Black Visual Artist Chat – Christopher Clark

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With his voluminous creative ability, Christopher Clark is able to spread his talents across both the musical and fine arts arenas. His artwork evokes feelings of unshakeable pride and gratitude towards people of the African Diaspora. Gain a detailed perspective of this remarkable emerging black artist in our conversation about his personal narrative and artistic journey.

Me: Can you speak on the significance of using art as a form of activism?

Chris: I’m normally a quiet person, but I think with art you’re able to say things that a lot of people feel that they can’t say. So, you’re able to put it in your art and touch on sensitive topics that people normally wouldn’t be comfortable speaking on.

Me: Definitely! I know all of your work reflects people of the African diaspora so that’s pretty much where the question came from. For example, one of your most recent pieces I saw on IG was called Prey. Can you talk more about that?

Chris: Oh yea, that one was actually a drawing I did a few years ago at work (laughing) and I turned it into a painting. I was looking for something to paint and I found that old drawing and decided to paint it. That piece symbolizes young black men in America and how they’re seen as prey in this country and America is the predator. It’s actually the biggest one I’ve done so far which was 48 by 60 inches.

Prey. #chocolatecitycomics #nubiamancy #youngblackartists #supportblackart

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Chris: There’s another piece I did with Bill Cosby and Nate Parker which ruffled a lot of feathers. I put it on Facebook and it went viral. I got called all kinds of names especially from black women and those in the feminist community. I also got a lot of positive feedback too, I don’t regret doing it though. I like to make pieces that make you think and start dialogues. Even if you have to cuss me out, you’re going to remember that artwork.

Me: Exactly! Just to piggyback off of what you were saying, it’s so necessary to start those dialogues within our community. Just to be able to have the types of conversations about issues that we’re going through and create a platform for them helps spark resolutions for us all.

Chris: Definitely! I also try to make sure I do a lot of positive things about our culture as well like those embracing natural hair because I have daughters. So, I like to depict positive images of women for them. I also want to show the younger black artists that they can paint and draw who they are, black is cool. I’m here to tell our story and put my thoughts and feelings into the art, so it’s kind of like journalism in a way. I always liked political cartoons growing up that portrayed current events but in an artform. Everyone doesn’t read newspapers or likes to read Time Magazine. I put those same things that you might see in a magazine or a newspaper into my art so you can get the same message.

“I’m here to tell our story and put my thoughts and feelings into the art, so it’s kind of like journalism in a way.”

Me:  That’s excellent man, many praises to you for that! Are there any other pieces you’d like to touch on that reflect the activism aspect when it comes to dealing with all of the different issues that black people face?

Chris: I’ve done pieces touching on a lot of issues especially with the police brutality and the shootings such as those of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Jordan Davis down here in Jacksonville, Florida. There was a drawing that I did of a protest showing people holding a sign that says, ‘We just want to be left alone.’ I think that’s how the majority of us feel, we just want to be at peace.

Me: Wow, yea those are some powerful pieces! Describe your upbringing, where you’re originally from – when you started painting, family background, and education.

Chris: I saw that you had a New Jersey number and I was actually born in Newark, New Jersey. My Dad played Football for Florida State University so we moved to Florida shortly after I was born. So I grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. I’ve been drawing pretty much since I could pick up a pencil. I also play music as well. I get my drawing ability from my Mom and I get the music talent from my Dad. Those were two things I did a lot of the time growing up. I was the only child at first before my siblings came. After they came I still felt like I was the only child because I was so much older than they were. To cure my boredom, I turned to music and art so I definitely got a lot of practice (laughing)! We weren’t quite poor but we weren’t middle class either. We were somewhere in-between. When I was really young, my Dad started going towards Rastafarianism. So me and all of my siblings we all grew up with long locks. I cut mine a few years ago, they were almost down to the floor.

