Most artists can pinpoint their beginnings somewhere in elementary school. Maybe they were given their first set of paints as a birthday present, or the once-a-week art classes sparked something in them.
For Jake Patten, West Central’s painting powerhouse, the artistic life didn’t start until well into his twenties. The late start is partly because he is one of six children born to a traveling evangelist.
He was homeschooled until halfway through his junior year when he landed at Snider High School. Afterward, he embarked upon his career as a Marine. Post-Army, Patten moved into the West Central neighborhood and fell in with the art scene.
“I was in my late twenties when I moved into the neighborhood,” Patten said. “It was there that I started meeting artists, going to shows, and hanging with the artsy crowd. I met my partner of fifteen years, Rebecca Johnson, through that crowd. She is totally to blame for my art career. She saw that I had entirely too much time on my hands and bought me my first paint and brush set. I was hooked immediately.”
When you develop a taste for creating something, especially something highly artful, it usually takes time before you call yourself a painter, a musician, or a potter. Many don’t ever take the title of artist seriously or refer to themselves as such.
But when you gather the courage to present something to your community, whether it’s in person or online, the feedback can cement you in a world entirely new.
“I should confess that I’m certain I have multiple personalities,” Patten said. “There is everyday Jake, and there is late-night artist Jake. Everyday Jake would say I’m still striving to achieve the title of artist. Late-night artist Jake would probably say I became an artist the day I picked up a paintbrush.
“After displaying a piece called ‘Be You, Be Golden’ in downtown Fort Wayne, the positive feedback was amazing, and art opportunities started to pour in. The transition was seamless. I’ve always loved painting and regularly painted before I started selling works consistently. However, it’s a dream come true to be able to work as an artist.”
Chaotic and colorful
Patten’s pieces are chaotic, busy, and colorful paintings combining Ralph Steadman’s thin lines and distorted features with Basquiat’s colorfully absurd shapes. “My Daily Confusion” exemplifies these characteristics while mixing textures, pastel colors, and messiness that fills the frame. Most of his pieces feature a loosely recognizable figure like a man or animal, but often with wild colors or shapes interfering with the normalcy of its familiarity.
“I find inspiration in whatever canvas or panel I happen to be working with,” Patten said. “I love looking for little faces, animals, or situations in the drips and lines of the medium.”
Once Patten gets some paint in front of him, he listens to what it tells him and follows it where it goes. Like this process, and his pieces in general, his actual process of what physically makes it onto the canvas or panel, and in what order, is a little unorthodox.
“My process is probably the exact opposite of the way I imagine they teach it in school,” Patten said. “People that frequent my studio watch me paint and say that my paint process is ‘in reverse.’
“Typically, I start with a piece of raw canvas, and I will have an idea or not, but they all start the same: lines, splashes, and drips. Then I step back and let the canvas do the rest. It’s like a big connect the dot puzzle at that point. Connecting lines and putting in colors where I see fit. Once the subject matter is where I want it, only then will I add in background color, shading, and fading, the things a typical artist would start with first.”
Style comes through naturally
Though there is no set idea going into a creative session, Patten has a way that gives him an impromptu edge while his output stays securely his. His style is unique while blending inspiration and characteristics from the art landscape. When the pieces are gathered together, you can see how distinguishable yet equal they all are.
“My style seems to come through naturally, and I certainly never feel as if I’m trying to work it in there,” he said. “I love large scale storyboard paintings; they are my true passion. I love to paint on a massive scale. The large works give me plenty of room to tell my stories. As you’ll see, a lot is going on in my large-scale pieces. Different parts of the canvas will be totally unrelated to other parts of the canvas, and yet they all come together in the end.”
Although Patten picked up the paintbrush later in life than most of us who gravitate towards art, he is undoubtedly as talented as those who have committed a lifetime to the craft. Whether his everyday self will let him admit it or not, Patten’s artist side is in full effect and is granting the flourishing Fort Wayne art scene even more brilliance.
On Sept. 20, Patten will be one of the featured artists at the Art This Way Art Crawl.
“The Art This Way team is doing incredible things for our downtown art scene. So please come out and support them and the local art scene,” he said. “Several other artists and I will be painting live. It’s always an amazing, amazing evening.”
You can also find his work on Facebook as Jake Art, on Instagram as @jakepattenart, and on his website, http://jakepattenart.com.
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