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story.lead_photo.caption Pat Matthews of Little Rock carries a portable art studio into the hunting woods on his four-wheeler.

On a slow day in a deer stand, some hunters read books, some play on social media, and some nap.

Pat Matthews paints.

Photo by Submitted by Pat Matthews
After forgetting to bring his brushes to a deer hunt, Pat Matthews painted a scene from his stand with a pocketknife. Since then, knife paintings have become a regular part of his repertoire. Matthews’ paintings can be viewed online at

Deer weren't moving during a November deer hunt in Monroe County, but Matthews wanted to capture the morning's glory on canvas. He forgot his brushes, so he painted with his knife. It was an ordinary Milwaukee pocketknife from Home Depot, artfully repurposed.

"You can paint with anything," said Matthews, a 1982 graduate of Little Rock Central High School. "I've had several orders for pocketknife paintings. I sign the pocketknife and include it with the painting."

In 1981, I sat beside Matthews in study hall at Central. Every day he made the most remarkable pencil-and-ink drawings of eagles, falcons and other birds of prey. I remember most the intricate detail of the feathers and the intensity of the eyes.

It was understood that another classmate, George Newbern, would someday be a successful actor, but this quiet kid in study hall had sublime talent. He was going to be famous.

He is, but it took awhile. After graduating from Central, he earned a degree in architecture in 1987 from the University of Arizona. He was named the top designer in his class, and he returned to Arkansas to start his own architecture firm.

In the mid 1990s, he saw the work of another artist, Barry Thomas, in a Little Rock gallery. Matthews said he contacted Thomas and worked out a trade. He designed some architecture for Thomas, and Thomas gave Matthews painting lessons.

Matthews said he drew blueprints in the day and painted by night for three years. Restless, he consulted a life coach for advice. He told her that he just wanted to quit architecture and devote his time to painting, Matthews said.

So, do it, she said.

"I can't quit," Matthews protested. "I'm working on six jobs!"

"She said, 'Pat, it's your life. You can do anything you want to do,' " Matthews recalled. " 'You created your situation, and you can change it just as fast.' "

Matthews said he put the coach on hold, called one of his clients and asked if it was OK to quit his project.

"Sure, no problem," was the reply.

Matthews said he quit all six jobs that night. It was so easy that it hurt his pride, but it also convinced him he'd done the right thing.

"Nobody cared. I wasn't anything to them," Matthews said. "People need to hire an architect, but nobody has to buy my paintings. Everybody I meet is happy."

Matthews started painting full time the next day, and he never stopped. At his first show in 2002, he sold his entire inventory of 48 paintings in one night. Nine months later he sold out again at his second show.

In 2003 he moved to Santa Fe, N.M. Soon, Matthews was ensconced in one of Santa Fe's top galleries. With his reputation well-established, he moved back to Little Rock in 2008. Since then he has met two people who changed his life.

One was Tracee Gentry. She became Tracee Gentry Matthews in 2011. She is an artist, as well, and was the featured Little Rock Riverfest artist in 2012.

The other was Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty Inc. He is one of Matthew's mentors and a benefactor. Keller encouraged Matthews to share his story on a broader scale. To that end, Keller, facilitates public events in which Matthews said he has several times painted and spoken onstage in front of 10,000 people.

An avid hunter and angler, Matthews said he has always had a passion for painting outdoor scenes and landscapes. Arkansas has an uncommon diversity of landscapes, and his pursuit of game and fish around the Natural State gives him unlimited perspectives.

"Arkansas has these cypress and tupelo forests, and rice fields," Matthews said. "We have the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets."

One of his specialties is painting prized hunting spots for his clients.

"A friend sent me a photo of a rice field with the sun going down, and I painted it," Matthews said. "Another friend owns a big tupelo hole. I hunted it with him and have since painted several works of that exact place. Since then I've been commissioned to paint lot of people's hunting spots. After Christmas I'll be going to Bayou Meto to paint a commission of a favorite hunting spot for a collector."

These paintings, Matthews said, allow him to share his appreciation for the beauty of his native state.

"I love Arkansas," Matthews said. "I've lived all over the country, and Arkansas is awesome. People talk about wanting to go to Colorado to go fishing and I'm like, 'Seriously? With the fishing we have here, and you want to go to Colorado to catch a five or six little bitty trout?'"

Sports on 12/21/2014

Print Headline: Strokes of genius

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