Interview with Patrick Faile, Artist in Residence at the Shenandoah National Park.
Get to know Patrick Faile, a 2022 Artist in Residence at Shenandoah National Park, proudly supported by the Shenandoah National Park Trust. Patrick, a watercolor painter, hails from Rock Hill, South Carolina—growing up on the edge of his grandfather’s farm, he was inspired by the natural world and the beauty all around him.
SNPT: What is your background and how did you find your way to art?
PF: I started painting when I was about six years old. My mother dabbled in art, and I loved making art with her. Since my nearest friend was a 4-mile bike ride away, and my mom had art supplies and equipment, I would often hang out with her making art, generally when the weather was bad. The first two paintings that I ever made with my mother are still hanging in my house today. Some of my most prized possessions.
SNPT: What type of art do you create? What mediums do you use, have you always used this medium, or did you get to this medium from starting somewhere else?
PF: I have worked with all types of artistic media, including graphite, pen and ink, oil painting, watercolor, acrylics, etc. I did a little bit of everything through my art classes, but now I mostly work with watercolor and pen & ink. My artwork is almost always realistic in nature. I paint any subject matter and don’t want to be tied to any specific genre of art. I like to paint everything and move to paint what inspires me. Most often that is landscapes and nature. I feel as though a piece of my soul is embedded in every work of art I produce. I try to make each piece the best that I can, but environmental conditions, my mood, and everything is a factor in producing quality art.
SNPT: What does your process of creating paintings look like?
PF: My first task is to do some photography work so I’ve got good reference photos. Watercolor is the most difficult medium in my opinion because it’s unforgiving. If you make a mistake, it’s difficult to fix. Fixing your mistakes is extremely difficult in watercolor as it is a transparent medium, so I paint the painting in my mind first before I ever pick up a brush. After I have a reference photo, I use a pencil and eraser to very lightly outline my design drawing, a road map for the painting. The pencil and eraser are probably my most important tools, being able to erase and redraw until I get the composition right. Then I start the painting process.
SNPT: How did you start your career as an artist, and how has it developed?
PF: I actually worked as an engineer for a number of years, working in construction and building materials manufacturing. I worked my way my way up through the ranks—eventually, I owned my own company. After I retired from the construction business, I became a full-time working artist. My time spent as an engineer required me to draw construction/architectural plans and I became very skilled in pen & ink.
I read somewhere that less than 1% of the population of the planet claim to be working artists, and out of that 1%, about .09% are recognized for their work. So, for an artist, being recognized is the most difficult task, not creating the art. Since I’ve retired from my day job, that’s what I’ve tried to do. I created a new day job and it turned out to be the most difficult marketing job ever. It’s been both challenging and fun at the same time.
SNPT: How does nature inspire your work, and what is your background with the outdoors?
PF: Growing up on a farm, feeding the chickens, and being around wildlife was a central experience for me. Making art was also my mom’s way of keeping me occupied so I wouldn’t bother the animals too much! The farm animals and the surrounding nature were my drawing and painting models. They were an integral part of my life and as such, they were inseparable from my art.
SNPT: Who has influenced your work the most?
PF: Along with my mother, the public school system gave me my first real exposure to art, and I had two great art teachers that really pushed me – I think they saw some talent in me. I have a couple favorite artists, including Winslow Homer, who was a watercolor artist, and Thomas Moran, also a painter. Moran gained recognition for his painting “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,” which was the first painting ever purchased by the US Congress and was partially responsible for the creation of our first National Park, Yellowstone.
SNPT: What message do you hope to send with your work?
PF: I hope to help people realize that the art is worthwhile to document the Parks, and subjects within the Parks as they exist today. I think every artist imparts some emotional aspect to their art that you just don’t see in a photograph and is the key to making art valuable to viewers and collectors. Let’s hope the art extends the message of conservation and preservation to insure our park’s survival into the future and that people will see the beauty and value in the art. It’s very difficult to be a successful professional artist, regardless of whether you are a musician, actor, or visual artist. So, support your local artists.
SNPT: Did you have any ties to the Shenandoah National Park prior to this residency?
PF: I’ve spent time in the Shenandoah Valley and traveled through the region several times, but it’s been about 20-25 years since I’ve last visited the area. I’m looking forward to being there again and having the opportunity to really photograph the area in detail under different lighting conditions and capturing Shenandoah National Park in my art.
SNPT: What are you most looking forward to about your time in the Park?
PF: I’m wide open to whatever presents itself. To be disconnected for three weeks, being away from the computer and the marketing side of being a working artist’s business and having time to concentrate on the art, will be a wonderful opportunity. Much of that time will be spent with a camera to document what I see and be able to take those images to the studio and make the most of them. However, I will spend some time painting and drawing on site and look forward to engaging with the other park visitors. It will be a great opportunity to promote the National Park Service and their mission of conservation and preservation, as well as, promote my artistic endeavors.