Hatteberg's People - Painting With Parkinson's: Wayne Clark

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

On Hatteberg's People, no one would think that getting a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease would be a good thing - and it's not - but in many ways, for artist Wayne Clark of Wichita, it changed his life, he says, for the better.

Wayne's paintings are his life. He paints what he likes, with no deadlines, no pressure - just the joy of art. He paints in his living room that is now his studio in his small apartment. Diagnosed with Parkinson's 20 years ago, he moved to Kansas from California to retire.

"I'm usually working on four or five pictures at the same time in various stages," said Clark.

First diagnosed with Essential Tremors and then Parkinson's, Wayne had to figure out a way to continue painting without being hampered by the tremors.

"I had a little trouble painting because I couldn't 'rest' my hand. So I had to develop a way to do that, so that's what the 'slats' do on my easel," he said.

From the small town of Vesper, Kansas, Wayne's roots are in the Kansas soil. It was at the old Wichita Municipal University that he found the world of visual arts. After a stint in World War II, he studied at the Kansas City Art Institute under legendary Thomas Hart Benton. Later, he raised a family of seven. In California, he was a freelance artist with the deadlines that were often and pressured. The Parkinson's forced him to retire. That's why now Wayne says the Parkinson's has given him time to paint what he wants, without a deadline.

"I'm not too upset with Parkinson's. While it's not too pleasant, it still got me out of the rat race," he said.

Now, he sells many of his paintings to benefit Parkinson's research. He may not have made money, but is influence is powerful. Many of his children and grandchildren are continuing his art tradition.

Like daughter and artist Karin Clark.

"I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, but we've all been touched by his abilities," said Karin Clark.

There is his daughter Judy Skerl, a fiber artist.

"He would sit us down with a little canvas and our own brushes and let us paint as children. It was a very colorful childhood," said Judy Skerl.

Then there is his son, Jonathan Clark, a Wichita mural artist.

"I envy his painting quality and each one of his personal stories behind each painting," said Jonathan Clark.

John's son Christopher Clark is a photographer and artist.

"He is the patriarch and the head of the family," said Christopher Clark.

And in this family, Wayne's influence just keeps going.

His daughter Cyndie Wooley is a medical Illustrator on the west coast, granddaughter Maryssa Wooley is an art student in L.A. and daughter Ruth Howell works as a Senior Designer in Ohio.

With pictures like these in his portfolio, Wichita Artist Wayne Clark wins his battle with Parkinson's every day with each brushstroke. But he also wins with a family poised to carry on a legacy. A legacy of love and creativity painted on life's canvas for all to see.

Wayne told me that as he paints, if his tremors are bad, he paints broad brush strokes. If the tremors are under control, then he paints with fine detail. His attitude is that since he has the disease, he'll make it work for him. Now he has the opportunity to only work for himself. For an artist, that is great freedom.

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