Patrice Drago: Artists Influence

Artists That Have Influenced My Work

by Patrice Drago

I appreciate all of the masters of early days and today, and I'm grateful for the exposure I have had both academically and independently to such a large quantity and wide variety of incredible work.  Out of all of them, there are two artists that always come to mind that captured my attention and never lost it.

When I was painting still life, landscapes and figure in oil, the single greatest influence on my work was Caravaggio.  While his paintings were often depictions of disturbing events, (see the image), it was how the drama was emphasized that fascinated me.  "Chiaroscuro" - the sharp contrast of light and dark - was exciting, and it demonstrated how to create focus in a composition with contrasting light and dark in the right places.  I remember walking into the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, and immediately noticing - over everything else - a Caravaggio painting in the Cerasi Chapel on the left, with a tiny light on it.  It glowed and even though it was almost completely sideways to my view, it was all I could see.

  

"The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" 1601-2 by Caravaggio

For me, creating dark shadows with purple is far more exciting than black, and my art mentor at the time really pointed that out for me.  For the ten + years I painted exclusively in oil, I never once used a black pigment. I only used Dioxazine Purple for shadows, because shadows aren't really black; there is always color.  Even though I have gone back to painting abstracts, I still use dark and light contrast.  

I am and have always been in love with the Abstract Expressionist movement, making it hard to single out one artist.  But one painting had a huge impact on me, and it was Sam Francis' "Middle Blue".  When I saw it in the MOMA San Francisco, everything else I saw fell away and I felt like I was home.  The colors, the line, the white - the entire composition and the combination of colors were so familiar - it felt like a painting of my soul.  A series called "Breakthrough", which was my return to abstract after a long hiatus (since college) clearly shows Sam Francis' influence on my work.  

"Middle Blue" by Sam Francis

All of it has brought me to a place where I feel I am truly painting from what is a combination of all of my experiences.  A healthy curiosity and a never-ending desire to always learn more ensures my work will continue to evolve.  

 

For more information about Patrice, visit her Artist-in-Residence profile

This is part of an ongoing monthly series featuring a Maryland Hall Artist-in-Residence (AIR). Check Maryland Hall's website every week for a new post. Each month we will feature a different AIR. Click here to visit the Maryland Hall AIR page.