Local Artist Draws From Home For Inspiration

Antwain Clarke chatted about his creative process and art career on the latest dsm CultureCast podcast.

Writer: Luke Manderfeld

Antwain Clarke grew up in Jamaica and moved to Des Moines on a whim—he had never visited the Midwest before, but was looking for “something different.” Even after moving, he still felt a calling to his home as well as to nature. Many of his drawings are inspired by Jamaica, as Clarke explained on the latest dsm CultureCast podcast.

“It’s like fantasy. I haven’t seen anyone draw like me,” he said. “It’s highly detailed because of the simplicity of the media. It speaks to the technical competence. And that has always been my focus. So I kind of like to show off what I can do with a pencil.”

His inspiration “really is back home, in Jamaica,” he said. “I love the history and heritage. When you drive across the country, it is endless inspiration.”

Clarke is also hyper-attentive to details. For example, he spent months studying the anatomy of an alligator to perfect the shape and size of one of his portraits.

“My creative process is very slow,” he said. “I feel like work needs time to ferment. It needs to time to grow. It usually starts with me reading. I am a nerd. I love to read science and watch YouTube videos. I’m totally, totally obsessed with what the Caribbean looked like pre-colonization. … I read, I see the image and I translate that onto paper.”

Over the last few months, Clarke has been shifting his focus to creating natural art in unexpected places, like underwater arrangements in water tanks, called acroscapes. The switch was intentional because, for someone who draws so much inspiration from nature, it felt odd creating on paper made from trees, he said.

You can find out more about Clarke on his Instagram and by reading this story from the dsm archive. You can subscribe to find more interviews like this at Apple PodcastSpotify and more.

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