Chris: I was always a quiet, laid-back kid, so I didn’t always express myself vocally that much. Art was a way for me to get out what I was feeling. When I was in ninth grade my parents finally divorced and that had a tremendous effect on me. My way of dealing with that was to skip class. When I wasn’t in class I would go to the library. So you could catch me at a table with a million art books stacked up on top of each other learning how to draw caricatures, anatomy, and the different careers you could have in the field of art. I always look at that in a positive way though because I could’ve been getting into trouble or hanging out with the wrong crowd but I was just in the library learning what I wanted to learn. I ended up getting my GED and I started at a community college a year earlier. I didn’t finish community college though, I just worked and did art. Fast forward to 2012, I enrolled at Full Sail University for Music Production. That’s where I’m currently at now, trying to finish up my Bachelor’s of Science degree. I still have a million books around my house about anything you want to learn in regards to art and music, I’m always educating myself.

Me: Nice! So, in regards to your music background, do you play an instrument?

Chris: Yes, my first instrument I picked up was the drums. I got in trouble sometimes in school for making beats on the desk, so my parents put me in drum lessons. That was my first intro to music theory and learning how to read, write, and perform music. In middle school, I played Trombone in band and I played that from sixth grade until about ninth grade. When I was in ninth grade I got a little bored with Trombone and I wanted to learn how to play piano. Then, I discovered music production and figured I have to learn how to play the piano. So, I told my band director I wanted to be in keyboard class. It was my first time in High School so I thought we had a keyboard class.

Chris: However, when I walked into class on the first day I just saw a bunch of computers and it turned out that it was a typing class. That’s how I learned to type so fast, everybody’s always so impressed with my typing skills! (laughing) After that, I started to teach myself how to play the guitar. When I was about 15 or 16, my Dad got me a drum machine which pretty much started my interest in music production. From there, I started gathering equipment here and there. Now, I produce music on my laptop, I have a few programs such as Logic and GarageBand. I also use a MIDI keyboard, so I can basically compose a whole song. I write lyrics as well. I probably have like about 50 notebooks today of nothing but lyrics in them. It’s crazy though because I started writing during the time when my parents got divorced from ninth grade all the way up until I was 23. So, collectively they’re really a journal of my life. I was thinking about putting them together into a poetry book. I don’t regret anything because all of these different experiences made me the man I am today.

“I probably have like about 50 notebooks today of nothing but lyrics in them.”

Me: Definitely, that’s excellent man! Kudos to you, Chris! Does your music have any effect on your art, is there any correlation between the two?

Chris: Well, I have times when I have artist block and that’s when I’m mostly involved with my music. So, I kind of jump back and forth between the two. If I’m tired of the art then I excel in the music and vise-versa. When I was a kid I wanted to be an animator as well so I always gravitated towards shows like Barney or Yo Gabba Gabba. I always wanted to combine my art and my music to create cartoons for children. A couple of years ago I came up with the idea to create a children’s book and that’s almost ready to be published. The book was inspired by my oldest daughter. Glonda’s Hair is the name of it.

Me: That’s really cool and could you dive a little deeper into the book too?

Chris: Ok, sure. When I was in sixth grade we had a project to do where we had to create our own books. So, that was my first time creating a book. I said back then, ‘I’m going to do this one day when I get older.’ I finally decided to do it with Glonda’s Hair about two years ago, detailing everything that my daughter and I did together. I was going to call it The Adventures of Kaydence. My daughter’s name is Kaydence. However, I changed the name of the book because one day my daughter came into the room and said, “for now on I want everyone to call me Glonda.” We just bust out laughing because we didn’t know where that name came from, we’ve never heard it before. It’s funny because from that point on she only went by Glonda, she would not answer to Kaydence. That was when the lightbulb went off in my head and I decided to call the book Glonda. My daughter always wore her hair in an afro as well so that gave me the idea to make the book about hair. With the natural hair movement that’s going on right now in the black community, I thought it would be something positive for young girls to see and get them to love their hair. I recently just got the proof copy back so I’m making some last minute edits before I finalize the publishing. I actually put up a post with my book I created in the sixth grade alongside Glonda’s Hair to basically show people that they should never give up on their dreams.

Me: Wow, that’s incredible man! Would you also say that your Rastafarian background played a major role in the type of art you create as well?

