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The latest tool in a painter's arsenal? The beard.
Good art asks questions. Graham Clark’s work, for example, asks, “Can you paint a picture with your beard?”
Little Mountain Gallery
195 East 26th Ave, Vancouver
September 22 – 26
Website | Twitter
The answer, if his upcoming exhibition at Little Mountain Gallery is any indication, is a definitive yes. His subject matter varies, though it’s all lovingly born from neatly tied facial hair.
There are plenty of Pollock-esque splashes and blocks of colour in the paintings, but if abstract expressionism isn’t your bag, there’s also a portrait of Don Cherry. As a gorilla. On a cereal box. So, you know, a little something for everyone.
This “Space Kid” is one of Clark’s many beard paintings. (Image: Graham Clark)
Clark’s comedy roots are certainly apparent with the Beard Paintings project. The Vancouverite, who hosts the popular Stop Podcasting Yourself, has been cracking wise all over the city for years doing stand-up.
Though he started his beard paintings as a joke (as comedians are wont to do), he began selling them online in an effort to help a friend with her cancer treatment, and managed to raise over $5,000 doing it. With the Little Mountain show, the charitable trend continues.
This time, though, everyone who purchases a piece—be it a rough sketch of robots playing leapfrog or a (disconcertingly detailed) portrait of Don Rickles—gets to choose where the proceeds go.
It may be hard to take someone whose beard is dripping with paint seriously, but Clark has managed to blend sincere philanthropy and goofy antics beautifully, and maybe that’s the real work of art here. Besides the painting of Robocop smiling, obviously.
The bristle-like quality of Clark’s facial hair makes it easy to create paintings. (Image: Graham Clark)
Clark kindly washed his beard and sat down with Granville Online to discuss paint, facial hair and all possible combinations therein.
You’ve never done an art show before. Are you nervous?
I am nervous. It’s not even about being judged. I feel like I’m past worrying about that. But I don’t know what I’m doing per se, so I just hope I’ve done it right. I hope this is a suitable attempt for someone who doesn’t know how to have an art show.
Do your paintings and your comedy have much in common?
They’re both just things that pop into my head; they’re from wherever that same weird place is. The ideas seem to appear out of nowhere.
What sort of training did you do before jumping into the art scene?
Nothing besides that remedial art class you had to take in school. I just pick the colours and let the beard go whichever way it wants.
Does hair ever get into the paintings?
Sometimes. But whether or not it’s a bonus is up to you.
How does the length of your beard affect your work?
When I started, it was much shorter and way harder. Now that it’s more ZZ Top-esque, it’s more malleable, and my neck doesn’t have to be craned the whole time.
How do you clean your beard?
Just water and soap and sometimes maybe a comb if the paint is really stuck in there. I use acrylic paint from this Vancouver company that makes its own products in-house. I’ve used other paints and some can give off a real ammonia smell and make you dizzy. Sometimes when paints come from other countries with strange labelling laws . . . it’s trouble.
Are there other artists like you out there, somewhere?
I’m assuming that somebody must have. It’s just one of those things that had to have happened at some point in time (probably when someone was high). What I find when I Google “beard painting” is either the painter James Beard or paintings of beards.
What if you painted a picture of a guy with a beard? Or a painting of a guy painting with his beard?
That’s some next level stuff.
Graham Clark: Beard Paintings runs September 22 through 26 at Little Mountain Gallery as part of the Olio Festival. For a chance to see the beard in person, check out the opening reception on September 22nd at 7 p.m.