“From the time I was in middle school, art was something I always knew I wanted to do,” says artist Charles Patrick. He went on to attend Parson’s School of Design for illustration and headed in the direction of print making. After college, Patrick got a job at an art gallery in SoHo where he sold vintage advertising posters. At the time, there was only one other business in the country that did poster restoration. He opened his company, Poster Conservation, in Brooklyn and taught himself everything he could about restoring paper. Patrick has now owned the company for 27 years. He explains, “I never really saw myself as being a fine artist. I saw myself being more involved in running a gallery or studio. But I just really enjoy the process of making art and wanted to immerse myself in that world.”
It wasn’t until about six years ago when his then 8-year-old son came home from school needing help with an art project using paper. Patrick immediately knew this was right up his alley and went to an art supply store, not knowing exactly what this project was going to be. He was inspired and created his first work using paper and pins with his son. It took a lot of trial and error but the project was finally complete. According to Patrick, this was “a crude version” of what he does now.
For the next six months, he continued to play around with paper, perfecting the materials and methods of making the work. At last, he had his first fully realized piece and brought it to his gallery. “I hung it in the window. At that moment I had a mini panic attack.” He explains, “I really got to experience what I’m sure a lot of artists feel at some point: a wave of self-doubt and insecurity about their work.” He hung it in the window and went out front to see it from the street. As he looked upon his work, a couple walked up and bought his first piece on the spot. At that point, the wave of self- doubt and insecurities washed away.
Patrick strives to use almost solely sourced materials because he feels it gives the piece a sense of authenticity. He tends to work with cardstock, comic books, and currency, but his favorite thing to work with is always something he has never worked with before. “I like the challenge of figuring out how the paper will cut and fold, and what it will look like when it’s all put together. I love the fact that it’s hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it! It continues to be challenging every time which is what motivates me.” For Patrick, it takes weeks to get all the materials cut, folded, and arranged in trays. He organizes the vast array of paper butterflies by size, shape and color so he can then begin, knowing he has everything that he needs for a piece. “I love spatial relationships. When I’m pinning the butterflies, I’m looking at the negative space that the butterfly I’m putting in is creating. Because I designed all of the butterflies myself, I know those shapes and I know what the next butterfly that goes in is going to be,” says Patrick.
As a gallery owner, he explains, “I get the rare opportunity not just to make the artwork, but to watch people interact with it every single day.” Patrick says he loves that aspect. He loves hearing their questions and seeing how his work makes people feel. His biggest influence continues to be his, now, 13-year-old son. “I wouldn’t have done this without him.” Patrick says, “And he, to this day, takes credit for the success of the work.” – Christina Galt