When presented with Patt Scrivener’s abstract images of musicians at work and play, a viewer can almost hear the sounds of a smoky jazz club or buskers strumming guitars on a busy promenade.
And why not? Scrivener certainly does.
“One influence on my art is definitely music, and that comes from my love of music,” said Scrivener, who relocated to Parksville with her husband from Alberta in 2008 and promptly turned her painting from a moonlighting proposition to a full-time career. “I play the Celtic harp, which I came to through the piano. The musical theme pops into my figures, and I think it’s from that emotional attachment.”
A selection of Scrivener’s horn-blowing, guitar-playing figures — and much more — will be on display beginning next Monday when the Old School House Art Centre unveils its October exhibits. An exhibit of Scrivener’s work, as well as Uli Ostermann’s Probably Too Close exhibit, are scheduled to run at TOSH from
Oct. 5-24, with an opening reception scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 7.
Scrivener has had an interest in art as far back as she can remember, “from a very young age, playing with crayons” in her childhood home of Nipawin, Sask.
She admits to retaining a childlike exuberance when starting each work. Rather than have a fixed image in mind, Scrivener starts each project “by making a big mess,” she says with a smile. Once she has blasted a canvas — or a line of canvases, assembly line-style — with a melange of colour, she said, she then steps back and determines what she sees before finishing the work into a recognizable image.
“I like the painting to come to me, rather than force it,” Scrivener said. “That’s how I get my best results.”
Last week, she spoke at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Centre, where she had a display of her “pond series” on exhibit in September. Most of the photos are green-based and feature swirling ovoid lily pads, but many are much more impressionistic and may be dominated by oranges or violets suggestive of a sunset on the rippling water. But despite the range of colour palettes and realism, the paintings in her series are tied by a common theme.
“I paint intuitively,” Scrivener explained. “What do I see in the painting after I’ve got the colour on? I have to hone myself in, and if I suddenly see a pond, then I’m going to keep seeing ponds.
“When I started the pond series I didn’t have a pond concept until I saw a pond. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ And I just kept on with that technique.”
Her figurative exhibit at TOSH will feature a similarly inspired series that came out of her experience several years ago of painting in an outdoor market.
After weeks of watching market-goers strolling past in her peripheral vision, or musicians performing, those images began seeping into her canvas. And her observations of simple street activities, from dog-walking to people strolling with umbrellas, continue to pop up.
“A lot of my figurative work has a musical theme running through it,” Scrivener said. “I find it very vibrant. It might be jazzy, or buskers, or piano players. Some of it has a more spirited look, too.”
Throughout her early adulthood, while working as a floral designer and interior designer, she “dabbled” in art, trying her hand at weaving, jewellry-making, pottery and painting, among others. But it was a mixed-media workshop by Maxine Masterfield, which she attended in Calgary in 2003, that set Scrivener on her current artistic path.
Almost immediately, she was juried into the Calgary Arts Society and joined the Leighton Arts Centre and the Calgary Community Painters.
“One day, my husband and I just decided it was time for a change, and we moved here,” Scrivener said. “Now I paint full-time and moonlight at floral and interior design.”
Now a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and the DeCosmos Fine Arts Society, Scrivener splits her time between creating original works and teaching others, through workshops or lessons in a mentorship program run out of her Parksville studio. In addition to her upcoming exhibit at The Old School House, she has a smaller, permanent exhibit there through her membership in the TOSH 10 Gallery.
And at any given time, Scrivener’s work might be found scattered throughout galleries and display walls in the mid-Island. In addition to her pieces at TOSH 10 and The Gallery at Qualicum Art Centre, she had works on display at Cafe Adagio in Parksville through Sept. 28, and another show beginning this week at the Salish Sea Market in Bowser.
“I paint every day,” she said. “I do some commissions, and I also do workshops, and that can shift my focus away from my work.”
Scrivener will still occasionally paint at open-air markets, but finds her selection of tools, well, limited.
“I’m really a studio painter. I want to have all my stuff,” she said with a laugh.
That stuff includes, of course, her music.
“I like to listen to live harp music, but I’ll also listen to beat music and jazz — especially at the start when I really want some energy,” she said. “Then later, I’ll put on focus music when I want to be calm and find the mood to finish the work.”