“Art is an evolution of practice and intuition,” explains Winnetka-based artist Patricia Markos Dolan. “I’m constantly growing through my work.”
Developing her technique organically over the years, for more than a decade Dolan has honed in on oil paint as her medium of choice, using her palette knife and brush to create and meld color into landscapes that blur the recognizable with something contemplative and almost otherworldly. “Working with oil is like working with clay—I can sculpt on canvas,” she describes.
Inspired by artists like Whistler, Turner, Rothko, Manet, and Monet—you can find her nearly every Wednesday in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago studying and painting the masters—Dolan also finds inspiration in addressing the cultural fusion of her background. As a first-generation American from Greece, she has been a part of two cultures her entire life, spending four months out of every year in a little villa along the Aegean coast.
“Greek is my first language—all my paintings are titled in Greek. There is an intimacy to the language for me, a deeper meaning,” she shares. This is true for her current collection entitled Pelagos, meaning infinite sea, drawing on her impressionable years along the Aegean and inspiration from closer to home: the majestic Lake Michigan.
“People don’t see one body of water when they look at the collection,” she shares. Instead, thanks to such diverse points of reference, each work is itself open to interpretation.
Dolan’s relationship to water is not only one filled with personal history and narrative but equally primal and elemental. The resulting atmospheric work is a play between color and texture, a connection to nature and its ever-changing energy. “I strive to convey a serene and sophisticated aesthetic—to show Earth’s beauty without the gravity of the human presence,” she explains.
Pelagos is characterized by a palpable sense of movement, fluidity, and dimension across the typically flat, static surface of canvas, and the subtlety of its color palette, nuanced shades evoking a continuum of emotions. In some paintings, a wash of moody grays stir melancholic memories, and in others, confident layers of blues and greens convey formidability and power. Many of the works feel almost dreamy, some reflective, and others lean towards turmoil.
“Every piece is unique because it’s a feeling. I surrender to where the painting takes me,” she says. “Once the paint hits the canvas, I see how it all plays together. It’s like a puzzle to be solved.” Due to this intuitive process, no piece can be truly replicated.
As Dolan paints, the feeling evolves, with water, sand, and sky coming together. “The image falls into place as I see the relationship to color,” she explains. “I look at its rhythm, to the past, the present, and future. It becomes a conversation.”
This dialogue forges a connection, not only among artist and canvas or between colors, but among the works themselves: Dolan explains that her paintings are like family—interconnected and related together as one unit. “My first painting was hard to part with, but then I realized the joy of it being out in the world. That it was making a difference.”
Of these new homes for her works, Dolan says, “I’m proud and humbled by my collectors, that they open their space to my work, that they connect with my vision.”
Dolan is similarly grateful for the camaraderie she has found among fellow artists on the North Shore: “I’m honored to be amongst this group of talented artists—the support and inspiration we have for each other is such a gift.” For the past decade, she has been both a member and exhibitor at the North Shore Art League, which will house a solo show of her work opening November 14, and the Evanston Art Center. Her work can also be found at Vivid Art Gallery in Winnetka and is also available by commission. Beyond the Shore, Dolan is affiliated with the Art Institute, Chicago Alliance of Visual Arts, and the Palm Beach Armory.
Though this connection to community and to client is significant, it’s a link to family, which includes husband Robert and their three children John, Frances, and Michael that is tantamount. “What I hope so much is to inspire my children to create without fear,” Dolan shares. “I wanted them to see in this pursuit that they are free to express in life, to put their vulnerability out there, to be brave, to be their authentic selves.”