The Warrior Artist Podcast [17] ”The art world is watching’ – Ty Clark shares his creative journey

Ty Clark

Ty Clark is a visual artist, film maker, sculptor and writer based in Waco, Texas.  He produced an award winning film, Jump Shoot and is currently working on a documentary series.  He began a Mentorship Programme in 2021, through which he has mentored 49 artists from 17 countries. He recently wrote his first novel . He has exhibited extensively and is represented in many major US cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Basketball scholarship

Ty went to college on a basket ball scholarship. His early dream was to play basketball professionally and also to be an artist and writer.  “That was one of my big goals as a kid.. I really wanted to get a scholarship.. and I wanted to play professional. ..I also wanted to be an artist and a writer. ..I had goals from a very young age to do those three things more than anything else.”

Art was valued in his family

Ty grew up in family where art was valued and his uncle Conway Pearson was a renowned sculptor. “I grew up always drawing, always creating..I would look at the big coffee table art books with my grandfather as a kid, those guys became my heroes. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be in a book that my grandfather would look at ”

Falling in love with painting

“I always created and I started out in ceramics..because of my uncle. ..when I got to art school and college, I fell in love with painting because I fell in love in the early Nineties with Jean Michel Basquiat after Julian Schnabel’s film came out… I never turned back from painting at that point.”

Ty initially starting drawing representationally.  “I loved to draw animals when I was a child, and I would draw people… I’d sit at the airport and I’d draw people. At the train station, I’d draw people.”

Abstraction

“I fell in love with abstraction after I saw some paintings in the photography teacher’s classroom Kim Morgan, that prisoners at Folsom Prison had done..that really shifted my whole move into abstraction at that point.”

Studio

“I’ve had a studio in every space you can think of. And I always tell artists, it doesn’t matter where your studio is, there’s no excuse to not make art.  [Currently] I’ve got a pretty large space right now with really big walls and two massive rooms that I’m able to create in with a small office as well.”

Studio Practice

Music is a critical part of Ty’s studio practice. “Music is a massive muse for me, a big part of my routine. ..if I’m working on a body of work..I’ll create a playlist that really fits in that theme emotionally for me. It could be classical, could be jazz, it could be new wave music, it could be Brit pop, it could be anything. I listen to everything…I’ll kind of create based on emotion or memories and periods of life that that music would have influenced.”

The importance of spending time with his work

“I just kind of spend some time walking around and breathing, kind of just a spiritual moment where I’m able to kind of walk around in prayer or thought and thinking about what I’m going to do today, how the work looks. .. let the work talk to you. She has a lot to say… I try to be very thoughtful with my work when I’m in the studio and I spend time looking and listening before I even hit the go button.”

Developing a body of work

Ty always works on developing a body of work.  “If I’m working on a body of work, multiple paintings that have a story or a theme behind it, which is how I work when I’m creating, every piece of work I work on fits in a body of pieces that would be their own solo show.”

Working towards solo exhibitions

“I’m always working in that way with..the goal of getting that work into a solo exhibition. That doesn’t mean I’m not removing pieces from that body of work to give to my art dealers or to put in a group show .. My focus is, if I can continually create bodies of work that can fit their own space, I’m ready. When a gallery or a museum calls me and says, we’d love to have you do a show, I can pitch one of these that I’ve done recently.”

Being organised for success

Ty is extremely organised.  He tracks his entire inventory since 2015 and knows where everything is.  He reserves Mondays for admin.  His advice for artists is: ‘be organised, keep track of your stuff, update your inventory work on your website.”

“Being organised definitely helps because you don’t want to forget where that work is. If you don’t know where your work is, sometimes it disappears or you never get it back. I’ve had some pretty terrible stories for work being mismanaged, lost, stuck in storage, gallery owner splits the country and all your work is stuck in his storage. And they’re gone. And the FBI gets involved..The art world’s crazy!”

Storage

“I’ve painted over older work to reuse canvases. I’ve flipped them over and painted on the other side of work. I have it all cataloged by image and date, name and everything. And then some of it is rolled and some of it’s sitting in my storage.”

 

Dealers versus galleries

Ty has relationships with art dealers and galleries in several US cities.  “For an art dealer, it’s different than a gallery or a museum .. because they’re looking at specific clientele. ..Their range of selection is going to be quite a bit broader ..than a gallery or museum.”

Dealers may be online only or they may have a physical space.  ‘Some… art dealers have a physical space where they actually I ship the work..they work with corporate clients, hotels, offices, interior designers, and then private clients as well. [Some] dealers ..just have an online presence..they may ask for four or five pieces under contract for three months, six months that they have up on their website…They don’t have a contract. So if I sell one [of those paintings], I just let them know, [so that] they can.. remove it from their catalogue.

