Michael Patterson was born in Hudson, NY in 1953 into a family of painters. Howard Ashman Patterson, his grandfather, was an established American painter. Michael graduated from Suny Purchase with honors in painting, printmaking, and sculpture. He has been painting for thirty-five years or so, doing extensive traveling for inspiration.
His travels include Vermont, Maine, California, New Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Europe. He lived in France for several years. Michael has shown his work in Europe and the U.S., primarily in the Northeast.
Through the years his work has gone in and out of several styles and series of subjects. He is drawn to many of the same things visually that he was drawn to years ago: rainy city streets, sun on sparkling waters, faces, hands, clouds, sky, dappled sunlight, people at the beach, people playing music, and expressing feelings.
In addition to continuing his painting, he has returned to creating sculptures in carved stone and welded metal, both figurative and abstract. Michael’s work is in over 500 private and corporate collections in the United States and Europe. His home and studio are on the Shepaug River in Roxbury, Connecticut where he lives with his wife, Jessyka.
An Interview with Michael Patterson
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Michael Patterson. I am a painter and sculptor, mainly. I play music, and I just love the arts.
Why do you do what you do?
My grandfather was a painter, and ever since I was a kid I’ve painted, and enjoyed the experience of reflecting the beauty of life.
How do you work?
I generally work in series. I’ve pursued the same several different bodies of work: my dappled light paintings, which is a whole arena of work which I really like; my rain paintings– paintings of people walking in the streets in the rain; my beach series– a beach where people are sitting on the ground, relaxed, under the sun to me is a worthy pursuit.
What’s your background?
As I said, my grandfather was a great American painter– Howard Ashman Patterson. I had his paintings in my life, all my life, and paints, and brushes. So that’s the beginning, but of course, I did go to art school. I always did well in art. I didn’t do great in all the other subjects in grade school but I was always able to paint so I just pursued that somewhat naturally, and graduated with honors from SUNY Purchase.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Keep working. Just work. Just go. Go at it, I think.
What role does the artist have in society?
Well, I guess we’re kind of like the canary in the coal mine. We’re here to remind people of what matters, I think. I’m not really one ringing a bell of trauma coming our way. I feel like my job is reminding others to look at the beauty of things and to keep looking.
How has your practice changed over time?
I used to paint outside every single day. When I painted with oils, I would go with my big canvas and all my stuff and go climb on a hillside and paint, or wherever I was. Then that moved to watercolors which was an easier way to paint outside. I lived in cities– lived in Paris for many years, lived up in Vermont, and California. I always had my watercolors with me, hence lots and lots of sketches, and watercolors, and paintings of all the different places I’ve been. That has become sort of the source. Now, I paint in my studio, but I paint from all that information I’ve gathered through those years. I very much enjoy being here in my home, in my studio with my kitty cat and my wonderful Jessyka. It’s just a different way. I really used to be outside all the time. Now I really enjoy listening to podcasts, or my music, or silence, and just being here and working from here.
What work do you most enjoy doing?
I have done this series of paintings recently with my skiing buddies. We went to Europe for seven years in a row. I would bring my watercolors in my backpack, and ski in the mountains to these places, these vistas, that were just astoundingly beautiful. I would paint watercolors on location, and it’s just a thrill. It’s great fun. Of course, painting watercolors at the beach is really fun. Painting in the rain– I love to paint in the rain with my watercolors. That is really great fun. But, then again, that all comes back to my studio and I try to work those into bigger canvases and more substantial work.
What themes do you pursue?
I paint the series of “Dappled Light.” To be in a park with lots of people walking in the streets under the trees where that light is dappling down through the trees– I love that light. I think that is just a dance of beauty with people coming and going with the different colors they have on and then the light and shadows just dancing around. That is absolutely thrilling. Just to even without painting, just to go and be there and watch that. It’s just fantastic.
Another theme: rain. I love rainy days. People with their umbrellas sort of hunkered down on their way wherever they’re going. I love that– reflected light everywhere.
Another theme is the beach series. I love the idea of people at the beach sitting on the ground, under the sky, and listening to the sound of the sea. That’s gorgeous.
What’s your favorite artwork?
Well, my grandfather, who was a painter, really is one of my favorite painters. But I love all artwork, I feel like. Ever since the cave paintings to Caravaggio, to Paul Klee, to Brock and Picasso. You know, all of the people who are behind us who have built this history of beauty we all have is amazing, and I love them for that work.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
I was walking, years ago, up my driveway. I was going through a difficult time, kind of a time when I felt like I messed up my relationship with God, and I just felt kind of out of it for a while. And my Zach, my cat, who I just cherish was up the way and I felt the Spirit say to my heart, “that’s the way I love you, Mike.” And honestly, that cracked me open like a walnut. That changed my life. Ever since then, I still remember that, and once I felt that I felt like I could write a symphony.
So many things inspire me. I remember doing a watercolor in Barcelona, Spain and this little girl came and sat down next to me and I said, “Estoy aprendiendo español, I’m learning Spanish.” And she was saying things, and at one point she goes “no dice como esto, dice como esto.” And it was like, this little five-year-old was teaching me how to say it properly. That’s the part that got me. But life is utterly inspiring.
What is the outlook of an artist?
Keep looking. Keep searching.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Knowing lots of great people, I’ve been given lots of good advice. But, I guess I would say, out of Scripture, there’s a passage that says to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength. That’s compelling me to live wholeheartedly, and to do everything with the highest intention. Not to say I always do that, because I don’t, but that’s sort of a high calling.
A Painting’s Backstory with Michael Patterson
In the Studio with Michael Patterson