Patrick Henry

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Patrick Henry is perhaps the preeminent Impressionist painter from Worcester County. Patrick sees his work as a spiritual calling. He is prolific, painting a variety of subjects including rural Delmarva, and scenes from his travels.

Full disclosure - Pat and I are friends. We go way back so I am a little biased. He is not only one of the best known artists in the area - but also a really nice guy. I visited in him in his studio recently and I asked him to tell me how some of his painting series from the recent past have taken him out of the genre most people know him for.

Patrick Henry:
"The backdrop for the series was downtown Ocean City, around the inlet, with Trimper's Rides being in the forefront of the images, in particular the carousel. I am also a history buff, so that was a great backdrop. And it was so funny about the series. It was received both positive and negative. For some people, which was the intention, they are full of drama; some people couldn't take that. Some people couldn't take that I had moved away from scenics. Some people feel comfortable boxing you in like actors. Either I am a soap opera actor or an adventure actor. As soon as someone tries to box me in I gravitate."

"So the next series I did was in different lights and it was this cross over into scenes of New York, Chicago. Really, kind of, biting the bullet and taking what could be perceived as taking a serious risk in "going out of your market" and doing scenes that are totally different. Again, the intention was experimenting with some colors and now it has evolved into this series that is called: Moments - subtitle: In color, texture, light and geometry."

This work will be exhibited at the Ocean City Center for the Arts during the month of August 2015. Patrick says tackling new subject matter helps him to grow as an artist.

Patrick Henry:
"In my painting life I feel I have gone full circle, like I have gone back to high school, painting for the sheer joy. It was a very satisfying series for me, because I went back to my artist child."

"I have, since the age of fourteen, had a serious passion for the process of oil painting. I have uses acrylics, and watercolors. Lately I have been doing a series of pen and ink sketches. But oil is my love and for the past almost fifty years it's been the oil painting."

"I have always walked with this strong inner voice, and I am very curious. I study everything. Travel they have said, really opens the mind of artists. And sure enough it was no way I could come back here and look at those images and see a few that - I want to try that. I want to go to a realm other than somebody wants me to paint this or that. And just explore..."

Pat plans to take a break from exhibitions while he works on a variety of subjects including still life, nature, and people and images from his files. During my visit he was working on a painting of a group of children at a playground. The painting was in its earliest stage with the composition and some of the values blocked in with russet burnt sienna.

Patrick Henry:
"This was from my photo inventory. My mother was the center coordinator for Head Start, and this was a scene of the kids. I already have a title for it. I was going to call it Head Start, but the other one is "I wonder". I was describing it to a friend of mine, and its twenty Head Start children. When a child is born and they're being nurtured, there's so much promise, so much promise. And because, of the events we have seen, the world starts to eat at that promise. Some children by being nurtured make it through. So I was thinking, these children; three, four, or five years old; are at the height of promise. This image was taken some thirty years ago. I wonder: Where are they now? I wonder. Each one of them have their own body language. This one has a security blanket. And I wonder about this one little white boy, how in a sea of black faces, where does he stand with race relations now?"

Patrick sees his work as a spiritual calling. Advances in technology have changed the type of opportunities for employment Patrick feels that the call to creativity can provide a much needed outlet for young people trying to find their way.

Patrick Henry:
"I know for myself, when I start a pen and ink sketch or when I paint, I go into a prayer like state that I don't want to come out of, but I know you have responsibilities with the world, but it will give young people some good quality time instead of acting out the way some of them do."

"At 63 as much as I was at thirteen or fourteen, just mesmerized by how you can take these globs of color and make something come alive. And that is where I feel I am at this stage in my life."