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909 South Schumaker Drive
Salisbury, MD 21804
410.742.4988

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Mon - Sat: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sun: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Patrick Henry: A Look at the Artist by John Watke

 

I recently had an opportunity to talk with Patrick Henry at his studio in Berlin, MD, where he is working on a group of paintings for an exhibit for the Art League of Ocean City, MD set to open in the Fall of 2018.

Having sold his first painting at the early age of 16, Patrick has progressed through a variety of subjects, but always returns to that which he knows best - The Eastern Shore. He shared with me a binder filled with 35 mm film strips of pictures he had taken starting in the 1970’s.

Many of the pictures have since been turned into paintings, many of which were on display at the recently opened retrospective exhibition, Delmarva Visions: The Works of Patrick Henry at The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD.

While oil painting remains his favorite medium, Patrick likes relief carving, using a slab of wood and creating a three dimensional work. Another favorite is sketching with pencil or pen and ink. But as he stressed to me, he doesn’t have much time for these now.

From an early age, Patrick has had a strong work ethic, instilled by his father and mother. Working long hours on the dock in West Ocean City, MD he forged many friendships and took many pictures of the local fishing industry and the hard-working individuals it employed. Many of those photographs not only became paintings but have since become a series of black and white photographs in his current exhibit.

In 1981, living at home with his mother and younger brother, he created his own 12’ X 12’ studio in the backyard. For 5 or 6 years he did his painting in “his” space, where he was able to take a break and not have to pack everything up at the end of the day. This is a trait that he tries to share with aspiring artists: the need for your own space, a comfortable space where you can keep your work and thought process intact.

Following his education and love of art, he taught art classes at Stephen Decatur High School from 1976 to 1978. In 1992, after painting a Mural at Snow Hill Middle School, he was asked to substitute for an art teacher on maternity leave. His final teaching stint was from 1996 to 1997, teaching Studio Art Classes at UMES. Each position was different and unique. In each situation, he was asked to continue teaching. But in Mr. Henry’s own words, “I had tunnel vision, I wanted to be this professional artist, it kept me moving on.”

Mr. Henry supported young artists of all ages through the Henry Art Center, focusing on helping people who want to take their art beyond being just a hobby. Through sharing his journey as an artist and his passion for art, Patrick strives to help them excel in a specialty, getting “good” so to speak and then later branching out and trying other genres.

I asked Patrick if he ever wished that he had chosen another type of subject to paint. “I did venture out and do paintings of metropolitan areas I visited. I’m still intrigued to return and do some more, it’s the geometry that cities offer. I think that’s because of my Dad who was a brick mason,” he said.

While developing his own personal style, Mr. Henry said, “I resisted the temptation to do ‘sofa art.’” Sofa art, as he described it, is art in which the colors match the color of a sofa or carpet. Viewing his many works, one can only be thankful that he resisted that temptation.

A method called “giclee”, a French term meaning “to spray,” is used by Mr. Henry to make copies of his work. Taking a digital photo of a painting, he then uploads it to his computer, makes the necessary enhancements and sends the information to his inkjet printer. The end result is an exact digital copy of his painting. Prior to giclee, an artist was limited to offset lithography for reproducing his works. The drawback to lithography is that one had to order a minimum of 500 copies of each work. Now he is able to “print on demand”, allowing him to have as few as 2 copies on hand.

In keeping with his belief in God, Patrick Henry says he “Feels as if it has been put on my heart as an artist to portray the other aspect of life. An aspect that shows that while we may not always totally agree with one another, we are all connected in the family of man.”

And so, it is only fitting that the next phase of his artistic journey will be a new focus, less on the scenic and more on the intimate tidbits of the world around us. One example is his painting of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, where in June of 2015, 9 people were killed. In his painting of the Church, he feels he is “making a statement” by calling his painting “Mother Emanuel, Evil Visited, Love Prevailed”, because the next day at the arraignment of the young man accused of the killings, the families of the victims forgave that young man. In that forgiveness, Mr. Henry sees the underlying good that is in people: Patrick feels that the world would be a bizarre place if that good wasn’t there.

My impression of Mr. Henry after talking with him and viewing his work is of an earnest, dedicated man who is passionate about his art, and views art as a form of communication. He has been painting for fifty-two years and he has a vision of taking his work in a new direction now -- a direction very evident in the paintings he has already completed for his upcoming Fall exhibit.

Delmarva Visions: The Works of Patrick Henry will be in the LaMay Gallery, Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD until May 13, 2018. Don’t miss an opportunity to view these exceptional works by an exceptional artist.  Patrick Henry will hold a free artist talk about this exhibit on February 22, 2018 from 5-6pm.