Visual Art

Upon the completion of his graduate studies, he moved to Santa Barbara and through a circle of friends met European artist Andre Andreoli.  He encouraged Steven to pick up a brush and experiment with painting.  He had never painted before, but beginning with oils and acrylics, he fell instantly at home with both mediums.  Until the time of his death, Andreoli was internationally known for his Dutch landscape and Italian cityscape painting, and that is reflected in Steven’s earliest work.  However, he soon developed his own style and subjects.  In less than two years he began to exhibit in group shows and not long after, national exhibits began to include his paintings.  Discovered by a local art dealer, he was soon represented by Santa Barbara’s prestigious Arlington Gallery alongside such well-known artists as Jamie Wyeth and Luigi Kasimir.  While developing his plein aire skills with well-known landscape artist Roy Strong, particularly in his early years as an artist, his focus nevertheless remained the urban façade.

Steven in the studio.

Looking back, Steven comments that he had “no plans to be a visual artist, and in fact had never picked up a brush in my life.”  However, since that initial encounter with Andreoli, and since then friendships with other important influencers and encouragers along the way including Howard Finster, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Kaz Tanahashi, every available moment since in between other responsibilities as a gallerist, writer, collector, and more, he retreats to his studio.   For Steven, his images are a modest means of leaving his fingerprints upon the world.  The images and words become something of a revelatory experience, for him and others, reawakening people to the world they inhabit and to their own hearts that navigate their lives, not unlike what he does with his poetry. 

Steven with Lawrence Ferlinghetti in his studio where they would occasionally paint together.

“… lyrically intelligent, Steven’s words the reflective sighs of an illumined man.” 

                                                                                                -Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Legendary Beat Generation Publisher, Poet, Painter, and Social Activist on Pattie’s book For Fathers of Sons.  In this photo, Steven is with Lawrence in his Hunter’s Point studio early in their friendship.  Steven first met Lawrence in 1995 at City Lights Books.  At Lawrence’s invitation he enjoyed the privilege of painting with him from the live model in his studio and discussing art and poetry over an occasional bottle of Italian Chianti.  Steven is also a collector of his paintings, publications, ephemera, and writing.  Steven considers Lawrence among his primary inspirations as a writer and a painter.

Pas toujours les idees recues?

(“Not Always Accepted Ideas”)


Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Oil on Canvas, 14” x 40” 1993

Steven Pattie/Redwood Retreat Gallery Collection

Howard Finster is considered by scholars, curators, and historians of art history to be among the most important self-taught artists of the 20th century.   Beginning in 1994 Steven began a friendship with Howard, at first by mail, and eventually visiting him numerous times over many years at his studio in Summerville, Georgia.

Pattie considers Howard an important influence on his journey, especially when it comes to thinking about habitats, environments, and wild-style, unfiltered art.

Many have said he will be remembered as not only a major self-taught artist, but as one of the most influential contemporary artists of his day. Finster’s journey happened to accelerate along “sympathetic developments in art … graffiti art, ‘fun’ and ‘Wild Style’ painting, punk rock, the ‘new figuration’ (and) Neo-expressionism,” as noted by critic Tom Patterson.

“Working night and day for you all,” he went on to create more than 50,000 works of art. Rivaled in quantity only by Pablo Picasso, he produced more individual works than any artist in recorded history and is considered by many to be the most widely exhibited artist in America today.

Steven Pattie and Howard Finster

Steven with Howard Finster.  Pattie was Executive Producer of the documentary “I Can Feel Another Planet in My Soul” about Finster and is a major collector of his work.

Steven with Kazuaki Tanahashi, with whom he has studied.  Kaz is an accomplished Japanese calligrapher, artist, Zen teacher, author, activist, and translator of Buddhist texts from Japanese to English, especially Dogen.  As a painter and calligrapher, he has been pioneering the genres of one-stroke painting.

Among other current influences, Pattie has studied with artist, poet, author, scholar, and peace activist Kazuaki Tanahashi, whose influence is significant.

Pattie’s interest in the Zen of brush painting began in 2018 at Tassajara Hot Springs when he began studies with Kazuaki Tanahashi, Zen scholar and Japanese calligrapher – a man widely considered to be one of the leading contemporary masters of the craft.

Zen brush painting is a very old tradition going back over a thousand years.  As one person put it, it is not such much about making beautiful paintings as it is about understanding the ground of your own being, and that of all of life.

