Written by Kaitlin Ruby
A self-taught artist that began his artistic journey at a mere 4 years of age – Sterling Clydesdale of The Silver Studio creates breathtaking abstract portraiture reminiscent of the likes of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and numerous other inspiring creators that paved their way in art history.
Through his wildly talented master portraitist godmother, Claire – Clydesdale began his artistic journey by painting Navajo spiritual figures. This, in turn, proceeded to influence his artistic practices by furthering his inclination towards spiritualism, magical realism, as well as portraying the human experience through his art. As he went on to teach himself a variety of techniques ranging from watercolors to silkscreen – Clydesdale additionally studied and practiced art during his high school and college years.
Developing his art through schooling came with its own set of challenges. He was constantly harped on by his teachers that his technique was “wrong” or that he “wasn’t doing it correctly”. This eventually led to some justified frustration on Clydesdale’s end, and he stopped taking art classes altogether in 2009. However, through daily studying and drawing for countless hours, he was finally able to achieve a personal aesthetic that he (and others) are proud of. Clydesdale has been impressively featured on the official Janis Joplin website, as well on Marina’s personal Instagram page from Marina and the Diamonds.
Just a year prior to 2009, Sterling Clydesdale was introduced to an artist that would subsequently influence a majority of his later works. Invited by his sister, Beverly – Clydesdale visited the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center where he happened upon a Warhol. This was the first piece by Warhol he had seen, and although at the time he didn’t quite know this artist would become one of his primary sources of inspiration, it was after seeing that painting that he fully leapt into the throes of creation. Completely fascinated by the impact of Andy Warhol, he thus began his journey into discovering how he can make his own unique mark on art history.
“I feel it’s our duty as artists to document history. Documenting our times as human beings. Life is fleeting – and every lifestyle, every experience, every mind, every heartbreak, every person is relevant and worth sharing their story. My hope is to always capture a connection between the viewer and my artwork – to inspire a question – whatever it may be in that time – to push us more together, closer, forward as a human race. Some of my drawing styles are inspired by Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali in their methodology and use of magical realism. More recently that’s been translated into my use of words, journal excerpts and interviews in my drawings and distorting their characteristics to make the viewer actually look – closely – at the artwork to understand these people I am painting.” –Sterling Clydesdale
Clydesdale would like for you, the viewer, to look at his work and dig deeper than what you see on the surface – to look closely at this person who has been depicted. See them for who they are, as well as for their legacy. Through that, he states that it is his hope that you “won’t feel so alone in the world [by seeing] the faces of people so much like [you],” He, moreover, wishes that you “take away a sense of wanting to create and document [your] own lives. Because it’s so important that we share our stories – no one else can say what we have to say the way we were born able to uniquely say it.”
Sterling Clydesdale’s art and portraiture are exceedingly fascinating in that he additionally tackles mental health stigma through his work – especially within the LGBTQ+ community. As a member of the community who has wrestled with depression, addiction, sexual identity, and abuse – Clydesdale utilizes his art not only as an outlet for his own personal struggles, but to tell the stories of many other members of the LGBTQ+ community who have struggled under similar circumstances.
“We’ve lost so many beautiful, iconic, creative souls to that crushing wave of isolation, misunderstanding, depression, and addiction as an escape. I feel, as an artist and a human being, these are my people; my family, my community. It is my duty and my honor in this lifetime to be given this platform to share stories of icons and the will-be icons who, through hardship, survive and thrive. And sometimes that’s your average Joe – and I love that. There is a lack of awareness and compassion in mental health and addiction treatment – especially in the LGBTQ+ community – and it’s time that changes. Not all creatives have to be starving and suffering. I hope that my artwork inspires that conversation and possibly motivates people to start addressing these issues internally, that we bury so well, so we – as a community – can come together and address the outside issues. We don’t need to lose any more great minds. I value mental health and community above all and realize the hard times we live in. Not everyone can vocalize, or feels safe to vocalize, how they feel or what they’re experiencing. My desire for my life’s work is that it will create a safe space for expression, mental and emotional clarity and communal acceptance of ourselves.” –Sterling Clydesdale
It is common knowledge within the realm of creative minds that art can help you heal and process and Clydesdale’s work is a prime example of how we can use our art for good and to fight for change – not only in our own lives but in other’s as well. As he looks towards the future, Sterling Clydesdale has plans to start a safe creation space for the community with an attached gallery space – where some of the proceeds from the gallery will go towards donations to LGBTQ+ and mental health centers. He states that, “as his artwork has become a channel to speak for those who cannot speak, are too afraid to speak or who don’t realize the profound truth they speak,” he wishes to channel that into making the artistic community a much safer place in which they are able to express themselves.