Q&A with Jonathan Wilde and Craig Clifford

Wilde's responses as they were sent to Abel Contemporary Gallery

Wilde's responses as they were sent to Abel Contemporary Gallery

Established Wisconsin artists, Craig Clifford and Jonathan Wilde, will be featured in an upcoming exhibit entitled Birds and Boundaries. We emailed these two with a few questions as to what we can expect to see in this exhibition of their newest works and their artistic processes— Clifford emailed his answers, while Wilde sent us a delightfully handwritten response on the back of a local library book sale flyer (see image).  

Throughout my art education I have become fascinated by artist notes in all forms: pieces of scrap paper half-discarded in the studio, new ideas both fleeting and overworked, and small notes never meant for eyes other than the artist's-- they all reveal an inner life often hidden from the public eye. However, I would suggest that these "answers" provide a greater insight into the artist than any type-faced, seriffed response. 


-Lauren Miller 

Craig Clifford,  Range

Craig Clifford, Range

Why did you decide to work in your chosen media?

CC: Clay works the way my mind works.  The material allows me to change course quickly, cut off a part and add a new part.  There isn't another material that looks like glaze.  The more times, I fire a piece the deeper and richer my colors get. I'm not great at measuring, but if I'm off somewhere clay is soft and I can fill the gap with another piece of clay.  My first ceramics class was in 1988 and I still learn new things about ceramics all of the time.

JW: I am attracted to oils mainly because of the strength of the colors, feel I can get more “umph”. As well I like how the  paint can be maneuvered for effect. Partially, they are easier to frame than works on paper which generally require mattes, glass, etc

How has your work changed over time?

CC: My work has always been sculptural in nature, but the main aspects of the pieces were functional; teapots mostly.  This body of work starts to move away from the functional object, although a couple of teapots still show up.  

JW: Technically I try to pay more attention to value changes, how they lend themselves to enhancing the subject matter

Jonathan Wilde,  Life Getting Easier , 25 x 37

Jonathan Wilde, Life Getting Easier, 25 x 37


What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

two of Clifford's favorite tools in his studio   

two of Clifford's favorite tools in his studio


CC: My favorite tool is a long nail cleaner, from a beauty shop (image attached).  I'm not even sure how I got the tool, maybe a student left the tool in class.  One end is pointy, but rounded, while the other end is flat, perfect for smoothing.  I've probably have had the tool for ten years and will go into a beauty supply store looking for for a replacement, but can only find the short ones.

JW: Most indispensable… Well I suppose Me! The usual— paint and brushes— good quality, being important. Speaking of brushes, an unusual “ingredient” I really like is “lard oil” which really helps to keep brushes in good form.


Is there an artist who has strongly influenced your work?

CC: Tony Marsh has influenced my work the most.  Tony was my undergraduate teacher, his work isn't anything like mine, but Tony taught me how to work and be an artist.  I look at a lot of artwork and take something from all of it, but there isn't really one person.

JW: Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, Peter Poskas, Marc R. Hanson.


Can you tell us something noteworthy about your current work?

CC: It's hard for me to comment about the current body of work, I'm still in the making process.  This work is more narrative to me.  It's small, but there little bits of story spread out through the pieces.  I maybe the only person who is aware of these stories, because I make them up in my head as I make.  

JW: I feel I’m getting more “out of the paint,” or  at least I’m trying to push it. When it works it can be responsible for paintings that are closer to accomplishing what I set out to do/capture.


Birds and Boundaries opens Friday, April 20th 2018, please join us for an opening reception from 5-9pm with the artists  and light refreshments.