Welcome to the latest in my series of interviews about creative time. This month it’s the turn of artist Iain Clark. Iain divides his time between producing art for the Dublin 2019 WorldCon (slowly seeing the light of day in the form of adverts, flyers, posters, badges, bookmarks and t-shirts) and fan art for Doctor Who and other genre TV. He has reviewed TV and film for Strange Horizons, and was a panel member at LonCon 2014 discussing the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form). He currently fits drawing and blogging around the capricious whims of his young daughters.
GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
IC We’ve got our two daughters (aged 6 and 9) to a point where they no longer yell for us at 6.30 sharp, so we actually get some semblance of a lie-in until, ooh, maybe even 6.45 am (Okay, 7.30 on a good day). Then it’s simply of case of breaking the mesmeric spell of children’s television at 5 minute intervals until the kids are actually ready to go to school.
I work full-time and my wife works part-time so weekdays are pretty hectic. After work it’s feed the kids, wash the kids, read to the kids, say night to the kids, and then try to fit creativity into whatever is left of the evening. (Not that raising kids isn’t creative, but it’s a very different kind of creative and like any manuscript they seem to need constant revisions and spend most of their time covered in biro.)
Generally I paint while sitting in the living room, which probably sounds a bit odd. I’ve found that I’m far more likely to work if I can stay in the heart of the house with the TV as comfort noise in the background, rather than some isolated corner. I have an easel set to the right height for the sofa, and I can happily paint until bedtime while my wife does one of her vast array of crafts. Fortunately I mainly work in acrylics so the paints don’t stink out the room. I’ve been trying some low-odour water-miscible oils recently too (such a different technique.)
GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
IC Mentally I need a bit of a run-up to creating art. I can’t just do ten minutes, I need to know I have at least an hour. The later the kids go to bed, the more squeezed it becomes. Depending on how the evening has gone up to that point, I generally end up with 1-2 hours to paint – that’s assuming we don’t watch TV or anything crazy like that. I always sit at work itching to paint, get home too knackered to even think about it, and then bounce back.
Current time management strategies are to try to eat when the kids eat, something we’d fallen out of the habit of doing, and we limit TV viewing to just the few shows we’re following. Just one TV show a night really eats into my painting time.
GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
IC I need them more than the kids! Twitter is my Achilles heel. My rate of reading books has suffered the most, because social media eats time and then I prioritise art over reading. It’s so easy just to sit glued to the internet consuming and consuming and never make that step change into creating. I don’t use any limiting tools. Maybe I should start! I do really value the social interactions I have on social media so it’s a balance.
GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
IC I’m learning all the time as a parent and I’m learning all the time as an artist, but the two don’t crossover all that much. My daughters love art and are very supportive of their daddy doing pictures (lots of gratifying oohs and aahs!).
GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
IC Tip: don’t have kids, a day job or social media! Since I’ve foolishly pursued all of those things, when knackered-ness takes over I trick myself into doing art by getting out a work in progress and just looking at it; very simple but it gets me over the mental hurdle of starting because I immediately become obsessed with what’s wrong and sucked into fixing it. Editing is easier than writing. I also remind myself how I’ll feel later if I don’t knuckle down, looking back on all those lost opportunities.
GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
IC Despite having painted numerous fan art likenesses I still struggle to ‘find’ the face. They generally end up too long in the vertical axis. I never trace, and I haven’t used grids when copying a likeness but recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more structured to sharpen up my proportions. I know many proper artists don’t bat an eyelid about grids but it always feels a bit like cheating to me. I’m not judging, this is my hang up! Everyone’s process is different.
GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
IC Er…no! Having an understanding spouse who allows you painting time is something I would highly recommend. If you don’t have one, take yours back and get a refund.
GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
IC I’ve used my eldest daughter as a model in one picture (below).
And I’ve done a couple of pencil sketches of the girls as gifts for my wife. Other than that I do occasionally sit down and draw with them, particularly with my eldest. She doesn’t want me to actually tell her anything or show her how to do anything (because obviously she knows best), she just wants the shared experience. She’s inspired by cartoons she sees (she’s been perfecting manga-style eyes!) more than me. I think there’s a fine line between being an encouraging role model and setting them an impossible standard. My art at age 9 was nothing special – they’re already much better than I was!
GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
IC Coffee. By the gallon.
I don’t need to do art every day but I really crave the satisfaction of completing a piece, and I enjoy showing it to people and getting positive reactions. That keeps me coming back. I actually paint and draw now far more than I used to, despite the crazy hours.
GB Final words of wisdom?
IC I’m a fraud! I don’t know anything about art! I’m just winging it. But it’s great when it works.
I think you’ll agree with me that Iain is anything but a fraud, and I can’t wait to see more of his Dr Who art and the Dublin 2019 WorldCon artwork as it’s revealed over the coming months. Iain’s gorgeous artwork can be viewed and bought on his website: iainjclarkart.com
You will also find him on twitter: @iainjclark
and Tumblr: iainjclark.tumblr.com
If you have missed any of my previous interviews with other wonderful writers and artists, the links are below: