Contemporary Art | Neil Patterson O.P.A.M.

Little elbow ob 16x20 web
Evening glow oc 16x20 web Fall day oc 16x20 web High country path oc 16x20 web Last sun oc 24x48 web Trembling aspens oc 24x48 web

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Little Elbow

Technique: oil on board

Dimensions: 16x20 in.

Price: $2,875 Cdn.

About the Artist

Untitled Document

I was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and it was a reproduction of a Tom Thomson painting in my elementary classroom that first got me to dream about painting. Unfortunately, there weren’t any art galleries in Moose Jaw and I had little exposure to original art until I visited my aunt in Ottawa when I was twelve. She took me to the National Gallery and that’s when I decided to become a painter.

I bought a book titled “How to Paint” and read it on the train ride back to Moose Jaw. My aunt sent me a set of oils for my thirteenth birthday and I created my first masterpiece on a canvas belt I found in my father’s workshop. That belt was so thick it almost stood up by itself and I didn’t even know to prime it first, but that’s how I got started.

My mother always told me that if I wanted something bad enough I would find a way to do it. My mind was set on painting and so I determined to make a success of myself. Over the years I’ve come to realize that there’s really no such thing as talent. It’s more desire than anything. Anyone can learn to paint competently and after that it’s just a little something of yourself, call it soul, which has to go into the work.

When people ask me what inspires or motivates me to paint, I simply tell them “I love painting.” Painting to me is like being a kid again; I get to play, but now it’s with paint instead of toys. I like how the paint moves on the canvas, how it can be a million different colors, what happens when you set one color next to another and what happens when they’re mixed together. For me painting is about feeling rather than thinking. It’s a spontaneous, creative, serendipitous process whereby I allow the evolving shapes and colors on the canvas to speak to me. I use loose brush strokes which, by definition, involve a certain lack of control. They are intuitive rather than calculated.

I paint mostly from memory. When I see a sky, I like to put that in my visual memory bank, and on another day I might add an appealing cluster of trees or an intriguing bend in the river. As I paint, I become a creator. I simply plant a tree or move a mountain in order to create a scene that pleases me visually. The final composition becomes a composite of many impressions. Each of us remembers things in a certain way that is our own reality, so I am painting things the way I remember them, perhaps not exactly as they were.

I think of my work as a visual expression of the emotion and passion evoked by a particular image. It is more important for me to capture the feeling of a place than it is to copy it realistically in every detail.

I paint what I love and see around me, scenes that speak to me, places I want to explore. I try to capture moments of light, color and atmosphere which spark my imagination. I want to create my own personal version of reality and entice the viewer to share it with me.

A photograph is what it is; a painting is what you want it to be.


Neil Patterson is an international artist and workshop instructor. He studied at the University of Calgary, first in Fine Arts and, later, in the Ceramic Arts Department. He focused on his ceramics practice for the next 14 years until he was forced to give it up because of carpal tunnel syndrome and, in 1984, a diagnosis of chronic tendonitis. Switching back to painting, which he had really never given up, was an easy choice for Patterson. "It's (painting) much like making pots. You play with the clay and I guess I've approached painting the same way. I like to be the creator, to put pure spots of colour on the canvas and have them represent something." Patterson is now an international artist and workshop instructor. He is a member of the Salmagundi Club in New York, a signature member of the Alberta Society of Artists, Federation of Canadian Artists, and the first Canadian to be awarded signature membership in the Oil Painters of America. In 1995 and 1996, he achieved "Top 100" and "Top 200" in Arts for the Parks. He was a finalist in the Artist's Magazine landscape competition and his flower painting was chosen out of thousands for publication in The Best of Flower Painting published by North Light Books.

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