Artist Feature: Iain Clark

I’ve been working with Glasgow 2024 since it was a bid, back in 2019, when the Chair, Professor Esther MacCallum-Stewart, asked me to come up with an idea that could be used on both a flyer and a tall, thin promotional roller-banner at events. That was the piece that became the Girder Dragon, a twisted pylon of metal in the shape of a dragon against a backdrop of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. The piece combines two of my favourite colours, magenta and cyan, and was loosely influenced by Bob Peak’s beautiful artwork for Star Trek V, a poster that has arguably aged much better than the movie it promotes!

My ‘Girder Dragon’ painting (L) and a Glasgow 2024 flyer (R).

The movie poster for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by Bob Peak.

The reason (I assume!) that Esther asked me to contribute to Glasgow 2024 was because I’d been involved in producing promotional art for the Dublin 2019 Worldcon, including having been very generously asked by the Dublin 2019 Chair, James Bacon, to create the cover for both the souvenir book and the programme guide.

Some Dublin 2019 paraphernalia, including my covers, together with the very first Glasgow flyer.

Rewinding the story a little: art is my hobby, not my job. When I was young, I was immersed in the Doctor Who art of Chris Achilleos, Frank Bellamy, and Andrew Skilleter, and I think I was convinced that illustrating Doctor Who would be the perfect career. My earliest fan art circled Doctor Who, Star Trek— anything that interested me—even Airwolf. Later I went through a Tim Bradstreet­ phase doing art for local Live Action Role­playing events, and I did some fantasy art for the Quest Celtaii LARP.

My early Tim Bradstreet–inspired Vampire artwork.

The Dublin 2019 Worldcon was the springboard for a bit of a renaissance in my art. Prior to that, I was working mainly in pencils and inks, but Dublin pushed me towards colours and, eventually, full acrylic paintings, which are the majority of my art now. To me, painting was always something that felt like it belonged to “proper” artists, and I wasn’t confident enough to try it for years. I feel like I learn something new with every piece I do. Like a lot of artists, I’m confident enough to put my work out there, insecure enough to assume everyone will hate it. These two things happily coexist in my head. I’m high maintenance is what I’m saying.

For Glasgow 2024, I’ve produced a lot of paintings on spec that have been used as promotional flyers and postcards. And sometimes I’ve been asked to produce art to a specific brief, for example: for colouring competitions, the “I would move 500 miles” chart, or t-shirts. In many ways, working to a specific brief is easier because the options are much more constrained, so a lot of the uncertainty is taken out of the process!

The 500 miles poster, combining a painted background of the city and individual line art depicting local landmarks.

A t-shirt design for Glasgow 2024, created from elements of my colouring page.

If you know my work at all, it may be from my BSFA Award-winning pieces, ‘Shipbuilding Over The Clyde’ (2020) and ‘Glasgow Green Woman’ (2021). I’m aware that I would absolutely not even be in the running for an award like that without the inspiration and exposure of the Worldcon, and I’m very conscious of that good luck and privilege. Likewise, my four appearances on the Hugo Best Fan Artist shortlist are very much due to my Glasgow profile. 

From sketch to painting: ‘Shipbuilding Over The Clyde’.

For ‘Shipbuilding Over The Clyde’, I was thinking of ways to honour and reflect Glasgow’s shipbuilding heritage. I am also a huge admirer of vintage railway posters. I decided to produce a “sister” piece to ‘Shipbuilding On the Clyde’ by Norman Wilkinson (I don’t pretend to have Wilkinson’s skill!), updating it from an ocean-going ship to a spaceship being constructed in the old Clydebank shipyards, combining historical photos with futuristic elements. The spaceship is deliberately reminiscent of 1970s SF covers, incorporating shapes and textures intended to evoke a ship’s hull. Although I wanted some of the feeling of the original Wilkinson piece, I wanted to avoid copying. So I went back to black-and-white photos of shipbuilding on the River Clyde for my reference material. A number of elements were drawn from John Brown’s shipyard, and the tug is based on the Empire Fred.

You can find a video of me talking about ‘Shipbuilding Over The Clyde’ on the Glasgow 2024 YouTube channel.

From sketch to painting: ‘Glasgow Green Woman’

‘Glasgow Green Woman’ is a sequel of sorts to the Green Woman piece I did for Dublin 2019. It’s my attempt to create a nature spirit, surrounded by an array of plants native to Scotland including, of course, the iconic thistle. The framing and layout is a development of the same classic railway poster format as ‘Shipbuilding Over the Clyde’, but the artwork is allowed to bleed out the full frame. (I didn’t design the Glasgow logo; that was the tirelessly creative, Hugo Award-winning Sara Felix.)

You can find a video of me talking about ‘Glasgow Green Woman’ on the Glasgow 2024 YouTube channel. I also wrote about the process of creating the picture in issue 62 of Journey Planet (“Crafting during COVID”) (free PDF download).
In addition to my work for Glasgow, I’m a fairly prolific fan artist, my main obsession being Doctor Who. Most recently, a number of my pieces for Glasgow, along with other art, have been used on covers for Salon Futura, Journey Planet, and elsewhere.

Fan art for the Tom Baker Doctor Who episode ‘Terror of the Zygons’

A montage of my published work from 2023

You can find details of my published work, as well as a heap of fan art, on my website:

The 82nd Worldcon will take place in Glasgow, August 8–12, 2024. We can’t wait to welcome you to Glasgow and the SEC/Armadillo for a Worldcon for Our Futures.