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Art and artists

Patricia Melvin is a painter based in York City.
What is it about New York that inspires you?
I was born here and raised nearby and so I have memories of New York City from my early childhood and to me it was always a magical place. Anything is possible here and everything seems to happen here. As my aunt once said to me, she said, 'People who live in New York, even if they've only been here for one year, they feel like they own the place,' and I think that it's because New York is almost more of an event than a place, where everything's changing and becoming something new all the time, and I think that's why it draws creative people and it's very inspiring.

Do you always paint in situ or do you sometimes use photos?
I always paint in situ, almost always. I use sketches and I work a little from memory and from sketches. I touch things up a little in the studio sometimes or finish things. But I like to be in the location because it's always changing and I take pieces of the scene, things that happen at different times, a bird flying by might be very beautiful or a person walking in the street and assuming a certain gesture or pose that's perfect for the composition. Things like that happen over the course of a painting and they can be just perfect. But a photo is very static and kind of ?at and it doesn't interest me to work from that.

Does that mean you have to work very fast?
Actually I do, I have learnt to work very fast because there are so many things that change on the street including being blocked by trucks and I do often work very fast, the seasons are constantly changing. People think of the four seasons but really nature changes almost every day, or every day so if I started painting at one point, it's hard to finish it later in a different season or later on in the same season.

What techniques do you use?
I use traditional technique. I use oil paint and brushes and canvas.

How long does it normally take you to finish a painting from start to finish?
Oh, there, every painting is different, they can take a few hours or a few years. I've worked on some paintings for years and years and sometimes I'll come back to a painting the following year when the season and the different light is right for that painting.

 

 

As well as the city pictures, you also paint outside New York in the countryside. What similarities and differences are there in painting the city and painting the countryside?

The city is very geometric and I love, I happen to love geometry, I love angles criss-crossing on the composition and different shapes, geometric shapes but the countryside, when I first started painting it was very difficult for me for that reason, because you don't have the perspective of the streets and the angles of the roofs and so on to lead your eye through the painting. It's, it was wonderful experience to learn how to make your eye move across a grassy field as opposed to down a street where it is so clear and easy kind of to figure out.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of painting in the country and the city?
The countryside is a wonderful place for me to paint. I love it because I'm usually alone, pretty much alone there and I'm not distracted by passers-by. In New York City there are just so many distractions with people coming up to me and they're usually well-meaning but it's just an interruption, it's a distraction from my work. And the countryside is so beautiful that I love painting there.

Do you ever paint portraits?
I do occasionally. I love painting portraits, but it's very rare to find someone who will sit for a few hours, for a couple of sessions, and I don't like to do portraits from photos. I've tried it and I don't like the results.

 
 
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