Abstractions Unlimited An Artistís Experimental Quest Patrick Degan

When Patrick Degan began as an artist, he foresaw a career as a cartoonist, either in comic books or as a newspaper editorial cartoonist. While he did do some of the latter for a college weekly back in his hometown of New Orleans, LA, he never got anywhere near to fulfilling that initial dream and instead pursued a career in commercial graphic design and illustration. Along the way, he picked up the skills of a photographer and also a layout design artist, and has found professional employment from various clients and other sources over the years.

But one thing eluded him in all the years since leaving school: finding a true vision to inspire him in making art. Patrick one day found himself feeling that he had reached an impasse in his development as an artist as well as in his quest for greater recognition and commercial as well as artistic success. “I was just basically “goldplating”, finding slightly different iterations on the same things I had been doing for years. But I had yet to really define myself and my art as unique and I felt stunted.”

From that point, Patrick began to go outside his own comfort zone, experimenting with instinctive drawing, with ink drawing without laying down pencil artwork beforehand, drawing left-handed as opposed to his usual right-handed style, with drawing on a graphics tablet and doing digital painting. 

“Drawing left-handed, which is a very difficult challenge for anyone used to doing anything with the right hand, with the hand you’re comfortable with, was something I had toyed with for several years but became a necessity when I suffered through a period when a pinched-nerve paralyzed my right arm and hand, rendering me unable even to hold a pencil much less draw with one. That lasted for several months and while I was rehabilitating myself to try to get the functioning back in my temporarily useless limb, I determined to develop my ability to draw and write with my remaining hand if I never recovered the use of the right. After a while, the right hand came back, but thanks to the experience I retain some degree of ambidexterity to this day.”

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Patrick Degan

That was eighteen years ago and that experience was also the first step on the pathway Patrick’s taken since then to branch out and challenge his own talent. Things reached a critical mass two years ago when he decided to begin experimenting with new things in his artwork. This led him ultimately to attempt abstract art for the first time.

“I had been doing the instinctive drawing exercises I’d seen one artist demonstrate in his YouTube videos, which are really a more elaborate form of doodling, in which you simply allow yourself to make any line, curve or shape that strikes your imagination at the moment. The results were remarkable in that in some pieces some very organic forms came onto the page. I filled an entire notebook with these drawings faster than I had for any other subject or range of subjects I’d drawn before.”

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Having already indulged one such experiment with pen and ink, Patrick then decided to try his hand at digital abstract painting. “I was inspired, again, by the work of other abstract artists whose works were displayed online, particularly those of the French abstract painter John Beckley who now has several dozen demonstration videos of his paintings up on YouTube and offers a tutorial DVD or a more elaborate tutorial course. M. Beckley’s bold usage of color and his confident, sweeping strokes on the canvas and creative usage of tools such as the catalyst wedge and the wood-graining rake to create elaborate patterns opened a whole new vision for me. M. Beckley works with acrylics on canvas while I must for the present work wholly in the digital medium. I would like to work with actual paints, but I lack studio space in the family home here in Rome and I can’t just slop or splatter paint all over the place.”

Beginning last year, Patrick embarked upon his latest project. It soon ignited into a passion that has inspired him as no other artistic effort has in a long time. As of now, having executed at least one work a day, he has nearly 190 pieces that he has amassed on his hard drive, using the Krita painting program as his creative tool. 

“I am not satisfied with all of my works, but this has been a process of experiment and discovery so even those failed pieces have taught me valuable lessons. I also have commercial ambitions for my work in this series, and when I have a hundred or so paintings that I have confidence in, I shall put them up for online sale. The modern digital art market is a venue which I could not have had access to years ago, and there are means now for printing out your work as posters or on canvas and having a physical product of your work that is display ready.”

As for what he is depicting with his abstracts, Patrick explains: ìMy object in these pieces is to show the dichotomy of order and chaos, how one is an emergent property of the other, and how one quality threatens to overwhelm the other. Our entire universe is thus: the clash of order and chaos. Without the one, the other cannot exist, and tremendous energies are generated from this clash, creating everything that is while also threatening to destroy it altogether.î

Patrick’s abstracts express this vision with organic forms, ribbons of luminescent energy crackling everywhere and splatterings of energy and light as well as matter. Some of the latest works have delved into depicting more geometric imagery but the same sensibility imbues all his works. He plans to have an online gallery website set up soon to display his works and to begin marketing them, and can be contacted at patrick.degan@yahoo.com.

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