In preparation for his winning entry, Michael Fitzpatrick completed some 10 different studies of his models in a local Napa, CA, dance studio. The artist has portrayed ballerinas before, but his compositions usually feature a single dancer, says Fitzpatrick. “I wanted to up the game,” he explains. “I thought the three ballerinas sitting on a bench, waiting in the wings, provided a narrative, and the interaction between them was fun. I did studies of the individual dancers, their hair, the dresses, and the overall scene. That’s how I work, so when I approach the final painting, I have all the problems worked out.”
Fitzpatrick selected the models and the color schemes for their dresses, and in his painting, he made the central ballerina’s long, coiled tresses the focal point—all strategic creative choices that bear out his extensive background in design. For many years, Fitzpatrick worked as an art director in New York, and later he ran his own advertising agency on the West Coast. Since
transitioning to a fine-art career in the 1990s, he has experimented with a variety of painting styles, from stylized to primitive. “I always come back to classical realism,” he says. “It’s fun to do a more graphic style with the figure, but it doesn’t give me that initial shock of realism I like.”
Yet, in his work, Fitzpatrick sidesteps “intense realism” by creating areas of abstraction using squeegees, palette knives, rulers, and other tools. “The abstract makes the real look more real,” he says. Find Fitzpatrick’s work at Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; Cole Gallery, Edmonds, WA; Petri’s Fine Arts, Sausalito, CA; Dean Day Gallery, Houston, TX; and Jessel Gallery, Napa, CA.
This story was featured in the December 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
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