06/04/17 — A passion that heals

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A passion that heals

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on June 4, 2017 9:04 AM

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The piece of art above is titled Canning Tomatoes, which she did after walking by tomatoes on her kitchen table that she planned to can.

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The first self-portrait that she ever painted during what she calls My Purple Phase. Taking art classes, Patty has been assigned to do a lot of self-portraits.

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Patty Westfield stands in front of one of her paintings she's titled Currents because it reminds her of water. It started out as something else, but she got mad and painted over the original

Patty Westfield was working on a painting, something she had planned out in her mind before starting.

But it wasn't working.

"So I just put this color on my palette and thought it doesn't matter what I do now because I've wrecked the thing anyway," she said. "I went at it fast, painting kind of crazy."

Finally she stepped back and looked at it -- and she really liked it. And she had had so much fun doing it.

Patty doesn't always paint like this. Normally she clears her mind and plans what she wants to create.

"But lately, I've been doing some paintings that I've done very fast and very instinctually," the 55-year-old said. "I just go at that canvas with the color that seems right and brush strokes that seem right to me, and doing it very fast."

Visitors to Patty's exhibit at the Arts Council of Wayne County will see some of these paintings, as well as some of her other work. The exhibit runs from July 7 to Aug. 18 in the TA Loving Gallery.

Patty loved to draw as a young girl, but gave it up at 17 for the next 30 or so years to go to college and start a career and a family.

Taking it up again three years ago was a way of healing for Patty.

"I had been having health problems, and they became more serious," she said. "I went through a long period of illness for a couple of years. I just didn't feel it was worth it to go back to work. I still struggle with my health a bit."

But she needed something to fill her time, so she took a drawing class at Craven Community College. She loved it. So she took more classes.

"I'm a relatively new artist," Patty said. "I'm still exploring a lot, so far as trying to understand what media I like and what kind of a style I have. I think that takes a little time to develop. It's just really fun to experiment."

Patty has done some drawing with charcoal and graphite. And she's done some painting. A lot of her artwork has been realistic, but lately she's doing some abstract painting. And she's trying her hand at mixed media where she draws the main figure then collages the rest of it and maybe paints a little on it.

She has even sewn on some of her artwork with her sewing machine.

"If I did a collage mixed media piece on paper, then I might go over it with my sewing machine a little bit," Patty said. "It adds a neat texture to it."

No matter what kind of art she's doing, Patty has to be in the mood to want to do it.

"I like to clear my mind a little bit in order to be able to focus and concentrate on my art," she said. "On the other hand, I find that some of my best work that I do is when I am experiencing some kind of strong emotion. And that will show up in my work, even if it's a realistic drawing."

Like the drawing she calls Storm Coming. It's of the grain elevator in El Roy.

"When I started drawing that, I didn't intend for it to come out the way it did," Patty said. "It looks very sad and desolate. I was feeling lonely at that time. It's amazing how that came through in my art."

Then there's Living Water, an abstract painting Patty did after her daughter and son-in-law came from Michigan to visit.

"We had a really great visit, and I was just very happy about that," she said. "I almost looks like water cascading kind of up. It has a lot of pretty bright blues. It has a lot of energy. I think that really caught the emotion I was feeling that day."

But Patty's favorite piece of art is a charcoal and ink drawing she did of her 19-year-old son, Jake, sitting on top of a bunker at Normandy Beach while she was down in the bunker.

"I didn't know he was sitting there, and I glanced up and saw him and managed to get a photograph," she said. "He was there going to school for a study abroad. We went over to visit at the end of the semester. His hair is all curly and wild. His jeans are looking a little ragged. It gave it a lot of character."

Another piece she cherishes is Window to Memory.

"Every Christmas, we go up to our hometown in Michigan and rent an upstairs apartment in an old house," Patty said. "From the kitchen window of that apartment, I can see my grandparents' old house and into their old kitchen window. It's bitter sweet. It has a dreamlike quality, like the memory."

Patty tends to give her artwork an unusual touch.

"A lot of times I will do something at the end of my artwork that I just feel compelled to do and I don't know why," she said. "On Window to Memory, I kept feeling like I wanted to grab a piece of charcoal and draw on it. So I drew the window frames in charcoal. That added an interesting feel to it.

"A lot of times those impulses I have at the end of what I'm working on tend to be the best part. I tend to think that something is finished, and then I will take an eraser if it's a drawing and go through it and make marks on it or even erase little bits of it. Or I will take a pencil and do the same thing."

Patty has mixed feelings about giving up art for so long and not studying it in college.

"I think I missed a lot of enjoyment that I would have gotten out of it if I had not given it up," she said. "Also, I would be a lot further along than I am right now. I feel like there's so much I want to learn and so much I want to learn. There can never be enough time.

"On the other hand, I also feel like this is something that was given to me by God at a very young age. He gave me something I love doing. Back then, maybe it was set aside for all those many years to be brought back when I needed it. At that point in my life, when I took it up again, I was still not feeling every well and was not working anymore. And we had moved pretty far away from our family. I really needed something to fill my time. It was also a release, a healing."

Although Patty enjoys doing her art, she said she has a long way to go.

Patty ended up with her own show at the Arts Council after entering some of her art in the juried art show last fall and catching the attention of the gallery director, who asked her to do a show.