If you have ever browsed the Newnan Art Walk, strolled past the windows of Fine Lines gallery or toured the McRitchie Hollis museum, chances are you have encountered the beautiful artwork of Martin Pate.
Mr. Pate was kind enough to invite us into his home studio to discuss his journey into the fine arts. His second floor studio is a small room crowded with paintings, mementos and tools of the trade. A large portrait of his wife, Rhonda, looks over the studio and a restored 1920s mannequin in a cherry red leotard and tutu keeps him company as he works. We loved his vintage desk, a beautiful piece salvaged from his first job as an illustrator in Atlanta.
Martin Pate arrived in Coweta County thirty-one years ago as a young artist just beginning a promising career.
Pate’s life was saturated in art from a young age. His parents were both creative souls who encouraged their young boys to indulge their passion for drawing. An artistic inclination seems to run in the family. Their house contained original artwork created by Pate’s grandmother. His aunt was also a very talented painter and illustrator.
As children, Martin and his brother Charlie loved to draw. When their aunt moved in with them for a short time, she set up a studio in their home where the boys could sit and watch her create her art.
Pate describes watching in fascination as she used her palette knife to apply paint directly onto the canvas. The experience of watching broad strokes of color become pictures was a magical one.
As the Pate boys honed their artistic skills, they became well known at school and began to receive small commissions from teachers and fellow students. Pate won several awards for his early art. He still remembers the elation that came from seeing a blue ribbon attached to a piece he had created. The ribbons are now proudly displayed in his studio, all faded purple from the years.
After high school, Pate followed in his brothers’ footsteps by attending Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. He graduated in three years and set out in the world to make his living as an artist. He and his wife moved to Atlanta, where the illustration firm Brown Dog offered him a position as an illustrator based on his talent for drawing realistic animals. He stayed at this company for the remaining three years they were in business. Pate came into the illustration business at a time of radical change. Companies were relying more on stock art, so there was not as much of a need for hand illustrations.
With the closure of Brown Dog, Martin and Rhonda decided to move to the Atlanta suburbs. They chose a beautiful old house in The City of Homes and have been here ever since. Pate laughingly describes his home as a thirty-year hobby. He loves taking a break from his work to tackle a project around the house.
Pate’s talent for life drawing landed him regular commissions with the National Park Service. He works with archeologists to recreate past scenes of American life. These are richly detailed paintings that bring a long gone era to life.
In 2007, Pate rediscovered his love of gallery art. The global economic recession had severely limited the budget of the National Park Service. His resulting work was beautiful paintings of lone female figures striking hauntingly emotional poses.
Pate emphasizes the importance of drawing the human form from life. He believes that artists should practice this often. When his son decided to attend his father’s alma mater, Pate began teaching a life drawing class so that he could pass this important skill to his son. His live models are mainly dancers. They are generally more comfortable with performing and holding uncomfortable poses for long periods of time than the average person.
Pate’s son and daughter both inherited his artistic talents. His son received his degree from Ringling in animation and his daughter attended Clemson to study architecture. You can find Pate’s pieces for sale at Fine Lines Art & Framing in Newnan or Dogwood Gallery in Tyrone. He also accepts portrait commissions. He continues to teach his life drawing class on Monday nights and it is open to the public. It is an informal atmosphere attended by a wide range of talent levels.