Remembering the Paintings of Clark Hulings

 

Great painters never leave us; they continue to keep us company through their work and American Master Clark Hulings will be no exception. With a career spanning some five decades and a body of work that is exceptional in every way, the legacy of Clark Hulings is all but etched in stone. If you are not familiar with the paintings of Clark Hulings, I invite you to sample selected paintings from different decades and get a taste of what you’ve been missing. If you are familiar with the work of Mr. Hulings,  I know you’ll want to see some more…

 

Clark Hulings

“Kaibab Trail, Winter” Clark Hulings, Oil, 27 x 54″ 1973

 Clark Hulings: An American Master Painter

I never met Clark Hulings, but I remember the first time I saw one of his paintings like it was yesterday. The National & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City was having a traveling exhibition of paintings. It came to my town and I wanted to check it out. The show was in a room at the Convention Center, not a gallery. I walked in the room where the paintings were, and it was just the four of us: me, the guard, and my two eyeballs. There before my blue-gray eyes was a painting of the Grand Canyon by Clark Hulings titled “Kaibab Trail, Winter.”

Clark Hulings

Detail from “Kaibab Trail, Winter” Clark Hulings

When I saw that painting, I just about fell over backwards. The two things I most remember were how the snow was painted (clean, beautiful snow with loose brushstrokes, but not sloppy) and the texture and light of the rocks to the right. I didn’t know anybody could put paint on canvas that good. I had never seen anything like it. (I had just worked my tail off for three years of art school, including a year of art history, and I was totally blown away.) I didn’t know if I should applaud or give up. I stood and looked at that painting for a long freaking time. There were no ropes or anything, so you could walk right up to the painting and breathe it in.

Who is this guy, Clark Hulings? (If you want to break away and go to the official  Clark Hulings website for a bio, prints, books, etc., go ahead…I don’t mind. I’ll leave the light on for you until you get back.)

Clark Hulings

Deatail from “Kaibab Trail, Winter” Clark Hulings

This was the early 1980’s, right about the time MTV was cool. No internet, no cellphones,and no iPads. By the way, this show had a lot of exceptional, iconic paintings in it, such as “Moving Day on the Flathead,” by Howard Terpning, “Blue Birds” by Morris Ripple, and “Sharing an Apple” by Tom Ryan. But “Kaibab Trail, Winter” was just over the top. I was an instant fan of Clark Hulings.

I kept that name in my head. Clark Hulings. Sometime later, there was an ad in a magazine for a book “A Gallery of Paintings by Clark Hulings” for $100 plus postage. Even though that is about what I made in a day at the time as a sign painter, I could not open my checkbook fast enough. I also remember the day the UPS guy delivered the book to the sign shop. I was useless the rest of the day. I later learned the this painting “Kaibab Trailer, Winter” had won the first ever Prix de West award from the National Western and Heritage Museum, and gave his career a big boost.

“What I paint is nostalgia – genre pictures that show people still doing things with their hands and working with animals. I look for things I saw in my childhood.”

 Clark Hulings in Art & Antiques Magazine, 1999. Michael Koster,  writer

The Paintings of  Clark Hulings – From the Outside Looking In

Clark Hulings

“Onteniente” Clark Hulings, Oil, 20″ x 48″ 1967

 Clark Hulings tells an interesting story about “Onteniente” in his book “A Gallery of Paintings by Clark Hulings.” (20th Anniversary edition available through the website).  While traveling in Spain with his wife, they spotted this scene, but waited four days for just the right light. Then when he was all done with the painting, he changed it. I make no claims about being an art critic, but a know something good when I see it…and “Onteniente” is all that and more. The dramatic feel along with all the nice diagonals, texture, and plays of light and shadow in this painting make it hard to take your eyes away from it.

“Painting isn’t a performing art, so how you achieve a result is unimportant.”

 Clark Hulings quoted in American Artist Magazine, 1973. Diane Cochrane, writer

Clark Hulings

“Kaleidoscope” Clark Hulings, oil, 29″ x 46″ 1980

“Kaleidoscope” is one of many market scenes that Clark Hulings is famous for. It is also one of the earliest examples of his fruit and vegetable market scenes that I have been able to track down. What do you say about a painting like this? The composition, complexity, the play of color, value, light and shade, perspective, detailed yet not overly tight and even somewhat loose in the foreground…it all works, and there is nothing that seems out-of-place. Not to mention the figures. Sitting, standing, reaching, profile, back, three-quarter, I count over 35 figures in this painting. Simple people, painted with care and dignity as they go about their day. It’s hard to imagine that this could have been painted any better.