Chris: Yea, my Dad has always been pro-black or conscious even before it became a trend. Now, I kind of feel like it’s a trend of being ‘woke’. I was just brought up that way, it wasn’t something that I saw on social media. Me and my siblings have always been taught about our blackness and to be proud of it. That’s always played a big role in my art. A lot of my art features those with natural hair and a lot of characters with dreadlocks.

“Me and my siblings have always been taught about our blackness and to be proud of it. That’s always played a big role in my art.”

Me: That’s cool, and do you have any stories where your Dad used to tell you when you were younger that you still hold on to till this day, and that you carry on with your family as well?

Chris: He always taught us to embrace who we are and do whatever it was that we liked. He always supported us. He bought me my first drum machine that got me started with music production and my first keyboard. When I was a kid he got me a little Fisher Price art Easel. I remember him picking me up from school one day when I first started college, and when I got in the car he was just telling me how proud he was of me. He also said that my siblings look up to me and he told me to give them someone great to be like. Those words just stuck with me ever since. Now that I have children, I want to give them someone great to be like, someone they can look up to.

Black love. #blacklove #melanin #blavity #youngblackartists

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Me: That’s some words of wisdom right there! Describe how you approach your creative process, what’s your ideal environment to bring out your full range of creativity?

Chris: I don’t really have a certain process, I just create when it comes to me. A lot of times I like to keep a sketchpad with me because whenever ideas come to me, I want to be able to get them out before I forget them. I have two small kids so I’m used to painting with kids hanging off my back, knocking over the easel, or grabbing a handful of paint. So, I’m a pretty calm person under stress and pressure. The thing I would need the most when I paint though is music. I have to listen to some kind of mellow music. I listen to a lot of reggae artists such as Chronixx, Tarrus Riley, and Jah Cure. I also listen to alternative r&b artists such as Iman Omari, Sango ft Spzrkt, and Dirg Gerner.

“A lot of times I like to keep a sketchpad with me because whenever ideas come to me, I want to be able to get them out before I forget them.”

Me: Nice. I’m also an artist myself. I’m more of a photo-realistic type of artist, so I don’t draw from my imagination. When I was a kid though, I used to draw more pieces based off of my own imagination. I guess once you get older your imagination tends to get less expansive if you don’t use it consistently. (laughing)

Chris: It’s probably the opposite for me because It’s always been a struggle for me to draw realistically. I remember in ninth grade, it was the first day of art class. I brought my big sketchpad there and I was doing all of my cartoon drawings. I was so excited to show my teacher but once he looked at it, he said, “it looks nice but you need to draw realistically.” I was just crushed because I thought I was going to get all of this praise for my cartoon drawing. That day I went home and I tried to draw realistically and the next day I went back to cartoons. I learned to embrace my style and what I do. Nobody can do me like I can do me. I try to mix the two in my art.

Me: That’s great that you can mix the two together though and find that balance! Do you also use references when you create your art?

Chris: Yea, I do, especially for commissions. Sometimes I have to go to Google to look for different poses or different body types and hair textures. I mostly just draw from my mind though, based on things I’ve seen.

Me: Big ups for that man! Can you give a background on the different types of mediums that you use and those you prefer to use?

Chris: Well, I started with just graphite pencils and started using more mediums over time. Now I use a bunch of mediums such as – ink, acrylic paint, watercolor paint, sandpaper, buttons, and markers. I even tried oil paint once but it didn’t quite work out! (laughing) People always ask me what’s my style but I do so many things. I think that’s my style, being able to do many things.

“People always ask me what’s my style but I do so many things. I think that’s my style, being able to do many things.”

Me: That’s incredible! Where would you say your ability and curiosity to explore different mediums comes from?

Chris: I was the kid that was always mixing different things together and experimenting. I used to take apart all of my toys just to see what was on the inside. My Mom would get mad at me saying, “we paid all this money for them and you’re just going to tear them up.” Even today, I’m still trying to find ways to set myself apart from other artists.

