Personal work, 2014. Acrylic on hardboard, 2’x 4′

 

 

 

 

 

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