Grain Mill Smoke, Patrick Willett, 27 x 18 inches, 2012, Watercolor, graphite and ink on paper

Grain Mill Smoke, Patrick Willett, 27 x 18 inches, 2012, Watercolor, graphite and ink on paper

What Time Forgot, Nature Has Reclaimed and Made Anew: Through the Eyes of Patrick Willett

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Driving through Downtown Buffalo you are reminded that the City of Buffalo was once a giant behemoth of Industrial prowess. From the Canals to the Skyway and the Grain Mills that dot the Landscape; these hulking, rusting monuments from a bygone era are reminders that Nature is forever an artist and architect. Local contemporary artist Patrick Willett uses watercolors to tell the autobiographical story of many of buffalo’s recognizable and sometimes forgotten architectural testaments.

Patrick Willett is a self-taught artist who works primarily in watercolors, pen and ink drawing, and photography focusing on nature’s reclaiming of the past. Patrick learned to paint with watercolors early on as he grew up in a very large family and space and time was limited and was influenced by his father, who was an amateur artist.

Nature is a focal point of interest for Patrick. Many of his paintings are typical landscapes of trees and the scenic outdoors; however he captures nature in his industrial architecture paintings as well. These paintings reveal the healing and renewing aspects of the landscape especially how nature has found a way to slowly reclaim the materials and structures that man once made.

Patrick takes his homage to nature a step further by using paints from a tube. Regularly he uses materials found directly in from nature to produce amazingly rich colors. He revealed during an interview that approximately two-thirds of his paintings include pigments are found from nature. Rusty earth tones are achieved by using a mixture of compost and the intense reds found in his paintings frequently come from the Mulberries harvested from his yard, which stains his hands for a period of time.

While searching for an image of a painting that represents the relationship between man and nature I thought of the stories Patrick shared with me during our interview.  His grandfather and father worked at or around the Grain Mills. Tragically, his grandfather lost his life in the Mill that he raised his family on earned wages. Both men helped shape and mold Patrick.  I chose the watercolor Grain Mill Smoke to represent nature and the two men whom influenced him. To me the two towering grain mills represent and narrate the story of man and nature, so deeply shaped, and how Patrick was sculpted.

You can learn more about Patrick Willett at or visit his blog at

 —Arthur Hackett


Arthur Hackett is an Art Education Graduate Student at Buffalo State College. He has a passion for painting landscapes in various mediums and may well be the world’s biggest Notre Dame Football enthusiast in the world.