Artist as Reader: A Portrait of Trish Rawlings

Posted In: Guest Contributors
Permanent Link   All Posts

By Shaileen B, Fiction Department

When Patricia (Trish) Rawlings drops by the Fiction Department, she hovers over our new books like an excited hummingbird. Trish is more than just a passionate reader, however. A writer and artist herself, she's also an example of how the Pratt Library fuels talent.

CarolineIn an email interview, Trish summed herself up: "Madcap. Compulsively creative. Night-owl. Chronically distractable. First to laugh, first to cry. Indecisive. Contrary. Loves The Word. No, loves The Image. (See?)." Retired, she has worked many jobs in order to guard "the creative impulse." Her focus has changed over the years—from portraits, mostly of imagined people, to landscapes, to forms that combine word and image such as the photo-illustrated novel that she created while earning a creative writing master's degree. Lately, she has gone in even more directions, working on a picture-free novel, studying lost wax sculpture ("nothing will awaken sleeping hands like sculpting"), and resuming a project called The Blocks:

Years ago I had a friend cut from strips of molding little inch-and-a-quarter-sized blocks, whose six sides I could paint any way I wanted. I loved that this allowed endless experimenting and a chance to dance with infinity.

Eventually I packed the blocks away. Their smallness and humility made them easy to forget about, and I did. But one day my hand, groping blind in a box at the back of a cupboard, came across them. They begged for companions, so I ordered fresh blank blocks and took up a brush.

Now I have what is amounting to a "sidewalk" of blocks laid out on my living room floor. I'm currently up to 1,600. And still going. The flirtation with infinity is now a romance.

Since Trish once showed me books about Fra Angelico that she hoped would help her create a "flat" family portrait, I asked if other library finds had shaped her craft. She recalled stumbling on Digital Art Studio, co-authored by Dorothy Krause. After corresponding with Krause, she decided "to take my photographs and print them on transparencies, then lay them over paper I'd made and decorated to create mixed-media images that I combined with a poem to create a whole new thing." Krause's book and the first Pratt Library Altered Books Contest, where she entered that creation, were "hugely inspiring."

Lives of Dolls: The Twins' DreamLives of Dolls: Claus, Rippo, and the EggCarolineL'Enfant Lune
Click an image to view larger.
The Dream, an altered book | interiorThe Dream, an altered book | coverLives of Dolls: The Little FaceThe Blocks

What other books has Trish loved lately? She adored Tom Rachman's novel, The Imperfectionists—"I like the idea of imperfection as something more interesting if not more perfect than perfect." And The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal had "irresistible" components: "Artist/author. The rise and fall of an incredibly wealthy, fascinating European family. Nazis. Japanese carvings. A hare. A hare with amber eyes." Artist/author? Sounds familiar! What a pleasure to serve people like Trish, who are as colorful as what they read, and enrich our community with their art.

All images on this page are copyright Patricia Rawlings, who may be reached at

Trish Rawlings is one of the best and most imaginative artists in Baltimore, with a wide range of work that includes large beautiful eerie landscapes, the doll mini setups, altered books. She turns any subject into an interesting photograph, simply by the way she looks at things. I met her at Pratt's first altered book show, and was thrilled. Thank you for this lovely glimpse!
Posted by: Linda Franklin( Visit ) at 8/24/2012 12:26 a.m.

My husband and I are thrilled to own two of Trish's landscapes and one of her early experiments with photograpy. We think she is a genius and everyone who sees the landscape in our bedroom is spellbound by it, especially me. It is an honor to be among her patrons. How I wish I had more walls to provide more gallery space for her extraordinary creativity.
Posted by: Mame Warren at 8/24/2012 12:17 p.m.

Leave a comment
Name *
Email *