By Gina Malone
Throughout her life, Pat Morgan has found ways to bring creativity into everything she does, whether running a bed-and-breakfast, painting in watercolors or illustrating her husband Richard’s books of poetry. “I loved all things creative from a young age,” she says, “coloring books, paint-by-number, making clothes for paper dolls—anything using my hands and imagination.” It’s no wonder. While she was growing up, members of her immediate family knitted and did needlework, built models, played drums, worked with etched glass and took photographs.
She spent her early childhood in the Bronx where she grew flowers on a fire escape before the family moved to New Jersey when she was about ten. “To me, it felt like we really lived in the country, and there began my lifelong passion for gardening,” she says. “I’m sure that led to all my paintings of flowers and landscapes.”
With a move to the Mid-Hudson Valley in New York, she was surrounded by the river and farmlands. “It was here I was introduced to the joy of plein air painting,” Pat says. She worked as a teacher’s assistant for several years and then in facility management in a small city school district. When she retired, she and Richard opened a small bed-and-breakfast in their home. “That experience led to a wonderful adventure in being creative in every way,” she says, “decorating, cooking unique breakfasts and more gardening.” She met people from all over the country, many of whom returned for stays and became like family. “It was also during that time that I began watercolor classes,” Pat says. “It was love at first stroke.”
She studied with several well-known watercolorists. “Mel Stabin had the most influence on my work and encouraged me to paint the figure,” Pat says. Her first attempt was titled Jazz Man, and came from a walk through Central Park. “I saw him just as he appears in the painting,” she says. “I told the others to keep walking and I prayed he would not move until I took a photo. When my teacher I was with for several years was giving a critique, he turned to me and said, ‘How long have we been together? This is the best work you have done.’ I’ll never forget it.”
She went on to paint many more figures. “I love painting figures and always begin from an emotional response, especially with children,” she says. She also began teaching at the Wallkill River School while in New York. “I’ve been teaching for about 16 years—in NY, NJ and, now, at the Art League in Hendersonville—and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life—to mentor and help other painters achieve success with their work.”
After ten years of retirement in New York, she and Richard moved to Long Beach Island in New Jersey. “Living by the sea was a very precious time in our lives,” she says. “We were quite close to the beach and could enjoy many walks, sunsets, quiet reads and sharing with family and friends. It was there that I began my Children by the Sea series.” It was late afternoon, she recalls, with only a mother and toddler nearby. “As I watched Eva play for a long time, I knew I had to paint her,” Pat says. “I worked up the courage to introduce myself to her mother and she was delighted to have me start painting her daughter. For the last six years, I’ve painted her and many children on the beach—always looking to catch that innocence at play.”
She and Richard moved to Hendersonville about a year ago, where she is now education coordinator for the Art League of Henderson County. “We feel blessed to live in these beautiful mountains surrounded by the most friendly people,” she says. Richard has just published his eighth book of poetry, Poems for Men. Pat has illustrated his books since 2011. “People often comment that including my watercolors adds insight and meaning to Richard’s words,” she says.
For a new series, Children by the Ridge, being displayed at Art MoB, she is consulting old photographs of children on the beach. “Starting with a good photo, I ruthlessly edit out all that is not important to what I want to convey to my viewer,” Pat says. “With good editing, the finish becomes easier. When almost finished, I try to ‘sit’ with the painting for a while. If I see a very obvious mistake, I correct it; if not, I put my brush down.”
Pat describes her style as “gentle and loose” and she enjoys experimentation, calling the process “freedom to explore lots of ideas, lots of trial and error, but also lots of fun.” She is a signature member of several art societies and enters shows throughout the year. “My art has given me a way to give back,” she says, “as a portion of my sales are donated to Puppies Behind Bars, an organization devoted to working with wounded veterans.”
To learn more, visit PatMorganArt.com or call 845.926.0198. Find Pat Morgan’s art locally at Art MoB Studios & Marketplace, 124 4th Avenue East, Hendersonville and at the Art League of Henderson County’s displays and annual shows. Art MoB Studios & Marketplace will host a meet-and-greet with Pat Morgan, along with demonstrations, on Saturday, April 25, from 1–4 p.m.