As Kaz states, “As soon as you accept the accidental effects, they are no longer accidents… they are part of yourself that you could not expect or design beforehand…” 

I am drawn to the essence of the Zen circle or Enso, the form of the circle iconic to the formation of many languages – be it as a symbol for the moon, the sun, or the wheel of reality.   With the stroke of a brush, I am engaged with the reality of being present in this moment and its inherent mysteries.

Many works featured in his most recent one man exhibit represent early fruits of this approach – the one-stroke enso, and the one-stroke paintings, that flow from his brush to the paper during the course of this exploration.  There is something uniquely achievable within the depth of this expression, an emotion and power able to be communicated with such an ancient technology and approach.  These mindful exercises are in “still motion” and among other disciplines that keep him grounded.

These works are done in moments of inspiration and with broad and sweeping brushstrokes, where the vision is committed directly to paper with a minimum of deliberation and is increasingly a major influence in the art he creates.

Statement from Pattie’s exhibit Living in Still Motion: The Art of Steven Pattie

“Motion in stillness is not motion,

Stillness in motion is not stillness”

From Engraving Trust in the Heart, Jianzhi Sengcan (529 – 606 A.D., China)

I am an artist.  Like other artists, I desire to give shape and substance to a way of seeing and creatively engaging with the world in a manner that will make a difference, that is rooted in the truth as it has been revealed to me.

My calling as such has to do with leading an authentic, spiritually-rooted, and earth-based, life that’s about making a difference in the world – more specifically, on our small patch of ground at Pattie Farm on Redwood Retreat.  This is my canvas.

Robert Henri says in his classic book The Art Spirit, “When the motives of artists are profound, when they are at their work as a result of deep consideration, when they believe in the importance of what they are doing, their work creates a stir in the world.”

At the risk of appearing immodest, these recent works featured in “Living in Still Motion,” some created in the last few weeks and months, and many in collaboration with creative souls within my community, are my modest attempt at a stir.

These works come from a quiet place, from a place of meditation.  Others, while coming from that neighboring place where ideas are rooted and nourished, where I work in still motion, produce a noisier stir, and in fact call attention to uncomfortable matters, matters of justice and truth.

Good art interferes, throws us off course, points us in a new direction, makes us stop, reflect, be still.

There is a prophetic element to what an artist does – sometimes about creating work, as noted by theologian Matthew Fox, that’s more “shocking rather than edifying” – It is sometimes about standing up to injustice and about speaking truth to power.  As Rabbi Abraham Heschel notes in his ground-breaking work The Prophets, he argues that the primary work of the prophet is to interfere.  

On my own small plot of ground at Pattie Farm, my proposal is that there is perhaps a certain revolution going on in aesthetics having to do with art as meditation, which in turn leads to an awakening of our senses to beauty and truth in this world.

This is a very personal show.  During most of my career of making art, my focus has been as a painter and writer.  This show is a little different.  I’ve taken on new and creative challenges, including the use of found and discarded materials, mostly metal and wood.  With these materials, some are presented almost “as is” while some have been reconfigured with new purposes in mind.  For the first time I’ve experimented with the ephemerality of pastel on recovered old-growth woods, one stroke paintings in the Zen Buddhist tradition of almost a thousand years, designing and constructing furniture. Small environments, and assorted objects in collaboration with artists Dale Lockman and Nathan Van Bergen, because I was confident that together we could make work that make a significantly better stir than were I to create them alone.

Pattie’s paintings have been featured and sold in galleries and exhibitions in local, state, national, and international venues.  His work has been featured at the Arlington Gallery (Santa Barbara, CA), San Diego Art Institute (San Diego, CA), Springville Museum of Art (Springfield, UT), Boise State University (Boise, ID), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA), Canton Institute of Art (Canton, China), Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (Santa Barbara, CA), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (Los Angeles, CA), Canaan Gallery (Denver, CO), Directors Guild of America (Los Angeles, CA), Arroyo Arts Collective (Pasadena). Casillas, Compean, and Williams (San Diego, CA and Naples, Italy), Nanny Goat Hill Gallery (San Francisco) and many others.

He is currently preparing for a major solo exhibit at the San Francisco Zen Center in early 2022.

What People Say About Steven Pattie’s Visual Art

“He takes the mundane and familiar elements of urban existence, reforming this raw material in the crucible of his imagination.”

Arlington Gallery | Santa Barbara, California

“Pattie’s emphasis on the ostensibly ordinary allows to emerge a magic spell of urban stillness.”

Los Angeles Times

“The artist Charles Burchfield once spoke of buildings that have personalities and reflect moods, that there are houses where behind the walls anything might have happened or be happening. Pattie creates the same poetic undertow that keeps you engaged and doesn’t let go.”

Santa Barbara News Press