Artist, athlete, and entrepreneur Patrick Fisher paints mixed media portraits and abstract expressionist paintings that explore various states of consciousness and illustrate his personal story of rebirth and hope. A collection of Patrick’s paintings titled “The Purpose of Life is Living” is currently on display alongside the photography of Jordan Poe, and the woodworking of Mike Pecsok through August 28, 2015, at Blackboard Gallery in Camarillo, California.
The abstract painting, “Worlds,” was one of the first ten paintings Patrick had ever completed and he described the process of making it as “very experimental.” He started by layering down acrylic paint, then he used a spray bottle, a rag, and some brushes to remove paint to make the lighter, whiter sections. Next, he made strokes of paint and experimented with drips and arched areas that he’d shade in later for depth. When recognizable images would emerge, he’d enhance them with interesting effects, and in doing so, would begin to move toward the message being revealed in the painting. In “Worlds,” a message of connectivity that spans time and place began to surface, and when viewing the piece – even turning it different directions – glaciers, a skull, desert landscapes, a bird, and glistening oceans begin to appear.
He has completed many paintings since “Worlds” and he reports that everyone sees something different in his abstracts. He enjoys the interpretive quality of abstracts, often signing the work on the back so the buyer can decide which way to hang the piece based on what feels right to them.
Opening night of his exhibit was on August first, and following the event Pat said it was exciting to hear all the feedback and comments, especially from old friends that hadn’t seen him in years (he used to be a personal trainer) and did not know about his artistic ability. He said it felt “so good to have the public approach me with positive feedback and appreciation,” and he also enjoyed the diversity among the attendees on opening night: kids, college students, seniors, all sharing the experience together and talking and asking questions about the photography, woodwork, and paintings on display.
Patrick is also a talented portrait painter, using his own unique style of texture and color to bring to life iconic figures such as Bill Murray, Mohammed Ali, and Kurt Cobain. About six months ago, Patrick advertised a successful “portrait challenge,” promising 100 (18″ x 24″) mixed media portraits to get his portrait work flowing. The challenge worked, and Patrick completed the paintings in roughly three months. The commitment of the challenge motivated him to practice something he wanted to get better at, and it resulted in a refinement of technique that helped Pat hone his signature style.
His painting style gained a following, enabling Patrick to charge more for subsequent work, and he has since opened up his commissions to include portraits of family members, spouses and children. It was during this time that he painted a picture of Robin Williams after hearing the shocking news of his death. Williams had been someone Patrick looked up to as a young adult because of his community involvement, generous spirit, and infectious way of making anyone around him feel better. The news of the suicide hit hard, and Patrick felt a need to paint him, both as a gesture of remembrance and respect to a role-model, as well as a statement about the universality of internal suffering that many of us have. There are many roads to recovery that people go on when in this condition. They seek therapy, medication, comfort from family and friends, and even alternative medicines such as CBD oil from Massachusetts marijuana dispensaries. However, there still is a stigma surrounding mental health that prevents people from seeking out their options, which Patrick hopes to dispel with his creative work.
After completing the portrait challenge, Patrick felt a need to evolve and expand his work so he journeyed back into abstracts. The practice of meditation (that he had first begun while in college) had taken him to a place where he could face the fears that fuel anxiety and uncertainty, and this brave attitude began influencing Pat’s approach to his paintings.He began exploring deeper into the layered, textured world of abstract painting, using acrylics, stencils, and spray paint.
“I don’t want to be afraid to try new things with art. I like portraits, but my favorite style is grimy street art meets contemporary abstract.”
When asked about the difference between producing smaller, detailed work such as a commissioned portrait, versus expressive abstract work, Pat said “Some of the best abstract artists are also really good at detail work. I think abstracts are highly detailed. For me it’s more expressive because if I’m going to make an abstract skyline, I’m going to choose which buildings to look more detailed and which ones to abstract more.”
Patrick has come a long way with his artistic process. Eleven years ago, in 2004, he forged his own path away from alcoholism and anxiety toward a state of mental and physical wellness enabling him to tap deeply into his creativity. It was along this path, in the spring of 2013, that Patrick (using both his college education in business and his motivation to help others) decided to create a brand which would embody his ideal lifestyle and enable him to support himself financially. He created the brand “Gamut,” (defined as the entire range, scale, or scope of something) and began to meaningfully connect with others, quickly establishing a network of local athletes, artists and musicians who shared his beliefs. In addition to the psychological benefits he receives from painting, Patrick maintains his health through exercise (he still has personal training clients), listening to music, healthy eating, and organizing and hosting community “feel good” events at a studio (The Compound) he has since opened.
Hidden in many of Patrick’s paintings, with sometimes only a single letter peeking out from behind smeared paint, are positive messages to himself to stay healthy, help others, and be present in the moment. Patrick will often incorporate his brand’s logo into the layers of his work (an almost subliminal, stencil-painted “Gamut” signature) as a reminder of his dedication to his company’s mission. His painting titled, “Run the Gamut,” features a partial self portrait with stenciled rubber duckies mixed in (mascots of his Gamut brand) and sprayed Gamut logos placed in a mirrored orientation, symbolic of self-reflection.
