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Little Rock’s Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center is home to a unique local treasure: Art Group Gallery. Founded and operated by area artists, it is a true working gallery where area artists have a studio to paint and can display their works to sell in the front of the shop. Follow along as we feature different artists each month who will each share the inspiration and stories behind a few of his or her pieces.
Today we sat down with local artist Patricia Wilkes who paints with pastels and oils. Here, she shares the inspiration behind several of her recent works.
At Home: We love the life and expressions in this piece. What can you tell us about it?
Patricia Wilkes: This is a detail of a mammoth pastel that I did during Arkansas’s huge snowstorm this winter. My daughter, a serious marathoner, was the marathon winner of the Wonder Woman Race Series in Little Rock a few years ago. I went with her to the race, and it was so great seeing all the women really creatively resplendent in their costumes and ready to run. Each person was truly Wonder Woman that day, and their spirit and energy was contagious.
We also attended a post-race party after Jenny’s win. She had ordered a fabulous, custom-made, authentic Wonder Woman costume for the race, and all the girls were awestruck and wanted their picture with “the real Wonder Woman.” The little girls were the best! When I saw her photo, I knew that I had to paint her because of the look on her face and her strong attitude, so I made her the focal point of this whole pastel and built the painting around her.
At the reception, I was struck by how empowered each person had been by the event. They were all Wonder Women, because each one of us is a “Woman of Wonder,” hence the title.
AH: And you also enjoy painting still lifes in addition to portraits and scenes?
PW: Yes, I painted a lot of florals last summer! However, when fall rolled around, I had to look for something new to paint. I was at a garden center buying pumpkins for the house, and at the end the checker named each pumpkin that I bought. I did not know that pumpkins had names! But they can be beautiful and so descriptive. With this knowledge, I decided to begin painting them but also adding a sense of character and personality. I wanted then to have a little more complexity than simple still lifes. So, the “Pumpkin Dramas” were born. I would look at some of my pumpkins and gourds and see a story or drama between them. I invested them with personalities. This was in October, the height of the pandemic, and I wasn’t going anywhere. My imagination, however, was going a little wild!
“Speckled Swan and Friends” (top) was my first pumpkin painting. Speckled Swan (on the far right) decided to have a party and invite her friends Orange Cutie, Snowball White, Hooligan, and Porcelain Doll.
“Affection” (bottom) is one of my favorites in the series, but it was also the most difficult to paint. I found the most beautiful pumpkin at Fresh Market and had to paint it. I added a few other small ones. The noble “Snowball White” leans against the flamboyant, pink Galeux D’Eysines who sings from the top of her stem. It’s a happy painting. It was such a challenge to try to give an illusion of volume, depth and space while painting all the little mountains on this beauty. There are lots of three-dimensional stars, a figure, and a bunny. I should have put more in there.
AH: Tell us about this amaryllis piece. It seems to have a lot of depth and emotion in it.
PW: Yes, it is very similar to the pumpkins in “Affection,” in terms of volume and depth. This winter, I watched and waited for an Amaryllis bulb to bloom in my studio. The waiting period was long, but that bloom time was frustratingly brief. I tried a photograph for reference, but it was no substitute for working from life. Those Amaryllis blooms may have been short lived, but they were magnificent. I tried to capture the feeling of those flowers just reaching out like we do, extending our arms as far as we can after being contained in that fist of a bulb. We have all been contained for a while and now we are slowly being released. It feels great.
See more of Patricia’s work and learn how you can shop Art Group Gallery at artgrouparkansas.com.