Mousie Clark and her art have been a fixture in and around Jackson Square in the French Quarter since 1977. She has had a successful career drawing portraits, caricatures, and watercolors as well as creating beautiful Mardi Gras posters. Her style has a strong Art Nouveau influence which she has christened Art NouNew.
Several years ago, Mousie had hip injuries which were the result of over thirty years of dancing ballet. She was forced to suspend her work in Jackson Square and was confined to a wheelchair until she was able to receive double hip replacement surgery this past Spring. Now that Mousie has her new hips, she is well on her way to recovery and planning her comeback to Jackson Square.
NCM: Are you originally from New Orleans?
Mousie: I was born in Austin, Texas, but I grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana. During the school year, I lived in Lake Charles. In the Summers, I was sent to Austin to spend time with my maternal grandmother and great aunt. My paternal grandmother lived in New Orleans and I also came over here a lot to visit. I finally moved here permanently in 1977.
NCM: Did you formally study art or are you self taught?
Mousie: My great aunt that I stayed with in the summertime was a wonderful artist. She was my first art teacher and inspiration. One summer she sent me to a workshop at Laguna Gloria Art Museum in Austin that was being taught by professors from the University of Texas Art Department.
After graduating high school, I went to McNeese State in Lake Charles and flunked out of art. I ended up changing my major to English Education because I found out that my dad was going to try to force me to major in Business, which would have been a disaster.
I also went to the Dallas Art Institute for about two years and learned a lot there. My first husband, Thomas, was also a student there.
NCM: What made you become a professional artist? Especially after you had that unfortunate experience at McNeese State.
Mousie: My experience with the professor at McNeese was very traumatizing. I actually made a D, so technically I didn’t flunk out. But I was so traumatized that I didn’t even sketch anything for about four years. My whole art career can be traced back to a moment in Dallas, Texas in 1972. I was a window trimmer there.
One day I took a break from trimming windows and looked down to see a magazine with an ad that said Levi’s Jeans was having a decorated jeans contest. In the early 1970’s I loved to decorate my jeans. That day I went home and told my sister about it and we decided to enter the contest together.
We were very serious about the contest and even got a professional photographer to take pictures of the jeans. The photographer was so impressed with our designs that he asked us to work in an art show at the Automobile Building in the State Fairgrounds.
While we were sitting at our booth in the Automobile Building, a man came up to us and offered us a job drawing portraits at Six Flags Over Texas. So we went ended up drawing portraits out at Six Flags Over Texas with stacks of white paper and black magic markers.
By the end of the first day at Six Flags, I had drawn 98 caricatures and got 60 cents for each of them, which meant I had made close to $60 in one day. My other job only paid $35 a week. That was the day I became a professional artist.
My sister and I worked at Six Flags all summer. After that we started working in other shows. We mostly worked at art shows and smaller fairs. Then one day I came to visit my mother in New Orleans who encouraged me to go visit Jackson Square. The square had recently been redone and turned into the pedestrian mall that it is today.
Thomas and I immediately decided to move to New Orleans. I drew and painted caricatures, true portraits, and watercolor paintings out there on the square.
Then in 1989, I built a covered wagon out of a trailer and ended up traveling the country for a few years with a crazy old piano player from New Orleans. We made our way around the country for about three years, just going from bar to bar. I would draw caricatures in the bars. Sometimes I would walk into a bar with $3 and walk out with $200 from drawing caricatures. I ended up leaving the crazy piano player and moving back to New Orleans.
I met my husband Fritz after I moved back to New Orleans. Fritz inspired me to do my first Mardi Gras poster. The first year I made three posters, which were supposed to be displayed as a triptych. They were images of a man, woman, and child because I wanted to illustrate that Mardi Gras was a holiday for the whole family.
NCM: What type of art are you going to be selling in Jackson Square this Fall.
Mousie: I will sell my my remarque prints. There are 60 of them in a limited edition print, which are on nice Arches watercolor paper and hand embellished with different glitters, holographic and iridescent inks. Those are for sale for $250. Each one is a little bit different because they are hand embellished. And I do all of my own printing.
Another important aspect of my prints is that I always put a quote on them. I usually design the artwork and find the quote to go with it afterwards. For my next print, I actually found the quote before I started the piece, which is titled “Music at the Gates of Dawn”.
” A death is not the extinguishing of a lights, but the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come.”
Ballet was also very important in my life. You can see how important dance is to me in my work. I often draw the women in my art in graceful positions similar to that of a ballerina’s pose.
NCM: What genre would you say that you work in ?
Mousie: I call my art Art NouNew! Because I am a hundred years too late to be part of the Art Nouveau movement.
NCM: Whose work in spires you the most?
Mousie: My main inspiration was definitely Alphonse Mucha. He was the Polish artist who established Art Nouveau. However, he refused to use the term Art Nouveau. Instead he said that art was eternal and can’t possibly be new. I absorbed everything I could find that he had done. His work went into my heart and comes out through my fingers.
I once met Alphonse Mucha’s great nephew in Tujague’s. That day I had one of my prints with me in the bar. He stopped and looked at it for a very long time. Then he introduced himself and told me that it reminded him of his great uncle’s work. I took that as a supreme compliment.
NCM: What makes you choose to do these watercolors and these prints over other mediums? For example, have you ever worked with oil or acrylic?
Mousie: I have so many years of experience with watercolor. My original Mardi Gras prints were only done in pencil, but people started to demand color. After a few years I started making small editions with watercolor. My goal was to create a look similar to an old black and white photograph that has been tinted a little bit.
Over the years, I started adding a little bit more color, but I like the design quality of the negative spaces that are representing solid forms. Forms that don’t have any shading or any watercolor on them speak to me. There’s a lot of negative space in my work. If you get far enough away from it, my work just disintegrates altogether.
NCM: Do you have a favorite brand of watercolor?
Mousie: I like Windsor-Newton because they have very strong pigments, but Liquitex makes a much nicer Hooker’s Green. I also use a lot of Maimeri Blue Artist’s watercolors.
NCM: What do you wish you knew before becoming a professional artist?
Mousie: I wish I had known not to be so intimidated by everything. Initially I was afraid to put my work out there. I wish I had not been so insecure.
NCM: How do you deal with negative criticism?
Mousie: I haven’t really gotten much negative criticism. If someone thinks they can create something better, then my response is that they should go try to make it. This is my work and I am proud of it.
NCM: Where can people find more of your work?
Mousie: They can find my work at my website www.mousie.com or come see me in Jackson Square this Fall.