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The Art Group was founded nearly two decades ago when several Little Rock artists came together to share an art studio. In 2013, the artists officially opened a gallery, The Art Group Gallery, in Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center. Follow along as At Home in Arkansas interviews each of the group’s 17 artists to find out more about their inspirations and processes for creating.
At Home: What are your earliest memories of creating art?
Patricia Wilkes: Art has always been a part of my being, my makeup—it’s inseparable for me, like breathing. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t with me. When I was very little, I made tiny storybooks and tea sets, farms with barns and animals, and little sculptures made from blue Play-Doh. My mother saved them, and I still have them! She saw at an early age that I had an artistic ability. In my early years, she enrolled me in art classes in Little Rock and was always my biggest cheerleader.
AH: Tell us a little bit about your background and training.
PW: I was able to attend Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts in St. Louis where I had the benefit of a traditional, academic art education. I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and majored in graphic design. I’m thankful for my freshman year figure drawing professor, Edward Boccia, and for my sophomore and junior year figure structure professor, Barry Schactman, whose instructions I still follow to this day.
After graduating, I worked in St. Louis and Little Rock as a freelance illustrator for advertising agencies while still always practicing my drawing skills. Later, when my children were in grade school, I picked up a brush again. For a few years I took portrait painting classes from Ovita Goolsby at the Arkansas Arts Center. Later, I began painting portraits first in pastel and then later in oil.
AH: How would you describe your style, and what is your primary medium of choice?
PW: My work can be described as Contemporary Realism with a modern edge. I alternate between working in oil and pastel because I find advantages in each one—even though the materials are different, my thought process is the same.
Although most of my work through the years has been figurative, I’m enjoying learning to paint landscapes and had the opportunity to study with Julian Merrow-Smith in France last summer. I also always strive to make my work authentic—something I have experienced and seen with my own eyes.
Lately I’ve been working on a series of works showing different kinds of beauty in women. I always have around 10 projects in my mind that I would like to do, so I’m never without a project or problem to solve!
AH: Tell us a bit about your process and where you create.
PW: When my children were young, I’d get them off to school, go work in my studio until about 3 p.m., and then resume the other parts of my life. I keep the same work schedule now that they are grown. We live in an older home in the Heights with our dogs, and during our second remodeling, my husband created a beautiful studio with two-story windows, a wall of bookshelves and cabinets, and French doors that open onto a balcony overlooking our backyard and the east field of St. John’s Seminary. The view is peaceful and parklike, and whenever I enter my studio, I am energized. I love to tune in to classic rock music and step into the alternate reality of the artwork.
Learn more about Patricia Wilkes and The Art Group gallery at artgrouparkansas.com.