Clay's Art Story
My art story begins at childhood. My father Wayne Sinclair is an award winning landscape artist from New Zealand. So, from a very early age I was surrounded by art, endless creativity and the perils of having an artist as sole bread winner for the family. As a result, even though I loved creating visual images, I avoided art and fell into the more secure career of Civil Engineer and found creative expression through music.
In 1996, I left NZ for the UK, looking for a fresh start and found not only that, but also a wife and a desire to paint. Within months of arriving the paint was flowing and the ideas expanding. I had no intention to exhibit or sell, it was purely a form of creativity I was absolutely loving.
In the early years of our marriage I then became increasingly depressed. No, the problem wasn't our relationship, the problem was my work. I hated it. I hated Monday morning and through the week counted the minutes and hours until it was 5pm Friday. As a solution I then embarked on a MA in Urban Design, which seemed like the perfect sensible career for me. Upon completion and the arrival of our first child it then became apparent that Urban Design wasn't the career to pursue. My art was continuing to develop and I suspect I had a deep sense that this was what I needed to nurture.
In 2004, upon the arrival of our second son, I quit my job as an engineer and packed the family off to NZ for 6 months to have some time out and reassess where our lives were going. It was during this time that the dark cloud of depression finally lifted from me and I put time aside each day to concentrate on painting. I loved it. I even managed to sell a few works to people I didn't even know!
Upon arrival back in the UK I then started approaching galleries with my art.
A major lesson learnt here ....... Galleries need to feel like they found you, and quite possibly my work wasn't quite up to London gallery standard yet.
So a friend suggested the Bayswater Art Market, where artists hang their works on the railings of Hyde Park. I had no pretentions of grandeur, so thought, why not. First Sunday exhibiting and I sold 3 small works and had £700 in my pocket!! What followed was two enjoyable years of learning my trade as both artist and gallerist. Through this period I developed my technique of painting on perspex and sold extremely well. So much so, that a few of the other artists on the strip decided to copy my technique with rather dubious results. The blessing of this was that it forced me to look at other outlets for my work and depart my art from the streets.
So then began a two year period of attending artist led art fairs around the UK and putting on two solo exhibitions in central London. It was at one of these art fairs that Nick Woolff introduced himself and my art career was catapulted to another level.
Nick runs Woolff Gallery in Charlotte Street, London. In 2009 he signed me up to his gallery and what followed was my art appearing (& selling) at numerous art fairs in London and America. Solo exhibitions of my work were held in 2010, 2012, 2014 & 2016.
But in 2016 everything changed. I sensed I was going creatively stale and needed a new focus for my art. We had recently moved to Stroud, Gloucestershire and I had (with Nick's consent) put on a few pop up exhibitions in my new home town. I came back to life, I was engaged with human beings again, I was seeing their reactions to my work and I made a few sales as well. So when the opportunity came up to take on a small premises on Stroud High Street, I decided to take the plunge.
What happened soon after I couldn't have predicted. The day after the Brexit vote I was sitting outside the gallery and witnessed some post Brexit nastiness. My response of course was artistic and I posted on Facebook an image of a flag I had designed for Stroud and the statement 'Maybe it's time for The People's Republic of Stroud, Everybody Welcome'. Expecting my usual 2 or 3 sympathetic 'likes' the post went sub viral. ie 20-30 likes. I didn't much encouragement, so then proceeded to print a few t-shirts in the hope that it might provide a small income stream for a few weeks. The stock all sold out and the establishment of The People's Republic of Stroud was sealed. What followed was a creative vortex. T-shirt designs multiplied, merchandise lines created and community spirit galvanised. The flag was soon flying from civic buildings, homes and castles. The t-shirts spotted in far flung corners of the globe and The People's Republic of Stroud now famous even on TV.
But there was a cost to this success. Running a gallery was a 6 day a week job. The financial returns on selling t-shirts, mugs and flags is small in comparison to art at London galleries and my time and energy to paint was ever diminishing. In April 2020 the UK went into Covid induced lockdown. The gallery was forced to close and I had time on my hands. Time to paint again and time to look honestly at my accounts and reflect on where my art goes from here. A decision was made, The PR of Stroud relocated to The Stroud Subscription Rooms and the gallery closed in July 2020.
The end of 2020 was spent working on the music video for The People's Republic of Groove and the start of 2021 felt like a brand new creative dawn. From Feb -June I have created an expansive body of work I'm calling 'Pop Expressionism' and am now wondering what to do with it. I absolutely loved this creative outpouring, but I am nervous, as I have no idea what the response to this new work will be.
Time will tell.