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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

FIELD OF DREAMS

Cartoonist Carl Clark more colourful than his characters

By Aunie Edwards
Special to The Toronto Sun


Few can rival the extraordinary career of Carl Clark -- artist, writer, teacher and irrepressible lover of life. Formally schooled in the shadow of the Group of Seven, published, prolific and internationally recognized, Clark embodies a fascinating collection of experiences showcasing his talent, enterprise and ingenuity.

"My first love was oil painting," Clark says. "I took courses under Arnold Hodgkins, who was a student of the Group of Seven, and as such I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with two of them -- A.J. Casson was generally miserable but Fred Varley was quite the opposite -- I much preferred Varley!"
Carl Clark


Clark still enjoys oil painting today, but not exclusively. "I sketch and I often do caricatures by request," Clark says.

Clark's work has landed him a backstage meeting with Red Buttons, as well as personal accolades from the great Jackie Gleason. And his caricature of Jeffrey Archer prompted an invitation to dine with the famed author.

Clark would eventually combine his sketching talents with his unorthodox personality to become a political cartoonist.

"I've been told I have strong opinions," Clark laughs. "So with tongue firmly in cheek, I spent four years working in newsprint."

Clark has also taught cartooning at Durham College and art class at three elementary schools.

"I enjoyed the kids," he laughs, "but I was constantly bringing home the flu -- I've never been so sick!"

Clark still teaches at his home and can be reached at carlinda@rogers.com.

Clark has collaborated with James Kirkconnell to create several children's videos -- classic fairy tales and the adventures of a crime fighter named Space Ghost. He also illustrates children's books.

It's no accident that the creative pursuit lies at the core of Clark's life, but the pattern in which his art has developed is as unscripted as it is colourful.

"Everything's been a bit of a fluke," Clark says. "For example, I was recently hired to do a mural -- what I didn't realize is that I'd just accepted a job at a laundromat. There I was, perched high on a ladder, painting a scene in acrylics, surrounded by the sights and sounds of a regular laundry day. And at night, I'd work on an oil portrait for which I'd also been commissioned."


By now, a pattern of rampant multi tasking should be emerging -- but it's only the tip of the iceberg. Clark has more than 2,700 of his pieces in five countries, and yet his resume would have us believe that he ran an art shop while he worked full time at an automotive plant.

Clark explains his "day job" as an accidental detour: "I worked at GM, supposedly for one summer, when I was 17. I met a girl, got married, bought a house. Before I knew it, I had a 30-year career in the industry, culminating in a management role -- all despite my best efforts to be a 'black sheep' artist!"

Never one to waste a creative opportunity, Clark drew from his "nine to five" experiences to publish a novel called The Killing Line. "It's about life, love and politics -- in an auto assembly plant, of course!"

A founding member of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and The Writers' Circle of Durham Region, Clark shows no signs of slowing down.

"I'm staring down the barrel of 68 years, and my wife is convinced that I've only just begun," Clark laughs.

One conversation with the artist is ample proof of his wife's prophecy -- so buckle in, don the shades and prepare for further brilliance.

(Aunie Edwards (a.edwards@rogers.com) is a Guelph-based freelance writer.)



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