Photo submitted – Alonzo Clarke stands in front of his entry in the 2020 Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors at View in Old Forge, where he won the $500 H. Samuel Slater Memorial Award for Landscape, Realistic or Imaginative.
by Dave Warner
Each year View, in Old Forge, holds the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors, which is open to all artists working in water-based media. This includes transparent and opaque watercolors, acrylics, casein, egg tempera, gouache, and ink.
This year, Little Falls native and class of ’95 graduate Alonzo Clarke, won the H. Samuel Slater Memorial Award for Landscape, Realistic or Imaginative award with his entry From Above and Below.
In high school, Clarke had an interest in art and learned from teachers at the school. “They were really influential for me. You know, a small town with an incredible art scene if you will at that time. They really pushed me and encouraged me as well,” stated Clarke.
After high school, he went to Skidmore Collge and majored in fine arts and studio art, and after graduation moved to Boston, where he works in the financial sector. “My day job has to do with compliance, anti-money-laundering stuff, which is very different from my true love, which is art. There is kind of a nice duality if you will,” he said.
For him, the right-side activity of art came naturally, but he said that he really had to work on the left side activity. “It’s a worthwhile profession as I’m attempting to save people’s investments and their life savings.”
He says that he wakes up every day at five and on weekends where he can get two-three hours of quiet to get art done before anyone wakes up. “I’m working to become a better artist. It’s still fairly early in my watercolor career. The success that I’ve had this year has been really great, and I was really honored to be accepted into the Adirondack show and a few others,” stated Clarke.
When he was younger, he never had considered watercolor a legitimate medium. “A lot of the watercolors that I was familiar with, I didn’t feel were strong. I felt that a lot of people learn watercolors when they’re young, and I think that’s a mistake because it’s a really difficult medium.”
He said that he had family friends that were excellent watercolor artists, so it was funny that he initially felt that way about it.
When he went to college, he felt that he had to paint in oil. “I look back now and think that it was really silly to discard this medium so readily when it was one where you could have such beautiful results.”
There were a large number of watercolorists in the area that were very influential for him. “Dr. David Burns, who was the watercolorist in this area for a long time and even Bob Willman, and I realized all these people, looking back on it, created really incredible works.”
He feels like the medium is difficult enough that you can show extreme ability if you get it right with just a few brush strokes. “It deserves attention as it’s very difficult, and oftentimes, the beauty of it is the stuff you don’t expect to happen, so it surprises you some times.”
Clarke thinks that now, especially in this environment, he has to think carefully about switching to art full time. “I’m working hard to get really better and I don’t know exactly what I want from the future and where I go with art. I’d love to be a full-time artist sure, but I believe the goal is just to get better. That’s always what it has been.”
“I want to be happy with the work myself. That’s probably the most elusive thing,” he stated.
Right now, he says that he’s only been strongly focused on becoming much better for the last five to six years. “I dabbled in water media for the previous ten years, just kind of floundering, but found a watercolorist in the New Hampshire area that I respected, and he kind of changed my life from a watercolor perspective.”
He’s been taking weekly classes from Robert Steedman for about three years now. “Just to be able to talk to an artist that you respect and can get critical advice from is invaluable. If you want to get better yourself, you should find someone and take classes from them.”
Clarke says that if he can just keep getting better, there’s no telling where that will lead him. “People say painting must be so relaxing especially with your office job, and it’s not, because of how seriously I take it. I want to get better and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t, so there’s a certain level of stress with it.”
“I think the thing I love most about painting is completing one. It’s such a great feeling to be able to do that,” stated Clarke.
He says that a lot of the credit for having the time to paint should be given to his wife, Carla, and daughter Ellis. “Without their support, I likely wouldn’t be painting today.”
If you’d like to see more of his work you can visit https://www.alonzoclarke.com/