Art happens all around for best-in-show painter

December 07, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Patrick Hiatt of Frederick, Md., with his painting, Rocky Ridge, which won Best of Show in the Washington County Arts Councils annual community art show. The painting depicts Mormon pioneers cresting a ridge as they traveled west looking for a new home.
Photo by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Morning sunlight streams through a gazebo’s glass windows and falls on Patrick Hiatt’s paints and canvases.

Sometimes, music will play faintly in the background. Otherwise, the silence is broken only by a breeze that shakes the leaves across his property, rearranging the light within.

It’s a tranquil setting for Hiatt, who, with a sweep of his brush, turns inspiration into art.

Working primarily in oil and some pen and ink, the Frederick County, Md., man said he’s not committed to any one style or genre — “although I admire and sometimes emulate neoclassicism and surrealism.”

He simply has a love of art.

“I was born with it,” Hiatt said.  

In fact, when he was about 4 years old, his grandmother called him “The Artist.”

She would probably be proud to see how his talent has evolved.

Traveling far from his early childhood sketches, Hiatt has become an award-winning painter.

He has studied and taught art and his work has been exhibited from Maryland to California.

Hiatt recently added to his list of accomplishments when his painting, “Rocky Ridge,” was selected Best of Show for the Washington County Arts Council’s “Annual Community Art Show: The Best Art of 2011.”

The juried show opens today and runs through Wednesday, Jan. 4. The public is invited to meet the artists for a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at the gallery.

Hiatt’s winning painting is a combination of art and history — a 48-inch-by-60-inch oil on canvas depicting Mormon pioneers.

“Between 1848 and 1852, 5,000 Mormons, mostly newly arrived immigrants, pushed hand carts and walked from Iowa to Utah — a most remarkable but little known accomplishment,” he said.

That his painting was named Best of Show is deeply gratifying, Hiatt admitted.

“The arts are intensely competitive.  These awards indicate, for me, that I am on the right track and (they) keep me going,” he said. “This award especially opens a new city, Hagerstown, for me and inspires me to move on to my next piece. You can’t work in a vaccum. Feedback is important.”

Although Hiatt said art has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, he didn’t come from an artistic family

“They were very pragmatic people,” he said. “Most were farmers.”

In fact, his interest in art was strongly discouraged.

But that didn’t prevent the young Midwesterner from pursuing it as a career.

At the age of 14, he attended classes at The Joslyn Art Center in Omaha, Neb., and later studied at The University of Wisconsin at Madison, majoring in art education. He also studied drawing and figure painting in oil at The American Academy of Art in Chicago.

Hiatt’s art education was interrupted in 1964 by the military draft. While serving in the Army, he trained in electronics.

Over the years, Hiatt said he struggled to balance his art with engineering, technical illustration and production graphics — first as an engineering technician for NASA on the Apollo Project, then illustrating for Sanyo and General Dynamics. He eventually entered a career in digital electronics working on the F-16 fighter aircraft, Y2K readiness for the Federal Aviation Administration and computer deployment for the Department of Homeland Security.

But he still found time to draw, paint and exhibit, he said. He also taught art workshops.

Now retired, Hiatt said he spends most of his time in his studio painting.

“It’s what I do,” he said.

Hiatt said he doesn’t have to look far for inspiration in his work.

“Things are happening around us all the time,” he noted. “When I see something interesting, I check it out and wonder if ...”

If you go ...        

WHAT: The Best Local Art of 2011, the annual community art show

WHEN: Reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9. Exhibit continues through Wednesday, Jan. 4

WHERE: Washington County Arts Council, 14 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Free.

CONTACT: Call 301-791-3132 or go to

Photo by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer
Patrick Hiatt of Frederick, Md., with his painting, “Rocky Ridge,” which won Best of Show in the Washington County Arts Council’s annual community art show. The painting depicts Mormon pioneers cresting a ridge as they traveled west looking for a new home.

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