Artists to Watch | Patrick Lee

In the flow

Patrick Lee, Ghost Town Interior, oil, 30 x 30.

Patrick Lee, Ghost Town Interior, oil, 30 x 30.

This story was featured in the September 2020 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2020 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

FOR ARTIST Patrick Lee, painting is an ongoing journey into new territory, with times of clarity and moments of uncertainty; in effect, it’s a continual process of growth and discovery. He calls it conscious incompetence. “That’s a perfect place to be,” says Lee, “because everything is a learning experience.”

It has proved to be a winning mindset for the Pittsburgh, PA, artist, who has been garnering increasing recognition for his plein-air works. He’s been juried into the widely respected Plein Air Easton competition for a number of years. The first time he applied, in 2013, he was accepted. The cachet of the competition’s roster alone was daunting, but working alongside some of the country’s best artists was also inspiring. “I’ll never forget it—the sweat and tears these artists put into their work,” says Lee. “You have to do a ton of work, and then you can try to go up to the plate and make a hit.”

With his fresh, interpretative style, the 48-year-old artist is making hits with his oil paintings across genres. In April, he snapped up the top prize in the BoldBrush Painting Competition for GHOST TOWN INTERIOR. Inspired by a visit to the historic gold-mining town of Bodie in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lee completed the scene—depicting a now-defunct, eerily quiet schoolroom—based on memory and sketches he completed on-site. Loaded with gestural mark-making, the painting reflects the artist’s affinity for a variety of painting tools, including knives, brushes, scrapers, oil pastels, and vine charcoal. He’ll even use his hands, “just to get surface variation,” he says. Whether portraying landscapes, interiors, architecture, or the figure, his process is generally the same, notes Lee. “I can take it to a more abstract degree by pushing color and simplifying things, or leave things more recognizable.”

The artist is rediscovering a freedom in painting that he relished without restraint as a fine-art student at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania a few decades ago. Back then, his style was almost entirely abstract. Now, he says, “I’m getting to a place where I can have a technical process that works, and combine it with this thing that has nothing to do with technique—emotion, memory, a feeling. If you let that stuff flow, it influences the way the work looks. And I think people connect with that.” —Kim Agricola

representation
Sarah Jessica Fine Arts, Provincetown, MA; Sewickley Gallery, Sewickley, PA; Meyer Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Stanek Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Mary Tomás Gallery, Dallas, TX.

This story was featured in the September 2020 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2020 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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