Allen Clapp - An artist’s history of unpredictably creative fluidity

Musical Chairs , acrylic, mixed media, 16” x 20”

Musical Chairs, acrylic, mixed media, 16” x 20”

Floating on Cloud Nine , acrylic, mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”

Floating on Cloud Nine, acrylic, mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”

Nature and art have many similar attributes in both the creative process and the evolutionary process. Many artists will lament or boast of how their end product is nothing like they imagined - only better! The ebbs and flows of the creative process sometimes lasts for only one painting, sometimes these ebbs and flows last for a creative lifetime. Allen Clapp of Raleigh, North Carolina sat down with us to discuss the fluidity and natural evolution of his Earth Series, from its very beginning in the early 1960’s to today.

Clapp’s Earth Series began its slow natural evolution almost 50 years ago when he was a freshman at the NCSU School of Design. His first-year art class was selected as a beta-tester for new acrylic paints, testing what and how these paints can be used. Part of this testing involved overlapping various shapes to determine color differentials - “as a former landscape-only painter, that opened up a whole new world for me” - says Allen, more than four decades later.

As Clapp embraced his new abstract manner of creativity, the tides of life took over and moved his ship from architecture to engineering.

Clapp’s engineering career gave him the opportunity to work outdoors where his work required him to create straight lines in a naturally un-straight setting. Clapp embraced nature’s organic shapes and lines and incorporated them into his series of work titled Earth Series. “The Earth Series lets me celebrate nature’s organic shapes”. says Clapp.

As Clapp builds his paintings he adds a base layer and adds layers of colors on top - creating direction and movement. Clapp prefers to use bright colors to shape the painting, with more subdued, blended areas providing resting points for the eyes.

“I get to dodge and weave with paints as the spirit of the piece grows. Rarely does an Earth Series piece end up as originally envisioned, because it takes on a life of its own and leads me down a different path as it grows.” says Clapp

The fluidity of Clapp’s creative process is apparent in his work. Even upon first glance the viewer can feel the formerly undetermined, now determined direction of colors and movements within each artwork.

Clapp has recently began to add “bling” to his paintings to lighten the overall mood of each piece and enhance the movement for the viewer. “Small bling points placed on top of more staid layers helps in showing movement and leading the eye to intended focal points.” says Clapp. Indeed the small areas of contrasting paints draws the viewers eyes in and allows one to imagine the natural flow of the piece as you “flow” from focal point to focal point.

Clapp utlilizes these focal points to create mini paintings within the larger painting to keep the viewer interested - through the second, third, or fourth time viewing the artwork. These small nuances add a layer of unknown to each painting’s knowns. Discovering previously unseen, yet viewable components of a painting is like discovering a new painting each time it is viewed. This is Clapp’s intention when discussing these focal points and how they interact with the flow of each painting, Clapp states “the next time you look at the painting, you see something else that you missed the last few times”

When asked when he will finish his Earth Series Clapp states “the series isn’t nearly complete, but it certainly evolves from time-to-time and early facets of the series get revisited from time-to-time as I get inspired with new ideas to extend a slant previously taken.”

After speaking with Clapp about his Earth Series we realize that this Series is, as nature itself, a never-ending evolutionary process. Colors, forms, and movements are ever-changing and never-ending.

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