 “Everything begins with drawing, whether it be the fledgling attempts of an art student or the confident execution of a master painter.”

Clark Hulings from his book “A Gallery of Paintings by Clark Hulings”

 

Clark Hulings

Italy, the Amalfi Coast, Riomaggiore-Cinque Terre, combined with the brush of Clark Hulings. I love this painting. I bought a print of “Sunday Afternoon” many years ago. I look at it several times a day. No joke. First of all, the subject matter is nothing short of incredible. On top of that, the viewpoint gives the incredible subject matter a monumental feel. Then the master Clark Hulings comes along and in one piece paints land, sea, buildings, clouds, people, reflections, rocks, and clothes hanging out to dry… within a  wonderful design, impeccably. I always look at this painting and think about what it would be like to live in a place like that.

 “I believe the greater part of talent is a willingness to expend much energy and expense searching for really good subject matter.”

Clark Hulings from his 2007  show catalog – Timeless Beauty; Pursuing Life’s Textures

 

Clark Hulings

“The Blue Portuguese Iron Barn” Clark Hulings, oil, 20″ x 27″, 1999

 

Of this painting Hulings wrote, “It didn’t take a seasoned eye to spot this scene. A blue barn tends to stand out. In my experience it is unique. The man on the burro places the scene in chronological perspective.” Another superior composition where the land, an animal, a man, and a man-made structure all coexist. I really dig how he cropped the lower left corner of this painting. I was always told not to do that. It works, and that is one of the coolest barns ever. Let’s also remind ourselves that Clark Hulings was approximately 77 years young when he painted this. This painting was exhibited as part of his show at Nedra Matteucci Galleries in Santa Fe in 1999.

“I think of my paintings as slices of life.”

Clark Hulings from article in Art of the West Magazine, 2007. Vicki Stavig, writer

 

Clark Hulings

“Barcelona Produce Still Life” Clark Hulings, oil, 25” x 27″, 2004

 

This Clark Hulings painting was shown during his Timeless Beauty: Pursuing Life’s Textures show in 2007. This painting was actually part of a larger painting that he split into two separate pieces, as he mentioned in the show catalog.  That makes two pieces in this article where he was not afraid to do some serious editing if he wasn’t getting the results he was after. It must be noted that Clark Hulings was approximately 82 years of age when he painted “Barcelona Produce Still Life.” That makes it all the more impressive.

“Once I thought that elements of a still life should be related or at least logical companions – elegant things together, rustic things together, never mixed. I no longer think this. It is enough that they harmonize visually to produce beauty and interest. Their social status is beside the point.”

Clark Hulings from his book, “A Gallery of Paintings by Clark Hulings”

 

  Clark Hulings – Master Painter 

 I have been able to go places through a Hulings painting that I might not otherwise know anything about. It’s because of a Hulings painting that I first got the idea of how interesting Italy, Spain and Mexico could be, or a number of other places for that matter. The paintings above are just a small sample of the impressive body of work of Clark Hulings. If you like what you see above, I encourage you to go to ClarkHulings.com and check out the complete website. On the community page, you can link to the Clark Hulings facebook page, as well as twitter feed and other worthy websites. The website also has information on the Clark Hulings Memorial Fund for burgeoning artists, if you would like to make a contribution. You can also sign up to receive news updates in the future. A retrospective show and catalog raisonee is on my personal wish list. You might as well pick up a book, a print, or a catalog while you’re at it. Worth every penny.

Last but in no way least, a special thank you needs to be given. Thank you Mrs. Mary Hulings. You helped your husband do his work, and to do this work, he spent a lot of time traveling and painting at an easel. Because of his work, people like me who love his paintings got to see parts of the world through the eyes and skill of a smart, talented, and prolific painter. Thank You.

That’s the view from the outside looking in, and just like the paintings above, that’s a view to behold.

One More for the Road…

 Of course I could not finish without a mention of the Clark Hulings trademark – the donkey. Burro, mule, donkey…I stopped counting at 60 paintings in my materials that I have with at least one of the above, and I know there are more.

Clark Hulings
“Boy Leading Water Burro” Clark Hulings, Oil, 12″ x 14″, 1981

 “Why do I paint donkeys? Because they are a noble beast; they are very strong, they are patient, they take abuse philosophically, and are pleasing to look at.”

 Clark Hulings from the 1999 solo show catalog

Thanks for reading! If you have a favorite Clark Hulings painting, how about telling everybody about it in the comment section? If you have a Hulings hanging in your home, well done. 

If you want a little more, click on the link for a short interview with Clark Hulings from 2009 by artist Lori Woodward Simons.

Have you thought about your legacy?


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