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Pencil artist preserves country memories

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By April Wright, Reporter

It’s just not like the good old days when times were stress-free.

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Kids spent their time on the farm chasing fireflies, playing hide-and-seek, milking cows and riding horses; and at school, kids played jump rope and tag.

Now all that's left is memories — Pat Robinson's inspiration for pencil drawings of country settings.

Back in those days, she remembers growing up in the country out in Carroll County, where she watched the plowing of fields and cooking on wood stoves. She spent most of her time outside, following her grandpa around on his daily chores just so she wouldn't have to be inside washing the dishes with her grandma.

“A lot of this [artwork] is what me and my grandpa did,” said Robinson. “It's things that I remember about growing up in the country and things I've seen and done.”

Robinson started drawing when she was a little girl. She didn't take art class in school, but she remembers being scolded by her teacher for sketching in music class.

“'Alright, now show everyone what you've drawn,' my teacher would say,” Robinson recalls. “It's just something I always done to keep busy.”

When Robinson was just a teen, however, her hands became sore and swollen, making it tough for her to even drive home. During those times, she said, people would just say “It'll be alright, take an aspirin.”

In her 20s, the pain became so severe she had to quit her job as a beautician. She had been diagnosed with crippling rheumatoid arthritis, drawing her joints and turning her fingers under.

Although she had to quit her job, she could not and would not give up her passion for drawing.

“I've learned to deal with it over the years, and I've learned when to quit,” she said. “But if I have an idea, I have to do it to keep myself busy.”

The details are vividly sketched, revealing images revolving around Robinson's memories of country settings from earlier times. There are images of grandpa milking a cow, children riding horses and grandma knitting and grandpa reading the Bible by the fire, Robinson shows.

“Anybody that grew up with their grandpa would remember these times,” she said.

Robinson walked to and from school and even walked home for lunch. She and her friends would play house. In the woods, kids would sweep out the leaves in a circle to create a pretend house, use broken dishes for the kitchen and cardboard boxes for the stove and fridge.

“Kids today just don't know what it means to play house like we used to,” she said of why she needs to keep those memories alive. “When you're growing up, it's usually the best time. It's the good times.”

What makes Robinson's art different, though, are that the faces in each drawing do not contain features — something she begun doing about 20 years ago.

It's left up to the viewer to imagine any face they choose. They're “dream faces,” she calls them.

“I wanted to do something different,” she said. “When you're drawing someone's face, you have to be correct. But this way, you can just use the body and the tilts of the head to get the message across to see the expression of the face.”

Each idea comes with things people say or flashbacks of early childhood days, or sometimes it just comes naturally as she sits in her recliner to sketch them.

“Some pictures just draw themselves. It comes out when I put my pencil to the paper.”

One drawing — “Cause and Effect” — depicts a little boy smoking a cigarette behind the outhouse while a friend watches out for him and another lies on the ground, holding his mouth in sickness.

The idea for the next drawing — “Old Fashion Home Schooling” — was one of those ideas that she quickly conjured based on “Cause and Effect.” Here, it shows a little boy bent over his father's knee while receiving a spanking.

Robinson entered “Old Fashion Home Schooling” into the Galax Art Guild competition at the Galax Public Library and received honorable mention.

On top of being an excellent artist, she boasts that she makes the most wonderful sourdough bread and poundcakes. She also sews, knits, crochets and creates various crafty items.

Robinson lives in Galax, has a son and a daughter, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

• Robinson's pencil drawings are available at the Back Porch Gallery in Fries and are now on display at the Galax Public Library. She also takes requests for ideas.

Each picture is signed with the shape of a heart and five dots indicating a “Love Pat” print.

For more information or to request a print, contact Robinson at 236-4150.