Nature and Man-Made Life Collide in This Artist’s Work
Heather Patterson creates abstract landscapes
“As a kid, I dressed up as an artist for Halloween,” Heather Patterson says to cement her certitude about wanting to be a professional artist ever since she was little. Much like her artwork, she was methodical about how she pursued this goal, layering her time in front of the canvas with targeted formal education that led her not only to learn but to become an art teacher too. The greens and blues that surrounded her as a child, the shapes and delineations of natural landscapes and cities and skies above us, all find a place now in her art.
Patterson takes forms and patterns from the natural and built environments and blends them. She sees her art as abstract landscapes, where nature and man-made life intersect in a geometry-heavy painting style that borrows influences from a range of sources: weather patterns, butterfly-migration charts, aerial views of landscape, a lot of topography, animal tracks and the like. “I love being in nature but also need my city time,” she says. “In life and through my art, I look for the balance between preserving nature and our need for being in the city—and how these worlds overlap.”
One example of this overlap is the honeycomb, a shape found in Patterson’s more recent work. Bees spring to mind when one sees it—but it turns out there is more. “Cell-phone structures are constructed like a honeycomb, I learned, because that is what gives the best reception,” Patterson explains. “That to me is one of those elements that we find both in nature and, in this case, in technology.”
Hues from a childhood spent in nature are abundant in her work. Her parents’ home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, gave Patterson full access to the woods and the water and the ability to explore, marveling at the colors and shapes around her. “It was awesome to just be able to go explore and build forts or new sled hills and pretend to get lost, even though we always knew where we were,” she recalls. “It was an endless exploration.”
What she did not have growing up in a small town was a robust cultural scene, but there were ways around it. Her parents put her in watercolor lessons at the local art store. A high-school teacher who taught her the basic foundations of art pushed her to get a college degree in it. And so she did, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from Sonoma State University, followed by a Master of Fine Arts in the same subjects from the University of California Berkeley. Her formal education allowed her a path into also teaching art, something she has been doing on and off for years at several colleges, and currently at Front Range Community College.
Her Johnstown studio, outside of Loveland, is in a quiet and unassuming subdivision. Passing through her door takes a visitor on a journey that rivals visiting a modern gallery. There are paintings and photographs, sculptural birds and nests, and abstract shapes from artists like Megan Swenson and Laura Ball. “I trade a lot of art with friends who are also artists,” Patterson says. “That is how I accumulated this collection.” Her studio seems methodically organized, with clean brushes, small drawers and compartments, and canvases that line the walls in an orderly way.
Meticulous, structured, planned—that is how Patterson’s career track has been, the way her studio looks and the way her art presents itself.