The intended message is: are you using your life to its fullest potential? The painting is a statement about looking at your future self – what message would your future self tell you about how you lived your life? It’s about the inevitability of death, the insignificance of material things, and the importance of giving back.
“Run the Gamut is about letting go of things you don’t need and focusing more on connecting with people. These themes keep coming out in my art because I know I need reminders to myself. I tend to make pieces that are messages about things I know I need to do. I think maybe it’s my subconscious coming out. Patrick completed a big abstract painting recently that just said “Thank You” many times on it. It also has a sentence about being, as in being in the moment, because I want to be as grateful as I can while I’m painting and appreciate the process.”
Patrick chose to include a process-oriented, collaborative painting called “Refresh” in his current exhibit. He painted Refresh with Eric Abel, a well known surfer and artist whose work has been featured in the U.S. Open of surfing, on the surf brand Reef, and in Wyland gallery in Hawaii. Patrick met with Eric at the art studio Eric used to have in Ventura, California, and the two decided to paint on a canvas together, taking turns applying paint and spray in various shapes, piggy backing off each others’ styles and learning new techniques as they went along. They made a time-lapse video of the process which they shared on their social media sites. Patrick said he included this piece in his exhibit because it was all about the fun of making art with friends, learning new techniques, and connecting to reignite each others’ creativity at a time when they were both feeling artistically sluggish. He said that looking at the painting brings back good memories and that he’ll always remember the positive experience he had painting with his good friend.
In addition to friendship and good vibes, meditation has also helped Patrick become a more present, less anxious painter, and his creativity now flows more freely.
“Intrusive thoughts used to seem inescapable. Now when they creep up, I face them head on and they go away. If you are present while you are painting, you aren’t doing it to impress anyone or thinking, will this sell, you are just doing art and it is a more pure way of doing it, you create a better end result.”
Patrick says his creativity is also enhanced by music, and he often plays tunes to help create an environment conducive to his painting process. He says his musical selections range from meditation music, to “grind core” or “black” metal (which he says is like noise in the background to get him zoned out), to the punk rock he was raised on. The bands “Tides of Man” and “Explosions in the Sky” are two of his favorite instrumental, atmospheric Indie rock bands, which feature a lot of build ups and delays on the guitars. He said the American black metal band “Deaf Heaven” is currently his favorite band to listen to while making art, and that the “deeper” pieces he creates often happen when he paints in silence or with the atmospheric music playing.
Patrick and Gamut have helped support local bands and musicians by hosting concerts at his studio and headquarters The Compound. The two thousand square foot space is filled with paintings, couches, a drum set, and well-used gym equipment, and has become a cherished community art space which has – in addition to the concerts – hosted art exhibits, spoken word events, hip hop jam sessions, and classes. The walls of The Compound are decorated with – mostly large – acrylic and mixed media paintings done by either Patrick himself or by a variety of exhibiting artists he has sought out or has connected with through supporters and friends. He said he’s never felt intimidated to make big paintings, so when The Compound first opened he went to work, riding a wave of inspiration and excitement, making large works of art to adorn the walls of his space and setting the stage for good things to come.
But Patrick is detaching himself from material things, and in doing so he is letting go of something most artists wouldn’t dream of losing: his studio. Patrick said that during the first few months after he opened it, The Compound felt like the key to bringing people together.
“After the first two months of thinking the Compound was the best space ever, it began to feel…inhibiting, like you are just sitting in a warehouse. It was weird because it almost felt confining even though it was this big space. It’s hard to describe. I just don’t want to be tied down to anything.”
Patrick is now focused on getting out and connecting with people in venues in other cities all throughout the Ventura and Los Angeles county areas instead of in his art studio all day. He plans to paint at parks, at beaches, places out in the open where he can connect with people and spread the word about Gamut.
“I have a van. I can just put all my stuff in it and drive to a park to paint.”
Patrick plans to do a lot of events in the near future, events to promote the Gamut brand by sharing the message of the movement toward health that Gamut has initiated. “My goal is to get as healthy as possible, have complete freedom through art, and a totally open schedule to do whatever I want.” Gamut’s Instagram account, @gamutlife, currently boasts an impressive 3,500 followers, but he and his team are always looking for new ways to grow and connect with more musicians, artists, and active people – skaters, surfers, people who practice yoga – to get them on board with the brand and spread its message.
In September, Patrick and his registered therapy dog “Bear” will be going to Oxnard High (one of the area’s local high schools) to help teach kids how to use art as therapy to help diffuse stress and to incorporate positive coping skills into their routines. Seeing his former self in them, he has genuine empathy for those struggling with addiction and anxiety, and feels motivated to teach them real-life strategies – such as meditation and art therapy – that they can put to use right away.
“If you don’t face things then things will come back and haunt you so you have to keep facing things over and over no matter what it is. Art helps me do that and it helps me gain clarity and insight into my own mind. That allows me to be more patient and understanding with people who are going through hard times. It would be great if I could help out in some way, or inspire someone who is struggling. My ultimate goal in the long run would be to help people with mental illness and anxiety.”