Cambrian: Arts & Events

I’m one of Cambria’s ‘working artists.’ Here’s a little bit more about who I am

“Anyone Who Has A Heart,” 48x48” oil on canvas with music underlay
“Anyone Who Has A Heart,” 48x48” oil on canvas with music underlay

I am an artist and I’ve been working…

It’s a new year and time to reintroduce myself to you! For the past two years, I’ve scoured our region to find innovative, talented artists and tell their story. Some have been quietly producing masterworks, and others have achieved extraordinary success. It’s been exciting to meet them and explain their life work in a way that makes it accessible to you, the reader.

I’m being interviewed by Tony Merchell, my gallery manager, webmaster and marketing guru.

TM: What’s your background?

PD: I know I’ll sound like a gypsy, but I’ve lived in California, Oregon, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Washington D.C. In my life I have been a musician, restaurateur, teacher, museum specialist, gallerist, lobbyist and founder of 13 art festivals. My degree is in psychology, not art, but it’s been more useful than I could have imagined. The common thread throughout these various careers and locales is my love of painting for the last 30 years.

TM: What qualifies you to assess the virtues and values of any given artwork?

PD: My observations are subjective, just like yours, but I’ve got a nice advantage: I’m a professional artist, too. What do I mean by “professional?” It simply means that in addition to my education and experiential background, I make my living as an artist, which is no small feat! I paint daily in my public access studio and gallery in Cambria.

Factory Work 36x36 060918.jpeg
“Factory Work,” 36x36” oil on canvas with paper residue. Patrick Dennis

It’s challenging to stop and visit with guests, but I’ve learned to cope quite well, relying on layers of memory to inform the canvas. Sometimes visitors have a unique perspective on art that enlightens me!

TM: Your paintings are a combination of abstract and landscape. How do you describe them?

PD: I enjoy the seclusion and intuitive process of painting and challenging my own perception and skills. Whether depicting a stark environment or the contrast of urban encroachment, my painter’s eye sees the world from the perspective of a landscape composition with endless interpretations. Living in Cambria on California’s Central Coast provides bountiful inspiration, but it’s the reflections on our precarious relationship with nature’s elements that prompts me to explore ways to render the evolution.

It is important for me to create an engaging, yet tranquil painting that conveys an impression of the struggle between nature and our encroaching urbanization. Hard edges and texture are contrasted with soft hues and ambiguous compositions. The genesis of each painting involves re-appropriating memories of a real place from fragmented or overlapping timelines to inform the layers of paint. The excavation process uncovers and exposes elements from the original composition resulting in a finished product that represents a suggestion of the original intent. Memories, after all become obscured, losing sharpness over time; thus the impressionistic results.

“It’s not only about rendering the elements of sky, earth and water in variation. It’s about capturing the memory fragment salvaged from the experience.”

TM: Your technique seems complicated. Can you describe it without revealing your “secrets?”

PD: There are no secrets to painting; just the techniques.

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with texture. The process is meditative. After priming a clean canvas I often sketch in the composition using black gesso, and do some mark making.

These ingredients will inform the surface. Mixing varnish with paint, I apply underlayment of random torn paper. I often use sheet music, poetry, newsprint or tissue forming a mosaic collage pattern knowing this layer will almost certainly be obscured or covered by subsequent layers of paint.

Once cured, I make a mess with chipping and sanding before adding up to six layers of paint. I use broad brushes, scrapers and excavation tools to expose and layer the surface to create a feeling of depth. Okay, try that at home!

TM: Besides your technique, what makes your studio work?

PD: First, I love what I do and devote a lot of time to doing it as best I can. Anyone can succeed in business if they’re diligent enough. I don’t sit around much and I’m lucky to have you keeping me on task. I do select art festivals, gallery shows in places like New York and London as well as a lot of commissions. It requires follow through and communication. Infrequently I’ll showcase another artist’s work, but mostly I stay focused. Like the laws of attraction, if one puts out the best they can, it brings the best results.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 25-27

17th Annual Cambria Art & Wine Festival

Art Show Auction at Allied Arts Association

1350 Main St., Cambria, CA, 93428


Current to Jan. 20

San Luis Obispo Museum of Art

1010 Broad St., San Luis Obispo, CA, 93401


“Clay X 3” ceramic artwork by Ariane Leiter, Maria Teresa Rode and Catherine Schmid-Maybach

Feb. 1 to March 31

Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History

20 State Park Road, Morro Bay, CA, 93442


San Luis Outdoor Painters for the Environment

“Flowing Estuary to Living Sea”

Patrick Dennis is an artist living in Cambria, CA. He owns Working Artist Studio/Patrick Gallery in the West Village and a very large dog named Bella. For more information, visit