Profiles Visual Arts

Precision Engineering – The Art of Lou Patrou

“Hank & Sylvie” 
“Hank” 38″ x 50″ pencil on paper, 2010  – “Sylvie” 38″ x 50″ pencil on paper, 2010 

The English language is always evolving and at times it is hard to keep up with the latest trends in words. Using the adjectives such as “cool and funky” to mean excellent, admirable, unique and unconventional, may be old fashioned and to some it may mean exactly the opposite. Perhaps more modern substitutions can be words such as ‘lit’, ‘bussin,’ ‘fire’ or ‘gucci.’ Whichever generational words are chosen, these are apt descriptions of Lou Patrou’s artwork, which are timeless or even ahead of their time.

One thing is certain, Patrou’s works are unusual and immaculate, whether they are paintings, pencil drawings, pastel sketches or digital designs. Jeannie McCormack, Editor of Gallery&Studio, calls his work “captivating.

Lou Patrou is a pure American artist. He grew up in Rochester, New York and started doodling while in Junior High School. Self-taught, at an early age he found drawing cats and portraits of people fascinating. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy after his family moved to Pensacola, Florida, where he trained as a filmmaker and served for four years in an elite motion picture unit called Combat Camera Group, creating newsreels, interviews, documentaries. After he left the military, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked in the film industry, while always continuing to create his own drawings. Today he is back in New York State, where he lives and works, solely devoted to his art.

“The Last Trip” 40″ x 60″ pencil on illustration board, 2017

When creating his pencil drawings, Patrou starts with conceptual ideas. For example, in the case of Hank & Sylvie, the portraits of a fictional couple inspired by the idea of cookie jars from the 1950s. He then spends years designing the minutia of each component part of the drawings. The faces, hair, eyes, eyebrows, mouths, cheek patterns, background style and colors are created, explored, changed, improved and polished continuously. Even the amount of pressure with which the pencil glides over the paper is gauged and accounted for. He explains this first part of his process as “precision engineering.”

He continues until the whole comes together into a synchronized end-product that is as perfect as he deems it needs to be. Once he has finalized the concept, he practices drawing each component part, using templates if necessary. He even ensures that his pencils are neither too blunt nor too sharp, knowing that if he overlaps any single line, it will detrimentally impact the exact tone and density of the line. Taking months of exacting precision, he finally hand-draws the original work to the “finish-line.”

The lines are crisp, the shapes are even, the colors are distinct and balanced. It could look like edgy digital work, except there is a bold naturalness, an organic presence that makes them unique, hand-created pictures. He demands harmony which drives an artistic sensibility of quality that defines his work. So, when he does develop digital designs and patterns from these unique drawings, there is a richness that makes them stand out, and allows them to become available to a larger audience.

“Mustang Sally” 30″ x 32″ acrylic on watercolor paper, 2021

It is hard to categorize Patrou’s art. Words such as pop surrealism, soft surrealism, pop iconic come to mind, but in truth, he is his own category. He creates art for his own satisfaction. He has always drawn what interests him and what pleases him. He has always been his own sharpest critic and the precision that he demands of himself has been the “pressure and the pleasure of creating the art.”

He plays music as he works, creating the mood and inspiration he needs. Van Morrison, Patty Loveless, Iris DeMent, Emmylou Harris, Gregg Allman, John Prine, Taj Mahal; all great musicians who continued to evolve and develop their craft and catalog as they matured over the decades. It is exactly what Patrou is doing as he continues to challenge himself and evolve his art.

There is a new urban word “trill,” which is a blend of the words true and real. It means someone or something that is genuine and authentic. Lou Patrou and his works are trill. G&S

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