skilled draftsman and visual artist, Clarke has worked in various
fields of Creative industries and has been featured in many
international exhibitions. Imbued with a sense of personality that ‘captures the essence of the dog’, Robert Clarke’s drawings and paintings have attracted global attention. Clarke
is regularly commissioned to portrait celebrities’ canine friends and has held exhibitions in both London and New York.
Clarke prides himself on getting to know his subjects, measuring each dog’s ‘playfulness and attitude’ to bring his work to life. But he didn't always have such an easy relationship with dogs. Aged 3, Clarke was attacked by a large German Shepherd called Timber and from then on lived in fear of the animals: “If I saw a dog off the lead walking down the street I would cross over or even go back the way I’d come and hide.” It wasn't until his girlfriend decided to get a Jack Russell puppy and Clarke attended a puppy club where he met all sorts of dogs and learned how to bond with them that he overcame his fear. Marrying his skilled draftsmanship with an eye for his sitters’ mischievousness enabled Clarke to turn his childhood fears into friends.
Born in Luton in 1963, Clarke showed early artistic promise by winning local art competitions and completing ‘O Level’ and ‘A Level’ art before the age of 16. After a foundation course at Barnfield, Clarke was one of the few to be accepted to study at St Martin’s College of Art: “my foundation course was a good one … but not many of us got into London schools.”
Upon graduation, Clarke’s large abstract canvases and animal drawings were displayed in group and solo exhibitions in Cork Street, London and Galleria Pointe, Hamburg in 1990 but his “work was changing and becoming more and more figurative.”
After a spell of teaching the Foundation Course in Luton, Clarke decided to move to advertising to supplement his income. He remained at Magic Hat for 6 years as their Senior Art Director before returning to painting and opening the gallery PEA in Clerkenwell, London in 2001. Clarke’s then girlfriend decision to get 2 puppies “was a major departure for me. I would go to puppy club and meet other dogs and in doing so, my fear of dogs disappeared.”
Clarke’s bird paintings were regularly sold at FRANK, Kent and Elphicks Gallery, London, but it wasn't until a client who noticed his work asked, “does he do dogs?” that Clarke’s career in canine paintings took off. Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London & New York signed Clarke a month after his first painting of a Smooth Fox Terrier was sent to the gallery as a Christmas card. Since the success of his first solo exhibition ‘A-Z of Dogs’, Clarke has held exhibitions both sides of the Atlantic and has been commissioned for his dog paintings in Los Angeles, Miami, New York and London. He has painted a number of well known dogs including Kate Moss’s Archie, Alan Carr’s Bev and Joyce, Tim Walker’s Stig, as well as Fergie’s (Black Eyed Peas) and Meatloaf’s canine friends.
Clarke tries “to capture the essence of the dog. […] Each dog has a different personality: I try to capture that in paint. […] Sometimes it all comes together like magic: other times, it’s the smallest detail like adding a dot to the eye that makes the dog spring from the canvas.”