Patricia Olding says she likes to paint something others might miss. To call attention to it. “Not an apple, but this particular thing about apples. I believe the unnoticed needs to become the preeminent subject of my paintings.”
We talked in Olding’s studio at the Pendleton Art Center, where she has worked since 2001, in the company of Resse, her long-haired miniature dachshund who has “almost never,” she said, walked on a painting. The exception was a painting lying flat in an automobile – apparently no way around it. Resse is her preferred studio companion – “Shared a studio once, for a year,” she said, “but it’s best alone.” The artist wears her hair short, has black and white rimmed eye glasses and on this day was wearing that staple of artist clothing: a black turtle neck and dark slacks.
“I like a palette knife,” she told me. “It liberates me” – from too literal an interpretation perhaps? “I don’t want ‘too beautiful,’” she said. Olding paints in oil on canvas and is focused now on urban landscapes. “I drive around to look for sites to paint, in the morning or late afternoon.” Shadows are important; she wants to see the sites when shadows are in place. “I really enjoy the older architecture in Cincinnati.” She has lunch mid-day, when shadows are minimal, as she likes to paint on location. “I can do two paintings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with lunch in between. I meet a lot of people that way!”
Olding is an architect who became a painter. After graduating from the University of Tennessee she was with the architectural firm of Glaser & Meyer from 1982 to 1988 doing “architecture and project management” and in other positions worked on teams for large buildings as design manager, as construction manager. For some ten years she was on the staff of National Cash Register in Dayton and there was also a stint of architectural work for a small firm headed by Jack Gore – “different focus, different clients” she said. But from 2003 to 2008 she also studied painting with artist Greg Storer, and showed her work with him. This element of her professional life eventually took precedence.
“I was always interested in something creative,” she told me.” Now – it’s photography and paintings.” She had four years of art in high school and her later education also included work at the Art Academy of Cincinnati from 2001 to 2003. At the Academy, faced with a blank canvas – “I was scared,” she told me. “had to tell myself to do it. To put paint on canvas.” But by 2003 people were interested in buying her paintings. She began to show her work.
From 2001 to 2003 she worked with a brush. Then tried a palette knife, and liked the result. An artist friend/professor eventually said to her “If you can do that with a palette knife, why use a brush?” She never went back. Greg Storer started showing her work, from 2003 to 2008, and she was in his classes once a week. “My paintings reflect the skills he taught me. What I look for first is the direct result of what I learned from him. He says he gave me the ‘tool box, not a method.’” She still goes back for occasional refreshers.
For a show she took part in in 2010 at the Cincinnati YWCA she was asked to speak on her work. This was an interesting assignment for the artist; she talked about what and how she observes, and what she wants people to see in her finished paintings.
Olding, who does speak interestingly of the act of making art, says “I need to get back to my roots, to architectural concepts. Light and dark patterns. It’s all about the light and the dark. It’s the first thing I look for.” She went on to say that as a child she looked at dark and light in a way that other children didn’t seem to be doing, that her awareness was a particular and surprising interest.
Married in 1983, she and her husband first lived in Mt. Auburn, which rises steeply on the far side of Liberty Street in the view from her north-facing window at the Pendleton. Because of the frequent subject matter of her still lifes he is likely to ask, of things she’s brought home from the grocery, “Is that to eat or to paint? He makes the frames for her paintings; they are slim and black, so as not to call attention to themselves. Their two children now are grown. Josephine (Jo) transports patients for medical purposes, but having grown up with art continues to find it an interest and pleasure to observe. Their son, A.J., is a mechanical engineer but in 2001 started painting seriously and continues to explore that world.
A recent interest for Patricia Olding has been the Off Ludlow Gallery in Clifton, a long term project now approaching two years, located at 3498 Ormond Street in the old post office. She is an active part of its organization, which is all volunteer. The Gallery is open most weekends.