The winner of this year’s Arts on the Square poster contest is no stranger to the annual festival.
Each year, Michael Patrick roams the Waupaca’s city square with his camera, photographing artists and musicians.
One of the images he took at last year’s event is the winner of this year’s poster contest.
“I was surprised,” Patrick said after learning he won the contest.
The retired University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist has been a photographer for more than 50 years.
He started with film cameras and chemical darkrooms before moving to digital cameras and the digital darkroom about 10 years ago.
Patrick creates both color and black and white images, and his subjects range from nature and landscapes to human-created objects and abstractions.
He remembers being interested in photography as a child and becoming more interested in it when he was in college.
“Friends of mine had invested in 35mm single lens reflex cameras,” Patrick said. “That was the difference between a digital single lens reflex and a point and a shoot.”
With a film camera, the only computer was “up here,” he said, pointing to his head. “You had to do all the figuring.”
Experience eventually taught Patrick what the aperture should be, and today, he continues to trust himself more than the computer.
“There was a lot you could do in the darkroom,” he said. “It was an art and also a lot of fun.”
In those days, Patrick carried different kinds of filters and learned how to use them.
His gadget bag became more like a suitcase.
Patrick continued to delve into photography after college.
“I don’t think I ever seriously thought about selling photographs. It was for my own enjoyment,” he said.
He became more serious about photography when he began working in the Department of Molecular Genetics, at the University of Texas.
Patrick became friends with a couple of electron microscopists, who had a state-of-the-art darkroom for their research.
They told him he could have access to the darkroom.
“It was very wonderful. That is where I started getting more serious,” Patrick said.
Patrick was at the University of Texas from the mid-1960s until the mid-1980s, before going to UW-Madison.
“I continued to do film until about 12 years ago,” he said.
Retired since 2005, he and his wife Beverly Crane live in southern Waupaca County.
The year he retired, Patrick was invited to give a talk in Europe.
“I was then trying to do some serious photography,” he said.
When he returned to Wisconsin, he heard about photographer Daniel Anderson, who offers workshops in Door County.
“I became a disciple of his,” Patrick said.
Anderson leads small groups of photographers on trips throughout the world, and Patrick has been among the photographers on those trip, including one now to Iceland.
“He’s generally done photography in these places,” Patrick said of Anderson.
Patrick prints, mats and frames most of his images, and also uses metal infusion printing.
His work has received several awards in shows, and is or has been exhibited at the Waupaca Community Arts Center, the Tomorrow River Gallery and The LanMark in Amherst, The Trout Museum in Appleton, The Thrivent Gallery at Mosquito Hill Nature Center in New London, River Front Art Center in Stevens Point and at Bethany Home, Waupaca Realty, Waupaca Small Animal Hospital and Riverside Medical Center, all in in Waupaca.
Patrick recently became a member of the Gallery Q Artists Cooperative in Stevens Point.
In 2012, he had a one-person exhibit of his photography of the Greek island, Santorini.
He recently organized some area photographers as the MidWisconsin Photography Group, which meets monthly to share ideas and promote local photographic artists.
In past years, Patrick’s wife asked him if he was going to sign up to have a booth at Arts on the Square.
He likes to exhibit his work. As a result, Crane always asks him to take pictures at the event.
“I was looking for different, interesting shots. I was standing near the entrance of the library,” Patrick said.
He was watching people when his eyes wandered to the metal awning of the building.
“It was casting shadows and lines on the flowers,” he said.
Patrick said he does not usually mess around with the weird things to do to photos in Photoshop but sometimes, finds it fun to play around with the things that are there for graphic designers.
He wanted to create what his eyes saw that day and said that can be done in different ways, by enhancing the contrast or putting more color in places.
“The pictures I ended up with, I really liked,” Patrick said.
Crane convinced him to enter this year’s poster contest.
He thought the contest was limited to painters and graphic artists, but learned he could enter it.
“When you think of a poster, you think of color, so I decided to monkey around with certain effects in Photoshop to make the colors extra vivid,” Patrick said. “I showed it to Bev, and she said, “The problem is it’s in landscape, not portrait.’”
To change it to a portrait format, he had to change the aspect ratio, which elongated the figures, he said.
He liked the effect.
When people see the image, Patrick hopes it gives them a sense of what the light feels like.