Catching Up with C.D. Clarke

Upper West Branch

Brooke Chilvers, Sporting Arts columnist for Gray’s magazine, reached out to several of her favorite artists for news about their activities over the last year.

This week, she caught up with C.D. Clarke

As avid a sportsman as he is a painter, C.D. Clarke usually plans his seasons months, even years, in advance, and thus was sorely struck by Covid restrictions. “The last year has been a mixture of up and down for me,” he said.

On the down side, “I’ve had a seemingly endless string of cancellations of commission trips due to the virus. First our plans to turkey hunt and paint in Texas in April, 2020 were trashed.” Later on, he still had hopes that he’d be able to go to eastern Canada to fish and paint in June. “Fat chance! I’m not even sure that we will be able to do this coming June 2021!”

After these let downs, C.D. then had to call off his autumn 2020 woodcock hunt in eastern Canada, as well as duck-shooting in western Canada. “We had hoped to go to Argentina in March 2021 for sea run brown trout, too.”

C.D. (b. 1959) lives the sporting life he read about as a kid in Field & Stream, first visualizing these activities through the eyes of Lynn Bogue Hunt, and later through Aiden Lassell Ripley, Ogden Pleissner, and Chet Reneson whose illustrations he first saw in the pages of Gray’s Sporting Journal; he’s been a subscriber since age 17.

c.d. clarke

King of the Mountain

For someone who has fished from Patagonia to the Gaspé, from Scotland to the Caribbean, closer to home looked pretty good. “On the up side, I had marvelous spring 2020 turkey hunting in northwest New Jersey.” During his two successful quests for gobblers high in the Delaware Water Gap, he also made oil sketches of the spring light bringing the forest to life and of the wary postures of an old male bird. The result is his large, invigoratingly colored oil painting, King of the Mountain.

“I fished and painted all summer on the West Branch of the Delaware River, and got to know that fabled river very well.” West Branch is a study he did from the bridge in Deposit, New York on one trip. Maybe we’ll see it as a finished painting, if C.D.’s finds himself still “stuck” – relatively speaking – at home in 2021.

For C.D., plein air painting is vital for inspiring recall of fleeting moments in nature – a certain light, an instantaneous shift of mood, a perspective born from a breeze – that can’t be captured with a camera, although he takes plenty of photos of sportsmen, boats, equipment, and dogs.

In that light, it was important to him to get to South Georgia quail country this past fall.

“I was able to travel by truck. Everyone in the group was tested for Covid before we left home, and we followed all protocols when we were traveling.” Once there, he followed his traditional technique of numerous thumbnail field sketches. “I’m using them in my studio now to create several commissions.” With its loose brushstrokes that feel like they’ve been laid down with tactile pleasure, Swamp Covey is a smaller painting that he saw in his mind’s eye during that trip.

Nothing has changed since I first wrote in May, 2014 that Clarke’s art is inextricably tied to the field. “The sportsman is in the artist and the artist is within the sport.” (The original column can be read by clicking here.)

Recalling that C.D. has painted the covers of former Gray’s editor Jim Babb’s trilogy of fly fishing stories and essays – Crosscurrents, River Music, and Fly-Fishin’ Fool – made me also wonder what Jim has been up to during this Covid-year, and whether the two of them were cooking up yet another title for readers like you and me.


By the time you read this blog, Brooke Chilvers fully expects to be snowed-in, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nevertheless, she still cannot commit to sourdough.