Interview with artist Patty Baker
by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt
SchulmanArt: Patty, you are one of the few artists I know selling on line who was trained in art school. How do you think your art training has helped you as an artist?
Dave Yust, one of my painting professors at CSU (Colorado State University) taught me so much about color. He gave us great assignments to teach us how colors respond and react to each other, and also exposed us to some fabulous artists who are/were brilliant colorists (ie: Matisse, Wayne Thiebaud, Degas). Some of my worst paintings from school were the ones I learned the most from. I remember one painting where the assignment was to create a painting using 200 colors of the same value – meaning if a black a white photo was taken, theoretically you would not be able to see any difference from one color to the next. He did, in fact, take black and white photos of all our paintings for that assignment – and he took them under incandescent light and fluorescent light (which proved that colors respond differently under different light.) Anyway, my painting was terrible, but I think I apply the things I learned in that assignment to every painting I do.
SchulmanArt: I am so excited by your extra large canvases that are presented as a single composition rather than as a triptych. What is it like to work so large? What are the challenges??
Working big is a very physical experience – I have to use my whole body to move the paint around the canvas. I also get to use BIG brushes, which is a blast. I mean, any kind of painting is fun, but doing everything in large scale makes it a different experience. Big paintings have such a presence … you can’t miss seeing it. It commands the space it’s in. That reminds me of a quote that used to hand in the art studio at CSU: “If you can’t make it good, make it big. If you can’t make it big, make it red.” But actually, I aim to make them all three! (Red is my favorite color!)
SchulmanArt: I understand your brother is creating the technology behind these canvases…what can you share about the design process and how the two of you came to develop this concept? When will these canvases be available to other artists?
Well, as you know, Miriam, artists who sell on line have long tried to come up with solutions for patrons to cover large spaces on their walls. As shipping large canvases is so expensive, most haven’t offered them. The only workable solutions till now have been either doing multiple-canvas pieces that can be shipped in smaller boxes, or to ship the painting rolled and have the patron have it stretched on their end which can be very expensive and inconvenient.
I told Michael, my engineer brother, about this problem back in September, 2011and told him if he could come up with a tight, dummy-proof canvas that could be assembled, disassembled and assembled again that he’d make a lot of artists very happy. The first versions worked, but were not easy to figure out. Now, about 10 versions later, he has a design that assembles very easily in under 5 minutes with no tools! And it’s TIGHT. Also, he is using a reusable tube for shipping – which the artist can reuse to ship to the patron. It’s awesome all the way around, and costs about $20 to ship anywhere in the 48 states (as opposed to $395 for a 4×6′ canvas via FedEx.)
SchulmanArt: What has been your most exciting moment as an artist?
There have been lots but I think the most exciting one was when I finally could say ‘I’m an artist’ when people asked me what I did for a living.
SchulmanArt: What rituals do you have to get ready to create?
I peel the paint from my palette from the day before and this marks the beginning of my painting time and I focus on whatever it is I’m about to paint. I don’t typically listen to music because then I can’t focus as well on my painting. I totally immerse myself when I paint – to the point where several hours could pass without my looking at the clock. The structure part is tough sometimes. I have a daughter in school and my life revolves around making sure she gets where she needs to be and has what she needs. My painting day typically starts after I drop her off at school and ends when I pick her up. I’m not as productive as I could be, but I really appreciate the flexibility I have to be here for my daughter. Probably the biggest hurdle for me is staying away from the computer! I work alone all day, as do many of us online artists. I like the interaction with folks online.
SchulmanArt: What is your studio space like?
My studio right now is a 10×12 spare bedroom upstairs which was fine until I started working larger.
When you are working on such a large surface, you need to be able to step back and look from some distance. Sometimes take my big paintings out in my back yard so I can study them from 40 feet away. My other brother has a warehouse and he is fixing up a HUGE space for my studio – 24×30 feet! The Hudson River and Catskill Mountains will be my view.