Featured Artist - Pat Kirby
Please introduce yourself and describe your background
All children, except one, grow up. Spoiler alert. Me, Pat Kirby. I’m the one that didn’t grow up.
Okay, so the real answer is Peter Pan, but spend five minutes with me and it’ll be obvious that emotional maturity isn’t taking my calls at the moment. Or ever.
I went through the physiological transformation of growing up in El Paso, Texas, a place that was called a cow town, but the only bovines I ever saw were chopped in bloody pieces and wrapped in Styrofoam and plastic. Nevertheless, I grew up horsey. My mom, a single mom, got it in her head that I was going to learn to ride a horse. Probably because she hoped I’d go horse crazy and skip the boy crazy phase. Wrong. I was very good at multitasking. I was like, “Sure, Mom, challenge accepted. Hold my drink.”
Every week, Mom would schlep me out to a riding stable on the outskirts of town where I learned that horses are biting, kicking beasties that delight in scraping their young riders off on tree limbs. And they are beautiful.
The horse thing is relevant. I’m getting to it. Chill.
I graduated high school and matriculated at New Mexico State University. (I’ve now used the word “matriculated” in a sentence. Go, me!) I graduated with a degree that would be used to cover a suspicious stain on the wall, a couple of dogs, a husband, and about a hundred dollars to my name. The latter being an incentive to try my hand at grown-up employment.
That experiment lasted a little over a decade before I realized my first-grade teacher’s assessment was correct. I ran with scissors, ate paste, and didn’t play well with others.
Hence…art. The refuge of all dysfunctional human beings. True story. The first paintings happened when a malcontent cave person was hiding in the darkest reaches of the family cave and started scribbling on the walls with charcoal. That may not be a true story. If I got my wish and had the conversation mentioned a couple questions below this one, I could fact check that yarn. Anybody got a time machine?
Anyway, throughout my failed adulthood, and beginning in childhood, all I’ve ever wanted was to be the greatest horse artist ever. Not a horse who makes art. Drawing with hooves is hard. A human who draws really amazing horses. My earliest influences were Sam Savvit and Frederic Remington. By influences, I mean I copied the hell out of their work. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, copy. The horse phase was followed by the embarrassing unicorn and Pegasus phase (with rainbows!).
To this day, all I draw are horses. It may look like a dog, a bird, a cow, a dragon, etc., but every critter that emerges from my pencil is just a horse with modified anatomy. This, no doubt, is the root of my difficulties with drawing humans, who are the most oddly constructed creatures in the animal kingdom.
I’ve never been adept at color and instead am fascinated with depicting gesture and motion in a paucity of lines. My wind chimes and shamans, glorified silhouettes in steel, are part of that ongoing exploration. How to infuse a work with life in two-dimensions with little-to-no shading or detail. This can be blamed on two things: First, color is hard and I’m lazy.
Second, the vastly underrated illustrations of Jan Pienkowski. As a child, I encountered his work on the cover of an October edition of a Cricket magazine. The cover featured a deliciously spooky and wondrously detailed landscape, all in silhouette. Witches on brooms in the sky, a fairy tale castle with a ghost emerging from a dungeon; a drawbridge over a creepy ravine occupied by a skinny troll; an island with a unicorn and Baba Yaga’s hut. I stared at that cover for hours. And copied the crap out of it.
What is your earliest memory of creating art?
I’m around five years old. I’m sitting on the couch with bottle of red paint and a brush. There’s a sheet of paper in the vicinity and brush is supposed to meet paint and then kiss the paper in the most artistic manner possible. I’m fixing to paint a red cow, because red cows go faster than silly old brown cows. Zoom!
What actually happens is the paint bottle tips over and the result transforms the couch into a crime scene. Which it very nearly was as my mother contemplated killing me when she saw the mess. The unveiling of my first masterpiece, however, was postponed as I attempted to hide my work beneath a throw pillow. By the time Mom found it, the paint had congealed into a lovely, indelible mess.
Thereafter, I became a plein air painter because Mom kicked me and my art supplies outside.
Describe your primary medium and why you’ve chosen it for your artwork
Metal, primarily steel. Why? Because manipulating iron alloy requires extreme heat. I was the kid who played with matches and set things on fire with a ray of sunshine focused through a magnifying glass. Also, sometimes ate dirt, but I digress.
Plasma torch. Welder. Angle grinder. Power tools that melt and pulverize metal. What’s not to like?
What other media have you used?
My own blood. Not intentionally, but when you work with metal and power tools, bleeding will ensue. And tetanus.
A plain, old-fashioned No. 2 pencil is my weapon of choice for drawing. A hamster on speed has a longer attention span than me, so throughout the years I have dabbled in many other media including: watercolor, oil, acrylics, and pastels.
Presently, I’m working toward the goal of finally mastering human figurative drawing. That goal, combined with a love of anime and manga, led to the purchase of a digital tablet. Digital art gives me the ability to make loads of mistakes without wasting paper. It also spares the home furnishings any disasters when I do some painting.
Describe your artwork in 10 words or less
Sketches in steel.
What inspires your work?
Uh, everything? I prime the creative pump by going online and looking at art. I’ve been a geek long before it was cool, so fanart, art created by fans of science fiction/fantasy books, TV shows, movies, video games, etc., is a perennial favorite. Eldritch, weird and surreal illustrations are my catnip, as are weird and wonderful sculptures and assemblage art. Monsters, gimme the monsters!
Once my muse is awake, everything is inspiration. A group of dogs playing in a yard. The texture of a crumbling old wall. Everything.
If you could spend the day with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
The person who painted the Paleolithic cave paintings in Lascaux, France. The artist(s) had far better mastery of color than I do, now, in the 21st century. And they were painting with beetle guts and berry juice.
I don’t speak Cave person and they wouldn’t speak English, so the convo would be mostly grunts and hand signals. Pretty much like any evening with my spouse.
Do you show your work commercially? If so, where?
Back in the halcyon days, before a plague ravaged the land, I could be found at local craft shows. This year, my main venue will be CAST.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I hate sock monkeys. I’m not overly fond of real live monkeys either. (It’s the poo-flinging. And the creepy little hands.) Any configuration of runny egg—sunny side up, poached, soft boiled—makes me ill. I love most nuts, but despise pecans. I frequently fall in love with the villain in movies. I don’t find kittens or human babies particularly appealing, but snakes and spiders are awesome.
What advice would you offer younger artists just beginning their art careers?
If you want to be an artist, be an artist. Ignore the naysayers who prattle on about growing up and getting a real career. Art is a real career.
Learn to accept criticism, but don’t believe that all criticism is valid.
Learn to identify your audience and recognize that you are part of that audience. Create art that you love, that’d you’d buy, and you’ll find an audience.
Keep abreast of trends, but don’t try to fit your vision to match what is trendy.
Don’t be a snob. Art, craft, sculpture, design, illustration. It’s all art.