He was educated at Beckenham Art School, where he fell under the spell of Samuel Palmer's romantic and visionary view of the Shoreham countryside. At the Royal College of Art he specialised in illustration and printmaking, and pursued his interest in calligraphy. With encouragement from Edward Bawden, Clarke began refining an individual aesthetic, printing traditional landscapes marked by a sense of locality and genre. Graduating in 1964, he benefited from the print boom of the decade and, with commissions from Editions Alecto and London Transport Publicity Department a promising career was launched. The publication in 1969 of his first hand-printed "livre d'artiste", Balyn and Balan won recognition from the most influential patron and connoisseur of the day, Kenneth Clark.