Scenic Texas reignites artist’s creative flame

 

Texas was on the short list as Kansas residents Patt Sharpe and her husband Greg started looking for a warmer place to live in the winter of 2007. They set off to explore a few possibilities within a day’s drive from Wichita, and they quickly zeroed in on Sun City, Georgetown. Patt says, “We instantly loved the people, the town square, the rocky countryside, the cactus, and the overall feel of the area. And with three golf courses for Greg, it was a no-brainer!”

As the Sharpes acclimated to the weather and living among the agave and the anoles, Patt found that the Texas landscape and people rekindled her artistic desire, which had lain dormant for years. She wanted to recreate the Texas beauty she saw all around her, and she’s been painting ever since.

Patt has always loved art and chose the subject as her major at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where she worked toward a bachelor of fine arts degree. Then along came Greg, and her focus changed. They fell in love and married, and she decided to quit school. She says, “I think I’ve always had that creative thing going on; I just put it on a back burner as I began raising a family.”

Now empty-nesters, the couple has had time to get to know their new summer place. Patt and Greg attended an orientation meeting to acquaint themselves with Sun City’s amenities, and it just so happened that the Sun City Visual Arts Club was beginning a pastel class that very afternoon. Patt thought, why not? It seemed an opportunity she’d be silly to pass up, especially since, on a whim, she had asked Greg to buy her a set of pastels the previous year. As she joined the class and picked up that first pastel stick, she says, “I fell in love with it instantly. I like the control I get [with pastels].”

Her first painting portrayed an Indian girl in profile. Patt was especially proud of it because she had worked from a black and white photo, so all the color decisions were left to her. But color is one of Patt’s strengths. She is not afraid to create her own interpretation, juxtapose complementary colors, or apply a dynamic underpainting. For example, Patt says, “Where’s there’s going to be green, I will do a wash [underpainting] of red.” Then, when she adds the layers of pastels over the wash, “it gives the final painting an added spark.” And that first painting? Her neighbor loved it so much that Patt gave it to her.

Patt most enjoys painting Texas plants and animals— from the elegant agave plants to shaggy goats and speckled longhorns. A personal favorite is her painting of a lizard. He stretches out horizontally, head cocked slightly toward the viewer, his scaly body resting on terra cotta, his green brilliance enhanced by a vivid purple background. Patt won an award from the Central Texas Pastel Society for this work. She says one of the best compliments she ever received on a painting was regarding this lizard. A woman said, “Look. You can almost see him breathing.”

Interestingly enough, when Patt is back in Kansas, she hardly ever paints. She’s busy being a mother and grandmother and gardening. Patt notes that painting intermittently like this is both good and bad. “You feel refreshed when you come back, but you’re out of practice.” As soon as she returns to Texas, however, the desire to paint heats up, and Patt sets up at the Sun City Studio at least three days a week, pastels in hand. Often, she’s there all day. Sure, she takes a lunch break, and there’s always some great socializing and artistic camaraderie. Still, she says, “I get lost in the painting. We get down there at nine in the morning, and suddenly it’s four. Where did the day go?”

Patt continually pushes herself creatively. She might tackle a different subject matter—for example, an example of southwest architecture—or different lighting, bolder colors, or a larger-scale painting. She loves when a painting is coming together. “Sometimes you just know,” she says. “You know it’s going to be a great concept and a fun painting to create.”

At other times, she’s unsure, but the challenge is worth it. She recently painted a cowboy sitting astride his horse, looking off into the distance. The painting, larger than her usual works, taxed her skills. Painting faces is a little scary as far as Patt is concerned, but she averted that difficulty because this cowboy faces away from the viewer; she had to paint only an ear! She has done a pencil drawing of one face that she’s pretty darn proud of, though, one of a figure who’s Texan through and through. Any guesses? That would be Willie Nelson.

Patt and Greg continue to split their time between Kansas and Texas, but Texas is the place where Patt’s creative flame burn brightest.


Patt has displayed her artwork at showings around town.
Contact her at gwsharpe@sbcglobal.net.

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