Hi! I’m Patty Cunningham and I’ve been an artist for more than 20 years. As a child, I was in awe of artists. That was probably due in part to a painting class I took when I was maybe 7. The teacher helped me paint a painting of a horse but I never felt it was truly mine. My mom kept saying how much talent I had – just look at that painting! But I hadn’t actually painted the best parts of it! It was clear to me that real artists were born with a gift that was truly heaven sent.
So it never occurred to me to pursue a career in art and I never took any hands on art classes – lots of classes in art history, anything that allowed me to visit a museum or an art gallery, but nothing that taught me how to create. Consequently, when I grew up my careers were in retail, computers and real estate.
Then, when my children were in high school, I started sketching in the evening so I wouldn’t be in the middle of a “show” and resent an interruption. And my drawings weren’t too bad!
At the time, I also lived in southeastern PA, land of Andrew Wyeth; the Brandywine Valley was a hotbed of artistic activity with lots of galleries, coops and painting organizations. I went to lots of the galleries and started taking evening classes at the local high school. I had some great teachers and started following some of the better local artists. One of these was Pam McKee, a botanical watercolorist whose work had been accepted into the world-renowned Philadelphia Flower Show, among many local shows.
One day when I was visiting a much smaller flower show in our county, there was Pam McKee’s booth and she was actually sitting there painting! I walked up to her and said “Ah, you’re the famous Pam McKee!” She laughed – she has a delightful, musical laugh - and said “well, I don’t know about famous, but I am Pam McKee.” We started talking and she told me about a weekly painting group to which she belonged and invited me to come by and see if it was a fit. Since my job at the time was coming to an end, I took some time off and at the next opportunity, I took Pam up on her offer. I was juried into Flying Colors, a group of dedicated, talented artists, and my world changed.
A few years later, I helped co-found Healing Art Works (2006-2021), a non-profit that collected and juried original artwork to donate to hospitals for their patient spaces. Most artists, I have found, are very generous and frequently gift their work to non-profits that they support when those groups need items for silent auctions. I’ve donated to many.
After joining Flying Colors, not only did I get the opportunity to paint regularly with very accomplished artists, but we had an annual art show - and my work sold! My skills improved as I got more and more miles under my brush. Possibly more importantly, my view of artists changed from thinking they are a lucky, gifted group of super humans, to realizing that we are all artists! We just have to find our niche!
When I moved to SC in 2016, I decided to dedicate my professional life to art. I helped found the White Rabbit Gallery in Travelers Rest. I joined the board of the Travelers Rest Artists Alliance. I joined several art organizations – the Watermedia Society of South Carolina, the National Watercolor Society, among others, and I began teaching watercolor.
My goals now are to earn enough through art to support myself and to find my own style and own it. I love teaching watercolor and one of my overarching themes in life is that everyone deserves beauty in their lives and because of that, I want everyone to have original art in their homes. If mine speaks to you, I hope you will consider a purchase.
Meanwhile, what will you create?