By Patrick Dennis

I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…

About family.  If I had to describe my family tree, it would be huge, old and full of squirrels and nuts. Lately, I have been consumed with my daughters, grandkids, brother, mother and my “adopted” extended family of artists. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming.  But as much as I enjoy my life as an artist and businessperson, my family is more important than anything I accomplish, even if I complete a really great painting and it sells for an obscenely large amount of money.

One daughter checks in from Mexico where she is “house sitting” at a vacation home on the beach while working at her computer every day for a travel company. She has great stories, photos and I think she’s now officially addicted to tequila.

The other daughter brings my lively grandchildren to Atlanta to help work on our art festivals. She is the gypsy and the kids are like mini movie stars with every onlooker in their orbit. Artists who have gotten to know them pester me to death about when they will arrive to share their star power and magic.  I really think my daughter sprinkles them with some special potion at night while they sleep. I admit they are pretty irresistible.

My brother lives in Hawaii, and although it truly is a kind of paradise, it is also loaded with weird bugs and sudden storms that wash away homes. He and I keep in constant communication since we share an aging parent who thinks she’s still a “flapper girl.”  It’s entertaining until you see her up close.

At my brother’s urging, I called G. FayE (she is not a hip hop artist, nor a showgirl but this is what she insists we call her instead of Grandma) to check in and make plans to visit her pristine corner of the world in Cambria, California. Now that she understands that I actually have income as an artist she is less suspicious when I call. But when I try to tell her about my extended family of artists she gets confused.  Okay, to be fair she probably also gets confused by corn flakes, but she doesn’t seem to grasp the importance of the inclusion of these wonderful people in my life.  In sum, they make my life bigger, like an  IMAX movie in Technicolor with a really great storyline.

Recently I slogged along with 100 artists in 100 degree heat during a festival. I think we have our own special language similar to the one I share with my granddaughter but using different words. We commiserated over the temperature and began to marvel at the fact that sales were really good.  It kept us awake and happily busy, but really sweaty. Let’s just say we didn’t do much hugging, which is in line with my mother’s recommendation for any occasion where demonstrations of affection could sneak up.

We enjoyed talking about how our art has changed during the last few years of hard times and how it made us try harder and be more determined. The effect has been a weeding out of hobbyists and pruning the dead wood from the big family tree we all live in or under. One artist who I have long admired but could never afford showed me a new line of metal sculpture he has developed that does not require a moving truck, crane or a million dollars.  I was so impressed that I bought a piece immediately and paraded past everyone with my prize cradled in my sweaty arms from this artist who will certainly be famous one day.

So maybe our breed is adapting after all to life in the new economy or at least getting used to living among our fellow squirrels and nuts. We can’t all live on the beach or in Hawaii or as gypsies but we are resourceful with our materials and even more so with our affection and loyalty. We are a happy family that fully embraces our weirdness and the fact that without us, you would just have nuts, and no tree to provide you with the colorful joy and breeze of our shady talents.

Upcoming Events

Aug. 9
6 to 8 p.m., opening reception
Pressing Matters III

Chastain Arts Center and Gallery
135 West Wieuca Road
Print techniques by the Atlanta Printmakers Studio.  The center also offers a variety of excellent classes. Free to attend.

Aug. 11
11 a.m. to 5 p.m., opening reception
Valencian Summers

R. Alexander Gallery
309 E. Paces Ferry Rd. NE, Suite 105
Featuring the works of Spanish artist Giner Bueno.  A unique look at Spanish coastal life.  This b beautiful collection will be displayed through Aug. 31. Free to attend.

Aug. 18-19
Piedmont Park Summer Arts & Crafts Festival

Expect 200 participants in every artistic discipline, plus live local music, gourmet food trucks, a Street Market and a Children’s Area.  You know something crazy and wonderful will happen! Free to attend.

Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. Email him at

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.