Artist Profile: Pat McVay

Pat McVay is the local artist behind some of Whidbey Island and the Pacific Northwest’s most recognizable sculptures. He is also responsible for several business signs around the island, including the iconic “Welcome to Whidbey Island” sign at the Clinton Ferry Terminal. He is quick to explain that he was one of 10 artists who worked collaboratively on that sign.

Pat’s history in the arts goes back 40 years to Paris, where he began his career by repairing and making furniture. Pat had a small shop, a few tools and lots of paint used to hide mistakes. There was a blue period, a red period and a white period and soon, people began asking him to create new furniture.

Then came work in porcelain tile, and after moving to the Olympic Peninsula, his attraction to the natural forms of the forest led him into wood carving.

“I like doing nature pieces because there’s so much beauty in nature,” explains Pat. “You can’t really enhance nature but you can tell a story. And that’s what my work does, it’s narrative.”

Currently, most of his work is large-scale carvings from already-downed trees, using everything from a chain saw to fine chisels. His whimsical and even comical sense is often the basis of unique carvings of people and animals.

A 20-year career of commissioned work in Seattle started rather humbly. Pat had a booth at the Puyallup Fair where he failed to sell a single piece. Yet on the way home, he was followed by a woman who had seen the sculptures he was carting. She and her husband owned several seafood restaurants in Seattle, and over the years they commissioned about 50 different pieces from Pat to display in their properties.

“What’s unique about my art is that each piece is different than the last,” says Pat. “I’m not an artist that does a series of things. I may as well just get a real job if I did that, I suppose.”

Many of Pat’s works are visible in public spaces up and down the West Coast. He was a founding member of the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association and the Cascade Wood Sculptors Guild. He shows his work at “Music for the Eyes,” a gallery in Langley, Washington.

To learn more about Pat McVay and his work, watch the production Artistic Energy: Pat McVay here.

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