Ryan Patton has been able to create art for as long as he can remember. And the evidence of his talents are visible throughout campus.
The 29-year-old from Brisbane will be graduating this Saturday with a B.A. in Art Studio, with a concentration in painting, and currently has multiple paintings in the University Art Gallery and a 15-foot donut-shaped sculpture in front of International Hall.
While Patton’s work is getting recognition from within his department and around campus, he wasn’t always on track to receive a degree focused solely on art. He originally was set to major in graphic design. In fact, it wasn’t until after he attended multiple junior colleges across the state of California that he decided to focus on creating art with a paintbrush instead of a keyboard. Patton said his main reason for the shift was simple — it’s what makes him happy.
“I think it’s really important to keep doing what makes me feel that way,” said Patton. “I don't think of myself as being a privileged person, but I am super privileged to be able to put my art out there and especially here.”
From before he was a teenager growing up just outside of San Francisco, his family encouraged him to embrace creativity, he said, with his mom even enrolling him in drawing classes at a young age. He credits his grandfather for helping him push his art interest.
“I remember my mom would get into arguments of whether or not I should be spending time outside playing,” said Patton. “My grandpa was the one who said I should be checking out museums and being academically driven, having that kind of background was strong in his opinion.”
After attending Sacramento City College in 2012, Patton said he realized he wanted to focus on painting. He moved to the North Bay in 2014, where he went to Santa Rosa Junior College before transferring to Sonoma State in 2016. Patton said what really sold him on coming to SSU was the beauty of the campus, but what has really fueled his commitment to the university is the family of peers and professors he has found within the Art Department. “The biggest thing is community,” he said. “I can ask questions to the professors I don’t even know, and they will give me advice about my work or just life in general.”
Patton has become somewhat of a fixture around the Art Department for his involvement within the Art Gallery and his overall ability as a painter. Clea Felien, a professor in the Art Department, and one of Patton’s mentors, said he is one of the most hardworking students she has seen.
Felien said Patton came to her and the Art Department as a good artist but is “leaving them great,” she said. “He’s completely dedicated to the department,” she said. “He listens to criticism from others, he gives incredible meaningful insight and he really acts like a big brother to the others in our small communal department.”
One person who has been a key part of Patton’s community at Sonoma State is Carla Stone, exhibition coordinator of the University Art Gallery. Patton has been an intern in the gallery for the past year, while also working full-time. Stone said Patton’s involvement with the Art Department goes beyond just him being a great painter.
“I’ve seen a lot of student work but his really stands out,” Stone said. “More than that, he was so interested and curious and wanted to be involved when he first arrived on campus. He always finds a way to make time and be available for us.”
After graduation, Patton said he hopes to find a residency that will provide studio space and funding for him to further his craft. “The goal is always to just have fun with it,” he said. “Thirty years from now, my goal is just to be making art. It’s what makes me the happiest.”