Me: That’s dope! You’re always putting stuff out there, like everyday I’ll see a new piece and I’m just like woah!

Chris: That’s just something I found that helps with artist block. I was looking online one day about how different artists cope with artist block and one artist was explaining that no matter what just create something everyday even if it’s just a stick figure. So, I’ll try to create something everyday even if it’s something small just to keep those creative juices flowing.

“I’ll try to create something everyday even if it’s something small just to keep those creative juices flowing.”

Me: Nice! Did you take any formal art classes as well?

Chris: That’s a funny story too. So, in community college I took Drawing I like three times. My mom was like, “this is what you do everyday, how do you fail drawing class?” I failed it twice, mostly because I wasn’t there, I was somewhere else drawing. That’s pretty much the only formal art class I took other than the normal art classes you take in grade school. Everything else, I’ve just picked up on my own just from trial and error, experimenting and reading different books. Now with YouTube, I’m able to learn from there by looking at different lectures and tutorials. Most of the YouTube videos that I look at now are for Graphic Design. I kind of dabble in that too with logos.

@cooli_ras_art #logo #artist

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Me: Cool, that’s excellent. Do you have any particular art books that you’d recommend?

Chris: It’s hard to say what I would recommend because it depends on what a particular artist is interested in. I’ve always been interested in graffiti as well as animation and comics so I have a lot of books dealing with those topics. A couple of books I have in regards to those topics are Cartooning The Head & Figure and How To Draw Hip Hop. 

Me: Gotcha. If you could collaborate with any artist on an upcoming piece, who would it be and why?

Chris: I would have to say Frank Morrison. All of his art is primarily black art and it deals with the types of topics that mine deals with. It’s not just bad things either it’s also positive things such as natural hair. He has a few pieces that detail the Harlem Renaissance and I just like his style. It’s kind of like what I’m doing mixing the realistic with the cartoon feel.

Me: Great suggestion! The name definitely sounds familiar.

Chris: Yea, you’ve probably seen some of his pieces before but just didn’t know they were his works.

Me: Cool, I’ll definitely check him out. In your opinion, what do you think young black visual artists can do to create more opportunities for themselves?

Chris: The greatest thing that helped me was to just put myself out there. I’m probably a little more introverted than some people, so I’ve never really put my art out there until about 2 or 3 years ago when I moved from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. I went to my first art walk and I was just so inspired. What inspired me the most was this little boy out there who was about 10 or 11 years old. He was set up with his tent, his table and his drawings. I said to myself, “it’s this little kid out here so I got to get out here.” So I signed up the next month and did my first art walk. You know as artists sometimes we’re our biggest critics. We always see a flaw somewhere or something that you felt like you could’ve done better. That kind of makes a lot of artists not want to put themselves out there because you fear that the public will feel how you feel about your art. Most of the time though, they feel the opposite. You just have to go for it.

“I went to my first art walk and I was just so inspired. What inspired me the most was this little boy out there who was about 10 or 11 years old. He was set up with his tent, his table and his drawings.”

Me: I understand that struggle because I’m also an introvert myself, straight up! (laughing) That’s why I took on this blog project as well to be a little bit more interactive and expand my network. Are there any black art groups that you’re part of?

Chris: I’m actually part of a bunch of groups on social media. One of the biggest ones in particular is Black Artists Connected on Facebook. It’s crazy though because when I joined the group there were only 10,000 members and now there are over 200,000. Just to see and be able to communicate with different artists and ask them about their techniques and styles is inspiring too. I’m always willing to share with people about the types of techniques I use. I never withhold information because a lot of what I learned, somebody taught me. Besides the art walks I do, locally I also recently went to another event called the African Heritage Market. They were looking for vendors, so I try to take advantage of any vending opportunities I can. They were showcasing African products and they had African dance schools and I was able to set up some of my art there.

“I’m always willing to share with people about the types of techniques I use. I never withhold information because a lot of what I learned, somebody taught me.”

Me: That’s excellent advice to encourage others to go out there and discover local opportunities as well.  

