Portrait of the Artist

Keith Patterson

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A Disappearing Island

Keith Patterson, Chincoteague Island, 2014

By Margaret Foster

January 23, 2017


 

 

Once a cabbie in Homer, Alaska, and now an Uber driver in Washington, D.C., upstate New Yorker Keith Patterson has painted and sketched throughout his life. In recent years, he’s been drawn to images of summer resorts such as Silver Bay in Lake George. Patterson recently completed a series of paintings depicting Chincoteague Island, Virginia.


“Anytime I go to a beach or lake, I bring some paints. Chincoteague is still a working fishing island. It’s a disappearing island. The water is rising, and the land is sinking. It’s not overcrowded; it hasn’t been discovered. And artistically, it’s got a great bog and mist that you can paint.

That day there were some fishermen who kept walking by me, saying, “Excuse me. Excuse me,” while they were loading up their boat. So that was awkward—as I was painting my little painting, these guys were doing something useful, loading up their fishing boat. Now [the National Park Service is] talking about stopping the fishing on Chincoteague, making it a protected area.

Morning is usually the best time to paint—morning or evening—since in the middle of the day, the shadows disappear. Plus if you’ve done a painting before breakfast, it makes you feel like you’ve done something.

I’ve done seven paintings of Chincoteague, and I’d like to go back and do more. Art [for me] is a very nonverbal thing. Why do you do art? It’s hard to answer that question. I tried to be a docent once at one of my classes at SUNY Purchase. I didn’t do very well. Because what can you possibly say about art?”


Margaret Foster is associate editor of the Scholar.

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