RAW turns 8 on March 12th! It’s been an incredible 8 years of discovering the most beautiful and brilliant art all around the world and giving those artists a platform to share their art with their community and beyond.
We are celebrating 8 years of RAW by sharing 8 success stories from our artists. Each day leading up to our 8th anniversary we are sharing a new story on our social media and in a blog post! Each story is so unique and epic, so we hope you enjoy reading each of them and are inspired by their creativity, hard work and persistence.
Today we hear from David Pattee, RAW Canada artist turned RAW Ottawa showcase director! David shares his story of discovering how his artistic abilities could evolve into a graphic design career while still making intriguing 3d pieces that are displayed in galleries and have been in many of our RAW shows.
What’s your story? Where did you begin and where are you now?
I started playing around with art as a kid. My mother was a great artist and encouraged my brother and I to create. Art supplies were always close by. I didn’t like school much, I always got good grades in Art class maybe because I was always doodling and drawing in my other classes. I dropped out of University, it just wasn’t for me and I met the woman who would be my wife for sixteen years shortly after. We visited Spain every summer and one year we drove up the coast and visited Salvador Dali’s home. That trip was transformative. I was standing on the same beach featured in so many of his pieces, I knew I wanted to be an artist.
I started painting again. I quickly realized I was not going to make a living at it so I applied to a graphic design program. I was accepted into the program. I later found out I was ranked as #4 out of 450 applicants for a class of 29. I graduated in 1995, on the Dean’s list, with donors and a scholarship from Corel. and have been a designer for many industries and too many clients to mention. My last job was as a content manager for two radio stations. I was let go due to corporate restructuring. My severance package allowed me to catch up on art over the summer of 2016.
I now work for RAW as a showcase director in Ottawa, Canada.
When/how did you get involved with the RAW community? What was your first RAW show and how many shows have you done?
I found out about RAW from an ex girlfriend. She texted me excitedly about this organization that was hosting a showcase for emerging local artists and encouraged me to sign up. This was late 2013 for the first RAW Artists Showcase here in Ottawa Canada, AWAKENING. I thought why not, so I went through what I had and found a few samples to include and I set up my artist profile (I was the eleventh submission here in Ottawa). I made sure it was live and I waited. It turns out my ex wanted me to sign up to work AT the event, not BE in the event. She worked as a greeter or similar position and I was unable to attend.
I forgot all about RAW Artists until a I got an email from Michelle Bylow asking if I was interested in being part of a new Showcase that was coming up May 2016, SHOWCASE. We set up a call. Michelle called me and mentioned that RAW had tried four spirit times to contact me about being in a showcase. I was skeptical but I agreed to be booked. I returned to my computer and checked my email to see if they had contacted me. Nothing in my inbox. They were all in my SPAM folder.
I was no longer skeptical but I remember a feeling of excitement and fear. I had never shown my work before other than the odd post to Facebook. I attended the walk through and I met some great artists, two of which have become good friends. Then I started making my digital pieces into actual physical pieces. I worked full time but I would go home and work until 2:00AM every night trying to get ready. I took the week off before the showcase and worked 18 hour days finishing and prepping pieces.
I did the SIGNATURE showcase here in Ottawa on May 26, 2016. It was a blur, it was exciting and it was something I wanted to continue doing. That initial horrible feeling of feeling exposed, my psyche laid bare for all to see was replaced by pride in my self and a feeling that I had the credibility now to be called an “artist”. This show led to a second Showcase with RAW in Toronto in August 2016. That showcase, I met a local artist who booked me for a show he was putting together and that show, in turn led to two more local shows. Summer of 2016, I was on the road a lot, driving back and forth between Toronto and Ottawa. I did two additional RAW showcases. These shows were part of my training to take over the showcase directorship here in Ottawa.
Back here at home I entered some pieces into a few group shows, more for the experience of creating a piece on a deadline, to match a theme.
What was the hardest part of your journey and how did you overcome it? How do you define success?
The hardest part was the first step. I had never shown before so taking that first leap, to appear in public before my “art” was not easy. I drafted an email, inviting people to that RAW showcase. I was sending it out to over 200 people, all of of whom I knew. It took me two weeks before I had the nerve to hit send. Once I sent that email I was committed. I hit send and then just put one foot in front of the other to get ready in time for the show. My stuff is a bit odd, mixed media type pieces but people’s reactions were overall positive and it was encouraging to continue. Standing in front of your work and answering very pointed questions about the “why?” is difficult. A lot of times the piece just drives itself and I’m merely the hands that puts it together. I don’t put a lot of deep or hidden meaning in my work. I have a fondness for the absurd, the surreal, trompe l'oeils and the like. I much prefer getting a complete stranger’s take on what a piece says to them. That’s eye opening.
I would love to say I have sold a lot of work. The opposite is true. I define my success by having taken that first step, getting the exposure, the interviews, the documentary made about my art process and most importantly, Credibility.
I can now comfortably call myself an Artist.
Have you met anyone or got opportunities through RAW that have added to your story? How has your story changed due to these connections?
I did my first RAW showcase in May 2016. I am typing this in early March 2017 as I am getting ready to launch my first event as the RAW Artists Ottawa Showcase Director in early April. I now work for the organization that has and continues to change my life, always for the better. I have met some incredible artists whose work humbles me. I have met and made some great friends and I have gained confidence in my own abilities as a result.
RAW Artists has afforded me possibilities I didn’t think were possible; especially as quickly as they have happened.
I want these same opportunities to be available for others and thanks to RAW Artists, I do this full time.
What are some of the highlights of your pursuit?
Being followed for a couple of months by cameras for a documentary made by students in the Algonquin College broadcast program. The documentary follows me creating a piece from the very start ti it finally being hung at a RAW showcase where I was told I was hired as the Ottawa Showcase Director.
Being interviewed by Jesse F Daniels for RAWdio.
Being head hunted by several Montreal Art galleries. Very flattering but the hanging fees are shocking.
Controversy. Two pieces I created caused a bit of a stir. One was a heavily modded portrait of my ex. Although I had her permission back in 2013, it was rescinded and as a result, several shows refused to let me hang it.
The second piece, a blue violin being caressed by ugly spider legs caused an even bigger stink. The same ex accused me of stealing the violin (untrue) and for a while I was worried my art career was about to derail seconds after having started. The piece has been disassembled temporarily but will return as a new piece at some point.
Being asked to be one of Eight Success Stories for RAW’s 8th birthday. This is a real honour, thank you.
What is one thing you have learned that you wish you knew 5 years ago or something that you think everyone pursuing a successful art career should hear?
I graduated from Algonquin College with a diploma in Graphic Design in 1995. I have close to 30 years experience as a commercial artist, creating for others. This works as a creative outlet but it doesn’t leave a lot of energy to pursue personal projects. This is where I am very wrong. There is always time and there is always energy to crate something for yourself. I missed out for almost twenty years. I could have been creating all that time learning, growing, becoming the artist that I see in all those artists that showcase with RAW or at any show.
I have learned bravery. I have learned every artist should have a chance to be seen and heard. I’ve learned art is for everyone at some level.
I will continue creating, whether it’s visual or music or interactive. It’s who I am.
What an amazing story. It's so encouraging hear how much RAW has impacted your life and added to your story. We love that you are able to continue making art while now helping other artists showcase their work. Thanks for sharing your story and being a part of our worldwide RAW team.