Plein air artist Pat Anderson has been drawing and dreaming since she was a 10-year-old girl. Her colorful story is filled with art, adventure and a passion for nature. Ever since she was 10, Anderson has been keeping a journal. “My parents drove from Mount Vernon, New York, to Florida for my father’s business, and I sat in the back seat drawing,” she says, fondly recalling trips filled with visits to museums and art galleries.
One image that left an indelible mark was the traveler’s palm, a plant that resembles a palm tree but is actually related to the bird-of-paradise and banana. “Still to this day, I am fascinated by traveler’s palm trees and encourage my students to see and paint its laces,” says Anderson, whose signature style fuses vibrant colors with fine details. The multitalented artist has worn many hats in her colorful life, including plein air artist, fashion illustrator, art director, fabric designer, Christmas ball creator, jewelry designer, entrepreneur, retail store owner, gallery owner and teacher.
“I always wanted to be a fashion illustrator in Jordan Marsh,” notes Anderson, who got her wish after graduating from Florida State University, where she studied art and art history. She left her $90 per week job at Jordan Marsh to be closer to home and worked creating ads and illustrations for Britt’s Department Store.
The next chapter of her life was filled with love, adventure and en plein air painting with her beloved husband, Pete, as they sailed tropical waters. Anderson published My Own Cruising Journal, a journal of her artwork while cruising on their yacht in the early 1990s. “I think I really like being married and feeling settled,” says Anderson.
The entrepreneur then used the cover design on garments and merchandise, and launched a retail store named My Own Cruising Journal in Lighthouse Point, Florida, which carried clothing lines, gifts and artwork. “Everywhere I went I was on top of the world,” notes Anderson, whose artwork was in demand in the Caribbean and Bahamas. She designed fabric for Kahala Sportswear of Hawaii, which was sold worldwide and carried her label, “Pat Anderson Collection by Kahala.” After Pete died in 2008, Anderson struggled to keep the business going for a couple of years.
A newspaper article in the Sun-Sentinel inspired the next chapter in her life. “A man came into the shop and told me that he read the article about how I was having a hard time,” says Anderson. The man, Captain John Wetzstein, was selling driftwood frames. I asked him, “What would I do with driftwood frames?” He not only showed her how the frames could reimagine her artwork, but he also helped her downsize the business and open her heart. “Today is our seventh anniversary of being together,” she notes.
“He designed the Leaf Bar for me,” says Anderson, describing the clever tool for en plein air painting as a one-legged table that straps to a tree. Along with serving as an art easel, it can double as a social table for wine-tasting events, public places and home décor.
The Leaf Bar Table allows Anderson to bring her love of en plein air painting to students of all ages and abilities throughout Florida. “I am offering plein air classes all around Southeast Florida,” exclaims Anderson, who advises checking her website at patandersonartist.com for the most up-to- date roster and schedule of classes.
“It thrills me when I give a blank canvas to a student and watch them put a brush on it,” she says. “I tell them to train their eyes to really look at what they see, like the shade under a wave or the way the light looks at a certain time of day. I get excited when they see how to paint a flower and carefully look at the five petals of hibiscus.” Anderson also encourages her students to study the palm trees and see how they grow coconuts. “It is amazing how things are built in nature,” says a now grown-up Anderson with the same wonderment as the 10-yearold who first drank in the beauty of a traveler’s palm.
Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston magazine, Boston Common Magazine, Modern Luxury Chicago, Ocean Home Magazine, Playboy.com, RD.com and many others. A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.