 Chris: Exactly. Even if you don’t sell anything. The first art walk I did was actually a disaster. All I had was a table and it just so happened to be windy that day so all of my art was flying off the table. I didn’t sell anything either but I had the most people at my table because most of them had never seen the type of art (black art) that I brought at this event before. So, that type of attention helped me out for the next art walk.

Me: Great tips! When did you actually start going into the art business for yourself and actually profit off of your work?

Chris: I started my first business when I was 18. My Mom’s friend was an artist and she did a lot of murals. I helped her do murals at local restaurants and she’s the one that got me started painting windows. During the holiday season you know how people would have Merry Christmas and all that stuff painted on their windows. I started doing that on my own after working with her. She also taught me how to paint on clothes. There was a brand called Miskeen Originals and it featured hand-painted t-shirts. Every rapper and celebrity in the Hip-Hop world was wearing the brand at that time. I came up with my own style of hand-painted t-shirts. There was a little Hip-Hop clothing store down the street from where I lived and they allowed me to sell some of my shirts. They didn’t charge me anything even when I made money from the clothes so that was cool. I didn’t start selling my actual canvas paintings until my second time doing the art walk. This was around 2013. I was selling the same type of paintings I’m doing now but at much lower prices. I didn’t really know the business and back then I was scared to sell my pieces over a certain amount because I didn’t think anyone would buy them. Since then, I’ve met a lot of artists who’ve mentored me and taught me about pricing. I’ve learned a lot in that short time.

“I came up with my own style of hand-painted t-shirts. There was a little Hip-Hop clothing store down the street from where I lived and they allowed me to sell some of my shirts.”

Me: That’s excellent and what is your business that you run now?

Chris: My business that I run now is named after my Instagram – Cooli Ras Art. I’m doing visual art and logo design. The biggest challenge for me so far is time management especially when I’m doing commissions. I don’t like to take a very long time on projects. I used to work for my Dad who had his own construction business and he always emphasized that time was money. So, the faster we did jobs in a day, the more jobs we could do and therefore make more money. It’s the same with painting, I try not to take too long because the more pieces I can complete, the more jobs I can do. Sometimes in the middle of a commission, the artist block will come in so that makes it even more difficult.

“The biggest challenge for me so far is time management especially when I’m doing commissions. I don’t like to take a very long time on projects.”

Me: That’s some good things to know especially for those aspiring black entrepreneurs who are trying to get past those barriers when trying to launch their businesses.

Chris: Yea, and another problem that I have is that I tend to take on too many projects at times. So many people will ask me if I can do a project for them, then before you know it I’ll have a million projects to do. So, that probably contributes to the time management problem too! (laughing) You learn as you go though.

Me: Do you have your own office space as well or do you operate mostly at home?

Chris: I operate mostly at home. We do have a room that we call the art room. This room is dedicated to everything that has to do with art. We have two tables set up and two or three little plastic drawers filled with paint, pens, pencils, canvases, and all types of drawing papers. Everything you can think of is in here.

Just do it! #mypersonalgallery

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Me: That’s incredible man! Do you have a 9 to 5 in addition to running your own art business?

Chris: I actually work part-time now and doing my art as well with the hopes of doing it full-time.

Me: Yea I definitely feel you on that! We all want to be working within our passions.

Chris: Oh yea, even when I was at my 9 to 5 at a call center, my desk in my little cubicle looked like my art room. I had Prismacolor pencils, paints, and pads all at my desk. You couldn’t even find my computer (laughing). But that’s what kept me sane.  

Me: (Laughing) Yea, a call center is not an easy place to work in. I used to work in one too, it’s definitely a lot to handle.

Chris: Oh yea. That art kept me from going crazy in there!

Me: Well, I wish you much success in the future with your business as well.

Chris: Thank you and likewise!

Me: Thank you! What’s your favorite piece you created?

