Patrick Wilkins recently had his first solo show in Denver after graduating with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. His paintings are wild and unsettling, reflecting anxiety and uncertainty about ourselves and world we live in, especially with so much information coming at us from all angles on social media and elsewhere. Make sure to check out his Instagram account, link after the Q&A!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, and grew up in Elkhart, Indiana. Currently I live in Chicago.
What do you like most about working where you do?
My studio is right outside of my bedroom. I can just roll out of bed and start painting (that doesn’t happen too often though).
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
My work has a loose autobiographical theme on anxiety, doubt, and daily struggles. It’s not like a pity party or a coping mechanism, but more of a alternative to the odd portrayals that people put of themselves in social media generally.
What is your process like?
My process is mainly intuitive. I’ll take a few things from sketches and throw them onto a canvas and work from there. I enjoy having odd interactions between figures on a canvas with many ways to interpret them.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
I made a large wearable sculpture in my apartment in Denver that was just an inch larger than the doorway, so I had to lower it out my window on a rope. I wore it around the neighborhood for a while and had some interesting reactions. Some people that were obviously super baked shoved donuts into the mouth of the sculpture and another guy attacked my from a blind-spot. After wearing it around for a while I hoisted it back up into the window.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
Since graduating from SAIC I’ve been a dogwalker, a butcher, and a jack-of-all-trades in a factory. I think finding a good balance between work related work and non-art related work can be more beneficial than all one or the other.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
The worst that can happen in your work isn’t that bad. Just do something. If you don’t like it, fix it. If you can’t fix it, scrap it.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
To me community is people to hang out with, scheme with, make with, etc. I think it is completely necessary to have a community. People around you tend to be pretty good at saving you from yourself. I’ve had a bunch of times that I’ve hated good work that I’ve made and people convinced me not to trash it.
What is your studio like?
It’s pretty cluttered and messy. I lay paper across my table that I sketch, spill, and eat on. It kind of becomes an artifact of the way I work. Everything is piled all over the place and paintings are on all the walls of my apartment and piling up everywhere.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I wake up, make coffee and oatmeal, and watch some dumb youtube videos until I’m awake and alert enough to start making things. I’ll continue to watch/listen to them if I’m gessoing or stretching a canvas. Otherwise I’ll listen to a wide variety of music.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I think my MFA has been extremely beneficial for me. It accelerated my progress immensely, but also helped me learn how to slow down and think about work. And I really appreciate that they taught me HOW to think about art, not WHAT to think.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Keeping focus on making things when there is nothing really over the horizon for yourself exhibition-wise.
How would you define “success” in art?
Critical reception would be nice, but at the moment I would really like financial stability to come from making my work.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I recently had my first solo show at Leon Gallery in Denver. It was great arranging things with those guys and driving my work a thousand miles to show it. I even sold some relatively large work there. All around the whole thing was a fantastic experience.
What are you working on right now?
I’m painting a lot and taking a ceramics building class, none of that throwing on the wheel stuff. It’s been a while since working with clay, so we will see what come from that.
Find more on Instagram @patrickmartinwilkins!