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Finding new channels for creativity

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
HL Patrick Espy 1 DT 3-19-09
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When artist Patrick Espy is inspired to paint, he attacks the canvas feverishly, sometimes spending more than 12 to 14 hours with a paintbrush in hand.

Espy has degrees in both fine arts and architecture, and while he used the architecture degree to make a living for the past decade, the slowing economy prompted him to pick up the paintbrush again around six months ago.

“These days, it’s kind of hypothetical to be an architect,” Espy said. “I think probably half the people I know in architecture throughout the valley aren’t working.”

But rather than focus on the negative, Espy has taken his creative energy and channeled it onto canvas, crafting colorful, abstract paintings. He’s enjoying this new phase in his life, he said.

“One of the things about architecture is it’s so concrete,” he said. “You can still express yourself, but it’s a concrete exercise. Art, if it’s abstract, can often be much more expressive, textural and creative.”

His most recent series ” eight or so abstract landscape paintings ” fills a small room in the top floor of the Wildridge condo he shares with his family. A few brushes, tubes of paint and dropcloths are scattered around the room, but it’s hard to look away from the bright, intricate paintings. He uses masking tape to section off parts of the canvas so he only paints a section at a time. The effect is intriguing: There’s a series of mini painting inside each big acrylic painting. The large paintings are almost wholly abstract with just a small realistic touch here and there ” a red ball on one, a purple geometric shape on another.

One large, 36-by-60-inch piece is very reminiscent of autumn in the mountains, though there’s only one small, distinctive,recognizable golden leaf in the entire painting. That small touch of realism is a new direction for Espy, who has almost abstract pieces nearly exclusively since he graduated from college.

“Abstract painting is sometimes hard for people to grasp,” he said. “My thought is if you introduce them to a painting with something that’s realistic, they’re engaged at a level that introduces them to the rest.”

Though Frank Norwood, owner of Main Street Gallery in downtown Carbondale, calls the small gallery “pretty conventional,” he and his wife, Sally, were attracted to Espy’s work, he said, and decided to carry the work. Four of Espy’s paintings are hanging in the gallery.

“It is unusual and different from anything we carry,” Norwood said. “We’re just trying to see where the interest lies in the community. We’ve gotten good feedback so far. If the economy were better, we might have sold a few pieces already.”

Along with Main Street Gallery, Artful Sol gallery in Vail carries Espy’s work. Last month, Espy had a show at CORE Gallery in Denver, an artist cooperative, and beginning Thursday, around 10 paintings from the landscape series will hang at Avon Library through April 26. Come summertime, Espy has plans to expand east and west ” he’ll show at Studio Clout in Atlanta and Infusion Gallery in Los Angeles.

“I’ve been a little taken aback by the response,” Espy said. “I am looking into galleries in Manhattan and Brooklyn for this fall or winter, but I haven’t found a place yet. More importantly, I haven’t finished enough work to show in all those places yet.”

One thing is for certain: There are plenty more long painting days in Espy’s future.


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