Matt Patterson's Nature Studies
The New Ipswich artist illustrates the world around us
What’s the first sign of spring? To Matt Patterson of New Ipswich, it’s the sweet, incessant sound of peepers coming out of hibernation during the first spring thaw. Or maybe it’s the duck-like call of the wood frog after awakening from its deep freeze.
Even as a kid, Patterson loved both nature and painting pictures. His father was a biology teacher and was always bringing wildlife home. Now, as a wildlife illustrator, he gets to roam the woods for research. “It’s an excuse to go outside,” he confesses.
Patterson’s first book illustrations were done for his father’s “Freshwater Fish of the Northeast.” Research was fishing together, and the book won awards for artistic merit.
His most recent body of work is 83 illustrations for Alvin R. Breisch’s “The Snake and the Salamander: Amphibians and Reptiles from Maine to Virginia.” Almost half of the creatures can be found in New Hampshire if you walk through the woods, look under rocks or join a Salamander Crossing Brigade. The book is peppered with interesting facts. For instance, did you know that some green snakes and green frogs are not actually green? Rather, tiny spots of yellow and blue pigments appear as green.
Patterson spends the winter in his backyard studio, warmed by a wood stove, researching and sketching wildlife. He paints in layers of acrylic, often just leaving a thin wash where appropriate. But before he starts, he stains the paper with coffee. “I love the look of old scientific illustrations and masters like Audubon,” says Patterson. Indeed, his work is as richly detailed as the masters who worked about 200 years ago.
Besides his nature illustrations, Patterson has been creating three-dimensional sculptures of birds out of bass wood, complete with feathers cut from paper and covered with a mat acrylic medium for permanence.
Prints are available on Patterson’s Etsy site, StoneridgeArtStudios. Starting April 14, and continuing for three weeks, illustrations from his latest book will be on display at the Harris Center in Hancock. A book signing is scheduled for 11 a.m., April 22, at Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough.
How did the salamander cross the road? With help from a Salamander Crossing Brigade member. Learn how you can help salamanders navigate dangerous roads during their migratory journeys to vernal pools. Training is available this month at several sites in the Monadnock Region. For more information, contact the Harris Center at harriscenter.org.