Eric Fitzpatrick likes to capture the moment when the musicians he paints “lose themselves.” It’s the same he said with art. “You reach a level that’s second nature.”
The Roanoke artist feels he’s done that, but also never stops learning, growing and changing. Though he is right handed, an injury caused him to start painting with his left, which he uses to paints his Musicians Series. “It lets me channel a wilder vein,” he says, and also allows him to get outside himself. A versatile artist, he also continues to paint realistic landscapes and his familiar character studies, such as his Southern Culture Series. “I want to play all the notes.”
For the record, he actually does play the notes. On the drums and on a box percussion instrument called the Cajon (originally from Peru, the musician sits on it to play). He’s been playing since high school when his parents “lovingly bought me a drum set.” A past art teacher told him to think about you’re painting and why. He takes a sketch pad with him to concerts to catch just the right moment.
Fitzpatrick has always been an artist. “It’s a dream,” he says, adding that his parents were supportive of him – even when he called them from Virginia Tech to tell them he was going to major in art. After graduation, he lived at home and worked for a billboard company where his job was to just paint the addresses at the bottom of the signs.
“Now, it flows,” he says of his art while sitting in his studio on a rainy afternoon. The studio reflects Fitzpatrick’s sense of humor and sense of curiosity. And, yes, there’s a drum set. There also are stations for each of the media he uses: oil, acrylics, watercolors, pastels. “I can switch gears when I feel the need,” he says, adding that it allows him to stay engaged. “I get to be excited about something for the rest of my life.”
After more than 40 years of painting just about every day, he still has “major breakthroughs.” After a visit to an exhibit of George Bellows, (known for his realist depictions of urban life in the early 20th Century), Fitzpatrick discovered that “paintings are made by great shapes with the narrative filled in. That’s why we go to museums. That’s what we shoot for.”