And when I looked over my shoulder, everything was different

“My opinion on art, and what I’m trying to do- when I do a project I just let it flow, come up with ideas, feelings, movements and just put it out there.
I’m trying to learn from others and find my own style of interpretation.”

-Pat McRaith

The project started out ambitious enough: figure out what art means to the world, figure out what is art, and then how people interpret it. Pick out random strangers at street corners, and ask them things like,

“Do you see this lamp post? Is it beautiful to you? Is this world treating you well?”

It was a bit over the top and I needed guidance, seeking it out around a kitchen table with a couple of friends. On the topic of art, it became evident that people had their opinions, but remarkably enough, that everyone knew an artist and took pride in the art their friend or family member created. What ‘art’ became, when you know the person who is crafting, suddenly transcended all other notions and beliefs, and art became alive and loved and more meaningful.

Perhaps, to better understand an art we need to know who the artist is and where they have come from. We look towards Pat, Mike’s younger brother, Stefanie’s boyfriend, the seventh son of the seventh son, and a member of the McRaith family to gain the proper perspective.

Pat’s brother, Mike (6th child) speculates the nature of art:
Art is many-fold. The flexible nature of art or rather the flexible nature of what constitutes art is; perhaps, its most admirable quality if not its most definitive quality. Here are a few things that come to mind in regards to the question, what is art?

Art is a strike to the “heart of the matter.” When articulation wraps itself in its deflating circles in hopes of discovering an end, the true description of a feeling, a story, a motive or an idea, art seizes the articulated mess and delivers the communication sought. It may be safe to say that in some respects art is a response to the want or need to communicate.

We should resist the temptation to conceptualize art as a visual entity…while many times a visual entity serves as the way to express and is therefore considered, art, one should be reminded of the elegance of a great storyteller or the power of a writer as great artistic feats, not so much for their visual achievements but for their ability to communicate the obvious and far reaching.

Whether it be, volcanoes, dolphins, the birth of stars or the steady hands of a practiced ‘check out girl’ beeping your goods in record time, we meet artists of all kinds in all realms. The old cliché should not be overlooked, “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” One might even contend that to behold art, to witness art in everyday life throughout the mundane and the grand, is an art in itself. The art of art?

Pat’s sister Erin (4th child) writes:
Art is life, art is the simple act of nature being nature, and that includes humans. Humans are most “artful” when they do not try to be. That to me is art, “shibui” effortless grace.
The Unknown Craftsman is a Japanese book that deals with the concept of “mingei” (all this spelling is wrong now). Basically, the most valuable tea bowl in the world is a simple cracked, misshapen bowl made in Korea about 500 years ago. The idea is that the best pot, stroke, painting, tea bowl will be the one made by an unknown artist who has made 2000 tea bowls and is so in the rhythm that it becomes perfect in its effortlessness.

Of course the complete opposite idea is also Japanese, in which it is attempted to be beautiful and perfect (see the gardens in Kyoto). Get some Japanese books, they rock.

Shannon (5th child):
Everyone has an art, not everyone is an artist all of the time. There are times when a person doesn’t need raw materials to expose their art. Like when Pat gives you a hug. He is exposing his art. He is a sensitive, beautiful person who truly cares about humanity. In his “art” work he exposes this sensitivity. It is soft and beautiful, a reflection of himself. Pat cares so deeply about people, which is a gift, a gift that transcends through his life.

There are moments when people shine. That is when a person is an artist. If a person can capture their gift in life, that is their art. If they then bring it out in an “artistic” form they are exposing this art/gift. Every person in the world has the capacity to be an artist, it’s just a matter of allowing yourself to become quiet enough to find it, and then if they want or have the desire to express it, that is a reflection of your gift.

How do we know Pat?

“Ghost forest.” he says.

In the driveway, we’re all standing around Pat’s new/old truck. It’s red, and shiny, and a package of animal crackers has been left on the front seat. Unfortunately, so have the keys, which is why Pat and the rest of us are standing outside of his truck, rather than Pat sitting inside, while we wave ‘goodbye’. I ask,

“What’s a Ghost Forest?”

As we wait for the CAA to show up, we each take turns trying to pick the lock with a coat hanger. It’s a trick that far too many kids have learned in high school, by older brothers, crazy woodshop teachers, and by random angels with coat hangers in deserted mall parking lots.

We’re not having much luck with the lock, and things go from funny, to thoughtful, and finally back to funny again. Everything in life is funny, especially when you’re watching the CAA guy trying to break into a truck for fifty bucks, and realizing that you could have just asked the ‘sketchy’ kids from down the street to break into your car for the cost of a forty-ounce malt beverage.

Problem solved, CAA guy drives away, and the four of us decide to go get breakfast. The waitress takes our order, and Pat finishes his explanation on Ghost Forests.
“A Ghost Forest is where all the trees used to be, and then they all got cut down. It’s the spirit of the trees, and you’re walking right through it.”

We nod our heads, appreciating the insightful comment. The food arrives, and we realize that Pat managed to get the M-n-M pancakes, while the rest of us stuck with the traditional kind. Pat smiles, satisfied that his breakfast has been covered with pieces of chocolate candy.

Mike, his older brother, starts laughing, and accepts the truth. Pat is one step ahead of us, even after locking his keys in the car. Pat is, after all, the artist.

Who is Pat, the eighteen year old artist, and why has it taken seven tries to get one that has the ‘know how’ to order candy pancakes while the rest of us sit in humiliation, picking at our plain pancakes?

Tim (3rd child) writes:
“The Grecian urn”

Pat is a sponge.
Pat doesn’t push.

Sometimes art oozes
Sometimes art needs to be spat; like snake venom
Other times it needs to be forged like a horseshoe on an anvil.

Art is needed by humanity to remind us of our separation from the fishes.
Art is born of the pain dealt to humanity by that very separation.
Other times it helps to connect us to the fishes.

In nature art is the by-product of water, wind, and fire.
In nature art isn’t inspirational; its situational.
Other times it shows how time is.

Pat’s art oozes

from the pain he has absorbed
in his situation
because he doesn’t push
he won’t spit it out on needy humanity
rather he will remind us
that his inspiration has been
forged in the winds of time.
he wants to connect us to the fishes.

Pat the Artist

Maureen (2nd child):
What do you mean who’s Pat? Do you mean our Patty Boy? He’s a fledgling. A tiny baby bird who has just peeped over the edge of the nest and is bringing his vision into a 3-D format. If he watches and works and explores his world (whatever that may be) he can grow with his craft. He must study those who came before him and watch those who are here now and use his knowledge to capture a bit of the future for himself.

Pat: (7th child)

Drawing/Sketching: Just draw. And draw and draw. Never stopping, don’t ask why, you must learn to draw through practice. Learn the techniques through trial and error; learn to make constant shapes, and figures. Learn your style of drawing, your movements of the pen/pencil. Draw people because it’s hard, draw skies and mountains because it’s easy. But if you want to get better at drawing, just draw.
Photography: Taking pictures anyone can do, and that’s why photography is so hard. A lot of the time it’s just guessing. Guessing what will turn out right, or what people will like. Photography is freezing time in a way that best describes the situation and your feelings at that time. Photography is an opinion. Photography is personal. Like all art, I guess.