William Patterson: Garden Shrine, oil on panel, 52x42 1998
William Patterson: Garden Shrine, oil on panel, 52×42 1998

I want to tell you about this opportunity to take a painting class in Italy with a famous painter who just happens to be my friend.

Last year I had the pleasure of having Bill Patterson, contemporary realist painter, as my colleague. Bill’s an amazing painter, a dedicated professor, and more importantly, he is a wonderful person. I think I have never met anyone so genuinely GOOD.



Bill also really loves Italy. Let’s face it, he’s retirement-age, and he’s been coming to Italy for a long time, but he still approaches everything from the scenery to the food to the art in museums with the enthusiasm and appreciation of a first-time (but very informed) visitor. He’s also someone who loves to learn from people he meets, and so was one of my most dedicated listeners when I felt I had to drone on about art history.

Similarly, although he’s been teaching for something like 40 years (yup, just checked, he started in 1968), he prepares every painting class for hours, meticulously providing learning materials, setting up props and still-lifes, and even getting slightly nervous. In some ways I hope that I will be like that 40 years from now; on the other hand, I thought that teaching might become less hard work with time, but watching Bill proves that theory wrong. It could be easy for him, but he makes it difficult because he wants to give the best to his students.

William Patterson, The Basilica of Sant Francis of Assisi, oil on canvas, 66x44, 1998
William Patterson, The Basilica of Sant Francis of Assisi, oil on canvas, 66×44, 1998

Bill’s own work amazes me for its meticulousness. In March I sat three hours for a portrait for him, and when I went behind the easel to take a peek I expected to see it just about done, but he’d barely sketched my face. He is still working on it now, because he keeps “fanning down” the oils and taking another shot at my chin. I’ve watched him throw out quick landscape oil sketches that he pooh-poohs as something crappy he made so as not to discourage his students, and think to myself how 99.9% of the world’s population could only dream of producing something that good, even with a lot of effort. I particularly like his still life pieces that employ the technique, and embody some of the feeling, of Dutch Renaissance oils.

Bill’s favourite place in Italy, as I understand it, is Assisi. I guess it is the Saint Francis factor. Since 1992, he has been holding painting workshops in Italy that take place mostly in and around Assisi, with some trips to Rome and Florence. These workshops are an opportunity to learn from a true master of the paintbrush, not only on canvas, but also in museums and churches, where if you follow Bill around you’ll learn to see things in a different way – like a painter sees them. If you don’t paint (but perhaps your spouse does), not to worry – you can come along to photograph, journal, and just experience the place. You can work at any level – one thing Bill offers so generously is personal feedback. The course is co-taught with Bill’s wife Carolyn Patterson, whom I have not met, but already like.

WP, "Pears and Cherries on Box" is for sale (10x12, oil on panel)
WP, “Pears and Cherries on Box” is for sale (10×12, oil on panel)

The next workshop will be July 1-12, 2010. For more information please see: www.artworkshopsinitaly.com


Works by Bill like this still life of pears on his signature old box are also for sale, read more on: www.williampattersonstudio.com

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