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Paintings that Touch People’s Hearts - Debbie Patrick’s Fine Art World

By Adelina, February 11, 2019

The world is filled with surprises that touch people’s hearts both unexpectedly and deeply, be it a person, painting, piece of music, poetry, or scenery.

For me, it was a simple postcard laying on the front desk at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael, CA with a painting of Joshua Bell playing the violin. The facial expression of Joshua was so mesmerizing, his music brimming with unfettered emotion. It reminded me of my own daughter when she plays the violin.

Photo Courtesy: Debbie Patrick

That evening I did an online search on the painter, Debbie Patrick, and looked up her artworks. Her paintings spoke to me -- the colors, the lighting, the lines, and especially the subject’s eyes. The eyes are so realistic with captivating expressions and the subject’s emotions are vividly depicted and their individual personalities familiar.

Who is Debbie Patrick and what were the life experiences that make her such a wonderful painter? I was eager to know so I made an appointment to meet with her at her upcoming exhibition. Debbie was gracious enough to spend time with me for the interview during her busy task of setting up her artwork at the Underground Gallery inside Art Works Downtown.

Considering that large portions of her paintings are centered on the themes of performers’ playing instruments, my first question was “why musical performers”.  She then proceeded to tell me her unique and fascinating life story as it unfolded from the East to the West.

(Photo Courtesy: Debbie Patrick)

At a very young age during the 1950s, she lived in Taipei, Taiwan for a few years. There she started her violin lessons with a distinguished teacher named Dr. Ma. That was her first experience playing an instrument and what kindled her joy in performing music.

Although she does not remember much else about Taipei, she vaguely remembers “pilots”, “Air Force”, and the “Grand Hotel”. These things sounded all too familiar to me as I also grew up in Taipei in an Air Force family. As a result, the distance between our lives suddenly lessened.

Then she mentioned her father flew the Hump, shipping goods crossing the Himalaya mountains to China during WWII. This was the most dangerous mission carried out by the Allied Air Force during the war. Her father suffered hearing loss as a result. Maybe this motivated her to paint musicians playing instruments as a means of providing a visual memory of hearing -- seeing the performers’ expressions and gestures frozen in a moment of time, people with hearing difficulties might see the music “live”, or so I wondered.

After she moved back to the U.S., she started taking art lessons on basic drawing techniques which were rigorous and solid. However, at college, she did not major in art because her artistic style did not match the contemporary art fashions; abstract art was what was popular at the time so her realistic style was regarded as a poor fit.

While her husband focused on law school, she picked up her pencils and brushes again and became a street artist at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. She drew Victorian houses, cable cars, and tourist spots in the city. Those paintings were a great success so she opened a gallery on Pier 39 a few years later. Though it was very profitable for many years, she recently closed her business.

Photo Courtesy: Debbie Patrick

Currently, she is painting what she is passionate about -- portraiture. Even during the time when she was busy painting Victorian houses, in her spare time, she sketched live street performers sitting near her. From this experience, she was able to keenly observe the nuances in their styles, techniques, and expressions while performing.  

Photo Courtesy: Debbie Patrick

When I had a close-up look at her paintings hanging on the wall, the fineness of her detailed work stood out -- the wrinkles on faces, the definition of musculature, creases on clothing, etc. She told me it took her a long time to paint each line, there were no shortcuts. This was due to her early training in classical drawing. She also likes to use lines on people’s faces to portray age and to signify wisdom and experience; the face is a storybook of a person’s life. Because she now has the time to travel abroad, she has been able to capture many faces from different cultures.

Photo Courtesy: Debbie Patrick

Photo Courtesy: Debbie Patrick

As for her favorite medium, she said it depends on the subject. When she paints human faces, she likes to use oil. For animals, she prefers pastels to better depict the layered depths of their fur.

After I commented on her style as a combination of realism and impressionism, she agreed but emphasized that she strives to be closer to realism; she likes to construct a background that she deems more fitting to the subject at hand and often introduces lights and shadows to make the painting more dramatic and edgy.

I am grateful to have been able to come to know Debbie and to connect with her through her paintings. I wish her great success!  Detailed Information on her exhibition is listed below:

Paintings by Debbie Patrick

February 8 - March 2, 2019

Underground Gallery, Art Works Downtown 

1337 - 4th Street, San Rafael, CA 94901