Chris: My favorite is the one I talked about earlier called We Just Want to Be Left Alone. It’s one of my simpler pieces, it’s really like a doodle. Even though the shootings of black people have been going on for years, we’re more aware of it now that we have the camera phones. But, it seems like after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, we heard of a different shooting like every other month. I just felt like we’ve been trying to get this 40 acres and a mule but it seems like that’s never going to happen so we’re not really worried about that as much. Now, we just want to be left alone. That piece got a lot of attention as well. It seems like all of the really simple pieces that I do have the most meaning and the most effect on people. It’s like the Bill Cosby and Nate Parker piece, I drew that in like 15 minutes. It’s not proportionate but the message still got across.

“It seems like all of the really simple pieces that I do have the most meaning and the most effect on people.”

Me: Wow, that’s great man! It’s definitely a phenomenal piece along with all of your other pieces of course! (laughing)

Chris: (laughing) Thank you!

Me: Are there any other artists in your family? I know you mentioned your mom.

Chris: My Mom has the ability but she never pursued it professionally, she told me she just used to do it in school. She always helped me and some of my brothers with their school projects. I have a few younger cousins and one of my younger brothers that draw but it’s still too early to tell that it’s something that they want to pursue. One of my favorite cousins on my Dad’s side of the family was a great artist and he was always my inspiration growing up. He doesn’t even draw anymore though. I feel like if he would’ve kept going, he would’ve been one of the big names of today in the art world. My wife has an uncle also that’s one of the greatest artists I’ve ever seen but he doesn’t pursue it! I’ve been trying to push him to come to some of the art walks with me but he just doesn’t. I guess he’s one of those artists that feels like he’s not good enough but everyone else thinks he’s amazing. It’s crazy to be that talented and not see it yourself. I was like that too though, it took me a while to put myself out there.

Me: Wow, I understand that though because I’m kind of like that too. I know I have talent but when I’m looking at artwork like yours and all of those other phenomenal artists on IG, I’m just like, ‘my work doesn’t even compare to what they’re creating.’ (laughing)

Chris: Even though a lot of people tell me, I don’t think I’m that good. I see artists everyday and I’m like ‘maybe I should retire and just get a 9 to 5.’ Then I remind myself that even though I may not be able to do what another artist can do, but nobody can do what I can do the way that I do it. You can have five artists in the room drawing the same picture and each picture is going to be unique to that artist. Basquiat kind of inspired me with his work seeing how a lot of people considered it to be elementary and not good art, but he was able to make such an impact on the art world at a young age. That inspired me to put myself out there more.

Me: Yea, that’s very true. I think a lot of people were inspired by Basquiat especially within the Hip-Hop generation. You had Jay-Z rapping about Basquiat and people rode that wave which was good because he got more people to learn about who he was. He reintroduced him to another generation.

Chris: Oh yea. But, I’m the only artist in my family as of right now that’s pursuing it as a career.

Me: Cool, are your daughters showing interest in art as well?

Chris: Yea. My oldest daughter, she’s five, is expressing interest in it. My youngest daughter is only one so she just likes to eat crayons right now (laughing). I bought my oldest daughter an easel for her birthday that just passed a few weeks ago. Since she was younger, she always drew and made sure that I got her sketchbooks and crayons. My wife is more like a crafter, she makes jewelry and DIY type of stuff. So, we both try to keep an artistic, creative atmosphere inside the household.

“I bought my oldest daughter an easel for her birthday that just passed a few weeks ago. Since she was younger, she always drew and made sure that I got her sketchbooks and crayons.”

Me: That’s great man, especially for black communities to introduce the children to art as well. It’s so critical to their development, just being able to look at their environment through a different lense.

Chris: Exactly. We always take them with us whenever we go to an art walk or an art gallery. Even my living room is kind of setup like an art gallery. On one wall there’s nothing but paintings. To wake up and see black art and create art (I have some of her pictures hanging up on the wall), I know that’s motivation for her as well.

The future! #youngblackartists #supportblackart #dopeblackart

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Me: That’s phenomenal man, definitely much respect to you for that, keeping your kids inspired as well and cultivating their creativity!

Chris: Thanks man. Yea, and with them trying to limit art and music programs in school, we try to make sure they get it in at home too.

Me: That’s good. What was the most challenging piece you’ve done?  

