KC’s artist Nicholas K. Clark brings his brilliant paintings to life with a fearless mix of color, compelling subject matter, and infectious creative passion.
Story by Jeanne de Lathouder | Photography by Tom Barnhart | Photo Shoot Location: Plus Modern Design
Richly inspired by family, friends, fashion, and music, Nicholas K. Clark’s vibrant works are a direct reflection of his optimistic personality. Ironically, this colorful Kansas City artist began his creative journey with the simplest of mediums: blank white paper, pencil, and pen. Soon thereafter, he discovered his attraction to what he now considers both cathartic and magical — the transformation of a blank sheet of paper into something extraordinary, a window of beauty through which he can effectively escape the mundane.
Over time, he introduced watercolors, oils, and acrylics to his repertoire, further developing his artistic approach and driving his passion. Color is now key to his creative process and remains a constant throughout his portfolio of varied subjects — from legendary musicians and cultural icons to pet portraits and Native American Indians. Through the influence of color, whether vibrant or void thereof, he expresses a purely authentic and personal connection to his work. Not surprisingly, when asked about his background, Nicholas shows his truest colors.
“Being self-taught versus having a formal education, I guess I always find these questions about my background to be funny,” laughs the artist. “I’ve been painting and drawing since I was five or doing some form of creative process as long as I’ve been able to speak, thanks to my mother. Drawing is the most important art-related process I learned growing up. I started painting with watercolors early on and was always painting what the teacher was painting instead of the basic art the other kids were painting,” he jokes. “I did some oil painting in college then went back to acrylics.”
From brilliant jewel tones to luminous metallics and pearl paints highlighted by impassioned reds with dazzling flecks of yellow, Nicholas’s art has always mirrored his infectious enthusiasm. His work today embodies an exceptional balance of form as well as an intrepid approach to color. Using mostly acrylics or oils, he sculpts and layers his paints to create a kind of textured depth that has become his signature style. His work with notable figures has become his passion and capturing the elusiveness of a living form — the intricate details of a hand, the story behind the eyes, the suggestion of movement and expression with a simple brushstroke — his greatest challenge and reward.
“The idea stage is the longest stage of painting,” says Nicholas. “Once the idea is clear, I start the layout. I only paint from black-and-white photos, which allows me to implement my own color palette,” he notes.
Among the artist’s compelling subject matter, his recent “Nostalgic Neons” series features the iconic Western Auto sign. With an intensity of magnificent hues, Nicholas captures a decidedly childlike point of view of these recognizable landmarks that evoke vivid memories with color. Similarly, his striking pet portraits bring a fun and almost Warhol-like playfulness to his paintings. For inspiration, he typically requests an interesting backstory and favorite color from the client for which he is painting.
“Color is my candy,” he laughs. “I love causing the eye to see something deeper in the paint—almost a voice or a story without words,” he notes. “The creative process is fun — isn’t that the whole point?”
These days, Nicholas is definitely thinking outside the box on ways to showcase his art and he’s always working on the next pop-up shop to display his work. Former venues have included Hall’s, Anton’s, Leawood Fine Art, local event spaces, boutiques, and home shows around town. For upcoming art shows and gallery exhibitions, fans can visit his website at nicholaskclark.com and follow him on social media at #nicholasKclark.