Instagram

Ty has consistently used Instagram to showcase his work.  He maintains this is how he found galleries and dealers.  He was an early adopter of Instagram. “I just happened to be really fortunate to really start pushing my art story on Instagram right after Instagram started. I had read the book ‘Show Your Work‘ by Austin Kleon and had also fallen in love with everything that the American female painter Heather Day was doing on Instagram at the time. She’s really the case study for artists on Instagram. She was the first artist to truly use Instagram in a magnificent way that propelled her art career to incredible heights.” Ty started ‘telling [his] story through [his] work, through video and photos and studio on Instagram. He says “Pretty much everything I’ve had has come from Instagram.”

Ty says that the power of Instagram is that it allows “the viewer to really connect with the artist and their process. Instagram means the viewer “can follow this journey of this artist and what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. It’s magical.”

Even though Instagram is not as easy to grow as the early years, Ty believes “it’s still such a phenomenal option that I truly do believe is a fantastic tool for artists to be discovered. If you’re doing it well and you’re taking good photographs of your work, you can still be discovered on Instagram. And I know the art world is watching.”

Ty has made recording his painting process part of his studio practice. “It took discipline to not feel awkward of setting up a camera, to film myself painting and those things. ..Finally, it just became routine. .. I just set up my camera when I go in the studio, get my music going, do my thinking and looking, and every layer, I just grab the tripod and move it to a different section. It’s just become I don’t even think about it. It’s just all part of the flow now.”  Ty records his entire painting process  “I’ve got hard drives full of the last eight years, nine years of pretty much every painting that I’ve done or sculpture”.

Overcoming the fear of trying something new

Ty has recently experimented with a large installation for a two person exhibition.  “I’ve continually been sketching and thinking of large scale ideas for sculptures and installations. ..There’s a lot of fear of trying something new for us as artists because we’re stronger at certain things than others.”

“I wanted to do an installation or a large scale sculpture.. I didn’t know where to start… I had all these ideas, and I just finally went, you got to start….I went and bought a bunch of wire fencing… I just went for it and started meshing the wire together and sculpting…it’s been so joyful and just such an incredible experience.’

On rejection

“I take the Sylvia Plath method of all my rejection letters, they prove that I’m trying. ..I’ve applied to so many residencies .. it’s probably a 95% rejection rate. If I’m not applying and getting rejected, I’m not trying to get out there. ..I’m just going to keep trying. It’s part of the game. You’re never going to get a yes if you don’t get a ton of no’s.”

on courses telling artists how to sell work

Ty doesn’t believe in all the online courses saying they can help artists sell their work.  ‘how to sell art? There is no quick answer for that. That’s the most difficult thing. ..that’s BS. You can give ideas, but man, it’s the art that sells.”

 

Mentorship programme

Ty set up a mentorship programme during the pandemic and has to date worked with 49 artists from 17 countries. His focus is to help the artist focus on the foundations of a studio practice.

“We talk about the practical things. What does the art world look for? How does it change all the time? How do you get into galleries? What are ways that have worked for me, how to find an audience, how to do things in a way that an audience finds you. .. What does the art world look for? What are the things that are going to build fear and build resistance in you, how to look out for them, how to really pay attention to your work, how to study art, how to fall in love with studying art in a way that teaches you about your work as well…I really just want the artists to really have an incredible knowledge of art period, art history, art technique”

The importance of community support for artists

“Community is just so vital for artists… when you have that big win, when you get into the show or you sell a piece or a curator sends you a message on Instagram, for somebody who truly understands how absolutely life changing that feels for you is massive. Because our spouses or our partners or our friends outside the art world, they’re excited, but they don’t truly, truly get what that means.”

 

Books

Ty loves reading books about artists and art history.  His top recommendations for artists are How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz, The war of art by Steven Pressfield,  Show Your Work, Austin Kleon, Art and Fear by Ted Orland and David Bayless and Ninth street women by Mary Gabriel.

Ty has recently written a fictional book about an artist. “For the last two years, I’ve been pitching to literary agents. So there we go, back again to rejection slips, which luckily I’m used to as an artist. So for me as a writer, getting rejected, that emotional burden. I’ve learned that this just is part of the game.”

Advice

The best advice Ty received was from American sculptor, William Catling, who he studied under.  Catling told him:  “Going into the art world and doing this full time is going to be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done in your life, and it will also be the most soul giving and life giving. And he said, you’re going to experience failure, you’re going to experience hardships, rejection, but when things happen, you’re going to experience absolute joy.”

Ty’s advice for emerging artists: “don’t give up, keep going, don’t quit! Find a way to continue to make art even if you don’t have the money to do it. You can find something, find it in the garbage. Use cardboard, right? Use Koolaid. Use juice, coffee, tea to paint. Don’t quit. Keep creating. And if you’re an artist who’s actively creating, go look at art. Go see art. Go to galleries, go to museums. Show up. Especially if you’re in a city where there is art. If you’re in an art town, you have no excuses…If you’re an artist, go to shows, go to museums. Embrace it.”

Ty’s two person exhibition, ‘Of Warm Impermanence’ with artist friend, Vy Ngo, runs until 22 July 2023 in Arts Center Waco, Texas .

See more of Ty’s work on Instagram: @tynathanclark and his website: www.tynathanclark.com

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