By Patrick Dennis

I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…

People often ask me what inspires me to paint landscape and seascape variations on a vaguely familiar theme. In my head I reply that those scenes are soothing to my nerves in response to inane questions like that one but what I say out loud is that I grew up in sunny California and can’t seem to shake the sand out of my shoes completely no matter how long I’ve lived landlocked in Atlanta. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

In my head I truly do feel the rolling waves, see the sun reflecting on the water and hear the sounds of seals shifting restlessly as they nap in the sand. And then of course my mother enters the picture and tells me I should be wearing a sweater and when was the last time I got a haircut.
And naturally I ask her what possesses her to think wearing pearls to the beach is a good idea and that if she didn’t still live there I wouldn’t be visiting this place in my head at all. My point is, and I truly do have one, is that we can have a lively imaginary life of sun and fun and still manage get work done somehow. It’s a little like being a functioning schizophrenic or a really masterful multi-tasker or robot because my actions hardly reflect what I’m thinking at all. So, if we meet somewhere and you see me smiling, I might not even be able to see you at all but my mind is having a ball.

One reason I think we all (and, yes, I mean everyone who is reading this and the millions of others who have no interest in Atlanta, much less the arts but would admit to this fact with just a hint of provocation or maybe a small dose of sodium pentothal) have such lively and divergent “inner voices,” is that we need a mental place to sit and rest like a park bench for the brain. Who can stand the mere thought of facing monotonous countless days of labor until retirement or winning the lottery to be happy when the alternative is handily waiting for us like a bus stop just above our hairline? What do you really suppose a cocktail waitress is thinking while she’s waiting for you to give her your order and smiling in that benign and beguiling way? Her imagination could be setting your hair on fire for all you know.

Imagination can do wonderful things to our lives and certainly improve tetchy dispositions such as mine even though I still have to remind myself not to wear my bathing trunks and flip flops to meetings because it’s important to really be there in both mind and body sometimes at least to humor those people who you want to take you seriously.

My point, as I promised is actually quite simple: embrace your imagination and let it run rampant when it comes to art. I can’t speak to all the crazies whose brains run in other directions but basically I’m encouraging all of us to unleash our own artistic curiosity, listen to the sounds of the sea in our head and hope it’s not just an ear infection. When you see an artist friend of yours looking quite dreamily unfocused when you meet somewhere try to understand that he or she is most likely not seeing you at all but the better you, the one on the park bench in the sun where you’re probably sitting just as well.

Upcoming Art Events

March 8
7 to 10 p.m., opening reception
Sammy Peters
Contemporary abstract paintings in mixed media by a true master. Alan Avery Art Company, 315 East Paces Ferry Road.

March 23 – 24
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Stone Mountain Village Blue Grassroots Music & Arts Festival
This two-day festival in historic Stone Mountain Village has spontaneous jam sessions and dancing as well as a fantastic array of mostly self-taught artists lining Main Street.  Free to attend. 875 Main St.

Deadline June 7
The Art of Georgia: Call for Entries
Unique opportunity for artists: The Office of the Governor in partnership with Georgia Council for the Arts is pleased to announce a call for entries for The Art of Georgia: Celebrating Georgia’s Landscapes and People. This rotating exhibit will hang in the executive offices of the State Capitol and showcase current work of contemporary Georgia visual artists, on display for approximately six months. Pieces will be selected by Georgia Council for the Arts and the Office of the Governor.

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