Chris: I don’t think I have any one piece that I can point out but in terms of style, I’ve always struggled with the realism. I’ve been working on getting better with it. When I do portraits of people I still gravitate towards a ‘cartoony’ look. I’ll put a big black bold outline on it instead of just having the color and letting the shadows shape the face. Any piece that I do where I’m trying to be realistic with like the skin tones and the shading, that’s a bit of a challenge. I’m also a fast artist, when I’m working on something I don’t stop until it’s done. I rarely take any breaks.

“Any piece that I do where I’m trying to be realistic with like the skin tones and the shading, that’s a bit of a challenge.”

Me: I’m trying to get better at that myself. So, how much time on average would you say it takes you to finish a piece?

Chris: With a painting, it’ll take me under five hours. I can usually do about two paintings in a day, three at the most. As long as I have the right music and I’m really inspired by a piece it won’t take me that long.

Me: Wow, mad respect! I know you touched upon dealing with a creative block earlier,but if you’d like to give more insight on a time when you experienced a creative block, and how you overcame it?

Chris: I have a creative block right now. I have a creative block every other month (laughing). Like I said before when I’m feeling that way about my art, that’s when I start making more music. I just try to constantly create. I took a little break from working on a commission but I’m still making sketches so I can at least create something to keep the juices flowing. I never want to be in a state in which I’m not creating anything at all. Sometimes you need a break though to regroup and just get inspired by new things. With all this art I have on the wall, a lot of the times I’ll just stand there and admire all of it like I’m at an art gallery. Even doing that can bring inspiration and motivation.

“With all this art I have on the wall, a lot of the times I’ll just stand there and admire all of it like I’m at an art gallery. Even doing that can bring inspiration and motivation.”

Me: Yea, I agree. So going back to your Rastafarian background, what are some of the books that you’ve read growing up that have influenced your pro-black mentality?  

Chris: I’ve read so many books growing up since I’m so much older than my siblings, it was another way for me to cure my boredom. When I was a little kid I read a book called Anansi The Spider. It’s an African folktale. That’s a great children’s book. Some other really good books I read were – The Destruction of Black Civilization, Black Economics, and From Babylon to Timbuktu. A recent book that I’ve read though is When Rocks Cry Out by Horace Butler. This author who’s a historian, explains that Egypt wasn’t just in Africa but America was a part of Egypt as well. It’s a very interesting book. A lot of people think that black people just came here as slaves but in fact we’ve been here prior to that. Right now, I’m actually reading The Power of Broke by Daymond John, the creator of FUBU. He was actually down here at a book signing, and I painted a picture of him. He signed that for me too.

Me: Wow, that’s really cool, man! How has your artwork shaped you as a person?

Chris: It’s definitely had a big influence on me socially. I was always considered the quiet guy in the group at school or at work. So, putting myself out there more, doing these art shows forced me to be more social because I had to talk to people about my art. In that aspect, it’s helped me more in that area in my life. A few years I probably wouldn’t have been able to do a phone interview (laughing) but now I’m so used to talking to people and explaining my art. I’ve also got to meet many people that I may not gone up to or spoke to, so it’s really opened me up as a person.

“Putting myself out there more, doing these art shows forced me to be more social because I had to talk to people about my art.”

Me: That’s great man! Yea, it’s definitely important to be able to have those communication skills and being able to interact with different people because you never know who’s your biggest fan. They’ll want to ask you different questions and dive deeper into your work. Have you had any art exhibitions recently?

Chris: Yea, I actually had my very first showing on November 2nd besides the art walks I’ve mentioned.

Me: Oh wow, congrats!

Chris: Thank you! It actually went pretty well. That just motivated me to do more and now I want to get out there more. It was held at the Downtown Cigar Lounge, a black-owned business I reached out to. The creative director came up with the idea of having the art exhibit featuring me. I didn’t know what to expect since it was my first one, but a good amount of people showed up. I had a lot of friends who came and my family as well. My mom came from Tallahassee. I sold a lot of work so, it was a good experience.

Tomorrow!

