Clark Silva’s acrylic-on-panel Rock Icons attract people’s attention with their simple color palettes and minimal designs. Each portrait captures an important figure in rock history, especially Silva’s favorite genre: heavy metal. The artist laughs knowingly at the assertion that he has a deep and abiding love for rock and roll, which comes off as something of an understatement in talking about this 25-year-old metalhead from Chula Vista.
Silva says, “I thought, ‘how can I show the music that I love in a visual way?’ It started with the icons, which itself came out of thinking, ‘how can I paint portraits of the artists that I like, but do it in an atypical way?’ I decided to reduce each musician to something iconic. But it all comes from an absolute love of rock and metal music, and from finding a way to express that in the best way I can.
“I want to take parts of rock and metal that are misunderstood or not well known, and put them at the forefront next to other artists that people might recognize instantly. That’s why I put King Diamond next to Elvis.”
Despite the abstract nature of the portraits, Silva’s Rock Icons are recognizable. A set of round spectacles on a yellow background with red trim evokes John Lennon from the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s five colors, acyrlic on panel, but it works to encapsulate the image of the Beatle.
Silva’s portfolio contains drawings that are almost photoreal, but the artist prefers to work with abstraction and the simple colorways of his Rock Icons.
“The rendering and realistic drawing came out of forced, academic scenarios,” he says. “That’s where I had to start in order to break it down into the paintings I wanted to do. I’ve always been influenced by ancient art, where everything is simplified to its essence and nothing is over-rendered. With my love of music, I thought about how I seldom see music represented that way. It’s usually portraiture and things like that. In mixing this ancient minimalism--and also this kind of Sixties view of color and design – I try to make it more of something that people haven’t seen before in terms of music art.”
Lots of the music that Silva loves references ancient and medieval cultures and ideas. For the painter, bringing the iconic artistic style of, say, Byzantine painting to rock and roll makes sense. He’s trying to reflect heavy metal’s love for the medieval; giving back to the middle ages, as it were.
"Iron Madonna." Mixed media on panel. Heavy guitar picks compose the corona around the Madonna's head.
Silva’s future is still up in the air. After several extra years due to changes in his focus of study and scheduling difficulties, he’s in his final year of art school. Many of his fellow illustration students at Cal State Fullerton have their sights set on futures in professional animation, so they intern at animation studios and whatnot. Silva’s hell-bent on being more of a classical illustrator. He’s putting together a portfolio to send to all his favorite rock and metal magazines in the United States and Britain.
“When you go into illustration classes, all you see are people doing character designs and background illustrations. It’s a little discouraging. But you have to do what you want to do, and I’ve gotten a lot of support for that, and I am very grateful. I haven’t had to completely change what I want to do,” says Silva.
“I’ve done freelance work: album covers, t-shirt designs, and things like that. In terms of an artistic career, I’m still figuring it out,“ he adds.
For the time being, Clark Silva wants to try and finish the Rock Icons series. Portraits of Joan Jett, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Tina Turner are all in the pipeline. The plan is to have them ready for a gallery show in the spring and to bring his work to Bentcon, NAMM, and Wondercon.