Pat Perry has had two full features on EK, the first time in 2010, and the second in June of 2011. He was also part of our Top 100 Artists of 2011. We’re back for a third feature, this time an interview, with the talented artist who is highly respected by the Empty Kingdom family.
How did you know you wanted to pursue art as a profession and what were the initial steps you took to make it possible?
I think the big, American idea of a career as our primary pursuit in life is ultimately unfulfilling. I just like making art, and I know that one thing you need in life is to make money. Right now I’m really just interested in making enough money to support myself to live a life of unique life experience and constant art making. I figured I could focus more on art making if I didn’t have a primary job doing something else. I started out doing a ton of client illustration, but that has been dialed way down in the past year, as I am more interest in personal creative pursuits for the time being.
What were some significant opportunities that really helped to get your career started?
When first putting my art out there, friends and family would give me small illustration jobs that slowly grew to larger projects as time went by. A friend helped me build a little website, and I started putting my work on there often. As I continued to hone my skills, I was lucky enough to start to build an audience of people who enjoyed browsing my work.
What are a few specific examples when the environment you were in and the scenery that surrounded you inspired your work?
Most recently, my home state of Michigan has been shining through in lots of my recent work, whether it be the dilapidated landscapes from the Outlived series, or the houses, trains, and people in my most recent oil paintings.
From where does the complexity of your illustrations stem?
I think it stems from being constantly immersed in ideas, dilemmas, and questions that I have trouble picking apart and simplifying.
In several of your illustrations, there seems to be cutout sceneries or views of looking from the outside in. What is the reasoning, if any, for this kind of composition?
I’m interested in breaking the hierarchical rules of what we are attracted to focally with a painting. Place is such an important and moving part of our lives and feelings, I like bringing the landscape and environment back to the foreground with more of a contemporary and fresh approach than a traditional landscape scene. I hope that I can maybe dodge the fallacy of assumption by arranging pieces of ideas in new ways.
What makes you choose to create some works through illustration and others through painting?
Different mediums have different sets of pros and cons. I also like learning new mediums so that I’ll always have the right tool for the right job. Whichever might be the best vehicle to convey the feeling is the one I execute the piece in. The same way I aspire to have a large collection of books on the shelf, and ideas in my head, I really aspire to have a large painting/drawing vocabulary.
While carrying out your busy schedule, how do you manage to find some free time and what do you do to wind down and relax?
I really try not to waste a minute. It’s hard these days to escape a busy routine, but when I travel I really don’t have much choice but to be out of contact. I don’t watch television, or even many movies anymore. If I’m not working on art, I’m spending time with friends and family, riding motorbikes, or getting into other mischief that is real and means something to me.
What are some interesting and distinct things you have either learned or remembered from being receptive to the audience you talked to or environment you were in?
My grandma told me to not give up on a relationship the first time you argue. A trail rider on the highway in Tennessee told me to travel all 50 states and make it to Peekaboo canyon one day if nowhere else. My wise friend Shawn said to always throw your first foot on the second rung of the train. My friend Nate said, “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.” My handicapped twin sister showed me that if we keep pushing everyday, the heights we can achieve are limitless. This toothless man in a pickup truck in Portola, CA said, “At the end of the day, it is what it is.
Disregarding the fact that currently you are very young and in high demand for your talent, how do you hope to develop and grow as an artist further down the road? What are some things you would like to work on? Have you ever felt like there was a skill you wanted to refine but just did not have the time?
I really think we should all strive to make work that transcends trends and coolness. If I can move forward with integrity, I feel like the work could cross those barriers that limit us to being interested only in this year’s newest, hottest thing. I have always made a point of keeping my age out of things, and I hope that has not swayed any conclusions on my work or who I am as an art maker. I still haven’t begun to fully communicate the feelings and ideas I want to. I am striving for that, but it is long, tiring climb to that kind of accessibility and connectivity. I’m going to keep making things that I truly care about and believe in, hopefully I’ll always have the resources and audience to do so. Like I said in the beginning; if I can support myself doing that, I’ll be happy. If not, I’ll work a crappy part-time job at the bookstore and make art in my basement late every night when I come home. I’d like to publish an art book or two, maybe even some stories or a small zine.
If you were to be given more down time, what kind of pieces would you be working on? How do you think your style would change if at all?
By scratching the more client-oriented workflow, I feel like that is starting to happen. I am doing a lot more oil painting, and trying to work on more full series that are cohesive successions of drawings.
Where can we expect to see your works within the near future?
I am participating in a bike art show at the Chicago Academy of Science as well as a group show at Nucleus gallery in LA in June. I’m holding off on any larger exhibitions right now, in pursuit of some published bodies of art surrounding travels this summer as well as an artist residency in Katmai National Park in July.