A post shared by Chris Clark (@cooli_ras_art) on

Me: Major props for that man! That shows that the type of work you’re creating is having an impact on people’s lives.

Chris: Thank you! I was really nervous but thankfully I had my family to help me out with a few pieces that I was raffling off. My uncle was on the Mic raffling a few pieces for me and my wife, my mom, and my cousins were handling the sales.

Me: That’s an incredible experience to have! I’m sure you got a chance to meet a lot of different people within the art world and expand your network.

Chris: Oh yea. I remember when I moved to Jacksonville back in 2012, the art scene wasn’t as great as it is today. I’m glad I put myself out there at the time that I did because the art scene was just starting to grow, so I’ve been able to grow with it. People recognize me and recognize my art so I’m glad I decided to get out there. I’ve been able to meet a lot of veteran artists who have advised me. One of my good friends who I’ve met here was the only black art professor here in Jacksonville. He’s given me good advice.

“I’m glad I put myself out there at the time  that I did because the art scene was just starting to grow, so I’ve been able to grow with it.”

Me: That’s excellent that you came at that time too just to see and contribute to that growing art scene.

Chris: Yea, it was the perfect timing. There’s already a few people who are having art shows and they want me to participate too. I know I’m young and just starting out as an artist myself but I still like to help my fellow black artists. I had an artist by the name of Tatiana Kitchen (@phoenixaaart on Instagram) painting live at my show just to try to give her some exposure too. I always try to make sure that I support other artists because I wouldn’t be here without others supporting me.

Me: Kudos to you for that as well because collaboration is a major factor in the success of rising black artists.

Chris: Yea, and I think that’s critical for black people in general not just in art. We’re so competitive with each other when we should be uplifting and motivating each other.

Me: Yea, I definitely agree, you can say that again! (laughing) What is your most proud achievement so far as an artist?

Chris: One of my most proud achievements would be just putting myself out there in the first place. That took a lot just to even go to an art walk and set up a table. Just being able to overcome that fear and step out of my comfort zone and do something extreme for me helped me get a lot of rewards. I’m glad that I did it. Also, completing this children’s book is one of my most proud achievements so far. Just seeing it come from an idea to a physical book that I’m getting ready to produce in mass quantities is something I’m proud of.

“Just being able to overcome that fear and step out of my comfort zone and do something extreme for me helped me get a lot of rewards. I’m glad I did it.”

Me: Yea, that’s an incredible achievement right there to actually have your own book! How cool is that! (laughing)

Chris: Yea, just seeing it in book form inspires me to do more. It never would have been possible if I didn’t just try in the first place.

Me: Indeed. Much respect for that, like I said before I’m an introvert myself so I can definitely relate to being apprehensive to putting myself out there. Even with these phone interviews I’ve been doing, I wouldn’t have imagined doing this either.

Chris: Yea man, we all have to start somewhere. As long as you start is the key.

Me: Would you like to share any upcoming projects/exhibitions?

Chris: I have another exhibition coming up at The Downtown Cigar Lounge in February. I want to do a series that goes with a certain topic or theme. That’s what I’m working on now. The book should be done sometime next year and I’ll have a website for that as well. You can visit the Instagram page @glondabookseries.

Glonda drawing.

A post shared by Glonda Kay (@glondabookseries) on

Me: Excellent! What’s your vision for the future?

Chris: I just want to inspire other artists and leave something behind for my own kids. I know with a 9 to 5 if I died today, I can’t give that to them. So, I want to build something that’ll create that generational wealth. Even if it’s just for inspiration, my kids may not want to go into the arts but if they see that I believed in something and I succeeded in it, then they’ll know that they can go for whatever they want to pursue.

“I want to build something that’ll create that generational wealth.”

Me: That’s phenomenal man! It was a pleasure Chris! It’s great to get to know the artists behind the dope art because everyone has a unique story! I wish you much success within your future!

Chris: I appreciate that man! You as well!

To purchase and inquire about Chris’ artwork please contact him via email: clarkimob@gmail.com or Instagram @cooli_ras_art.

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