I would like to introduce you to artist and mentor Pat Undis. Pat is one of our mentors for this year’s mentorship program and we are happy to have her onboard. I sat down with Pat to learn more about her creative journey. I asked her when did she know she wanted to be an artist? She told me while growing up in Illinois, she was inspired by watching the creative process of her older sister. Pat told me she learned from her sister that you didn’t have to start out really good at art, that it was something you could learn and improve on over time and with practice.
When it was time to think about college, Pat wanted to go into something that she was really excited to learn about. She decided on art education. She began her college experience at a McHenry Country College in Northern Ill where she received her degree in Art Education. Pat told me she enjoyed taking a variety of art classes to learn all different mediums. She also took many graduate level classes at the U of M, MCAD and St. Catherine’s.
Pat loved learning and then turned that love into teaching others. She said she loved teaching high school because “you get them at an age when you can trick them into giving art a try”. Pat taught in schools for 32 years. The last 24 years she taught part time at Blaine High School where she said she was lucky to have been able to secure a part time teaching job. Teaching part time was a gift, as she then was able to continue to do the painting she loved. Pat also served as the director at Banfield Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley. She was the creator and director of North Artists Studio Crawl. She spends her summer months doing a number of art fairs, where she won many awards for her paintings. Early in her career she won an award for a large watercolor she created based on the Halloween Parade in Anoka. She is excited to attend the Plein Air Grand Marias festival this coming September.
Pat loves plein air painting and it is her way of creating. Plein air painting is painting outdoors and working on capturing the quality of the light and atmosphere of where you have decided to paint. When I asked her what artists inspired her, she told me she was in awe of the plein air masters. I asked what drew her to plein air painting. Pat explained “It’s a test on the spot.” For her, when you get to the spot where you decide to paint you need to zero in and find a composition and make other quick decisions.
“There is nothing like the contest of facing the elements and racing the sun. You are totally in the moment with a large dose of adrenalin trying to get it all right. Capturing the moment that passes so quickly is tricky. You have to draw in the wind sometimes rain, simplify, edit, mix the color and get your vision across all within a short window of time.” She enjoys being outside as one can get bored in the studio. Pat started using watercolor in the beginning with her plein air painting, then explored acrylic and then landed on using oil paints. She now enjoys creating with the water-soluble oil paints.
I asked Pat to tell me about her process when she was preparing to create a painting. She tells me she does research on her subject and a lot of ruminating as she prepares for a painting. She collects things and writes notes. When she writes things down other things come to her and soon it is turned into a vision of what the painting will be about. “It’s an organic process” she says. “There is a lot of prepping and a lot of grunt work really will pay off in the end.” In this prepping she might spend a day playing with color. Another day might be exploring creating different marks, as she likes to come up with new ways to make marks in her paintings. She gives herself exercises to do to expand her creativity.
Pat also told me that being an artist is a “fun little journey and everyone should do it.” She explained that in the Victorian times, those with money, took art classes. It was an encouraged way to spend one’s time. Painting or any art teaches us to see things differently, seeing colors and values better. This also relates to music and writing, she says that is it all interrelated and it enriches our lives.
I enjoyed getting to know Pat Undis a bit better and I hope you did as well.