Exhibit | Works On Paper: Elizabeth Patterson
Elizabeth Patterson, “Canal Street, New Orleans”, 2011.
Artist Elizabeth Patterson’s colored pencil drawings, full of bright colors and diffused objects, create the sensation of rain, with all of the emotions and titillating effects it has on human beings at any given moment.
“Water, weather, and atmosphere have shown up in my work in various forms for many years,” says Patterson. “The rainscapes came about quite by accident when I was working on a series of underwater figure drawings. Driving home from work in the rain, my view out the windshield suddenly shifted from trying to see through the rain to watching it as one might see a painting in progress.”
An artist since early childhood, Elizabeth Patterson later received her BFA at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and moved to Los Angeles to be part of the Woman’s Building. “I was fortunate to be part of a critique group with the incredible Arlene Raven, and I also spent some time as a volunteer on The Dinner Party project with Judy Chicago at her studio in Santa Monica. “ Patterson says. Although she was working on her colored pencil drawings series at that time, a hand injury during her day job at an offset printer turned into a period of artistic dormancy.
Returning to her art practice years later, Patterson turned not to watercolor (the obvious choice for an artist looking to paint rainscapes), but to a combination of colored pencil and solvents. “In 2000, I found out about the Colored Pencil Society of America and became a member, which was pivotal in my growth as an artist,” says Patterson. “The cool thing about color pencil is that you can create an enormous range of effects with it.” Many of these effects are created by using Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits with different brushes and ground pigment, but her process begins much earlier then the actual drawing of the object.
“It starts with the photo shoot,” explains Patterson. “Part of the excitement is the complete unpredictability of weather, drivers, cameras, lighting, etc. I never know what I am going to get. Everything is going pretty fast while shooting the photos, so I mainly am looking at composition and trying to focus the lens on the rain. After slogging through countless unusable images, I round up the few that are visually compelling.”
One of the great artworks presently on display at Louis Stern Gallery as part of the group show “Works On Paper” is Golden Gate Bridge. There is an absolute sense of being there, of viewing this diffused watery and iconic feat of civic engineering. As Patterson explains, “I heard the rain, smelled it, experienced it… I take thousands of photos that capture a moment. Time stops for just that instant and allows me to see what I otherwise couldn’t see. The imagery provides enough information to create a more powerful composition in motion.”
It is an exhilarating and time-consuming process, one that emotes a story via layers of detailed composition. “What I like about the image, I exaggerate and exploit throughout the rest of it,” says Patterson. “This exaggeration continues throughout my process, which for me is a lengthy operation of building layer upon layer of pencil, from light to dark. There is a moment when I put the piece on the easel and step back and BAM! It’s moving.”
Another favorite is Patterson’s Mulholland Drive XII, an artwork full of drama and excitement and the fear of driving on a slick rainy night. It is a prime example of how the artist tells these rain stories with powerful results.
“My goal is for the viewer to enter the scene, feel it and fully experience it. My gift, I believe, is the ability to translate emotion onto paper. Though I know my work does compel others to feel, I don’t fully understand how that happens, other than to say, I feel it when I’m doing it.”