story by Nancy E. McCarthy
photos by Michael Rivera
“I wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember,” says Pat Tribastone. She is seated serenely in her Canandaigua storefront gallery, surrounded by her resplendent still life paintings, and ready to talk about art.
Because of the sophistication of her work and a long list of professional accomplishments, it is surprising to learn that she was formerly a dietician and art is her second career. Tribastone, 64, began painting when she was 42. She gestures toward the art-filled walls. “I can’t believe I have done this but I know I was supposed to do it.”
The artist works in a representational style, mostly in oil, and is drawn to natural objects such as flowers or fruit for subject matter. She favors warm colors, especially red, and apples and roses appear frequently in her finely-detailed paintings.
Tribastone exhibits and sells her award-winning work locally and nationally and is a sought-after art show juror and judge. Her credentials include Master Pastelist of the Pastel Society of America and Signature Member of the National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society. While she concentrates mainly on still life, she also draws and paints portraits.
Raised in a small northern New York town, Tribastone’s favored childhood pastime was drawing. Though her father was a woodwork hobbyist and her mother was an avid crafter, they were not supportive of an art career for their daughter. Her parents didn’t appreciate art simply for its beauty. Both viewed creativity through the lens of functionality: If you were cold, knit a sweater. So Tribastone, who also enjoyed science, pursued a more practical dietetics degree in college. She moved to Rochester in 1978 to become a registered dietician through Strong Hospital. Tribastone worked in this field for almost 20 years while living in Webster and raising two daughters with her husband Claude, a business owner.
In 1997, she stopped working since her paycheck was primarily funding childcare for their children then 10 and 11 years old. She never looked back. Tribastone was home with her girls and free to explore art. Her first creative attempts were colored pencil and watercolor experimentation. She still works with pencils but quickly abandoned watercolor.
“Watercolor is the hardest medium because it doesn’t stay where you put it!” she laughs.
Then Tribastone joined the Webster Art Club where she was inspired by artist Sari Gaby’s pastel demonstration and began to study with Gaby. Pastel became her primary medium combining her love of drawing and attraction to rich colors.
By 2004, Tribastone was teaching pastel classes at an art supply store in Webster. She had also discovered oil painting, using walnut oil due to her sensitivity to turpentine fumes and odor.
When she began teaching oil classes, Rosa Montante signed up – to get back to art-making after a long hiatus. “Pat is a very disciplined artist,” says Montante. “She painstakingly plans out each painting’s every detail: composition, significance, color harmony and so on, signifying a narrative through the painting.”
The instructor and her student became friends. “Rosa has become an excellent artist through her own perseverance and practice,” says Tribastone.
Both women submitted work and recently traveled to the National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society “Best of America” exhibition in Utah where Tribastone won an award of excellence and Montante received a merit award.
When her youngest daughter graduated from high school in 2006, Tribastone rented a studio in Anderson Alley Artists Studios in Rochester to paint full-time. Feeling destined to be an artist fueled her determination to excel in her work. As Tribastone began showing her paintings, the awards and sales quickly followed. “Pat’s drive to push forward with art is an inspiration,” says Montante.
Tribastone spent four years at Anderson Alley and then four in Rochester’s Hungerford Building, another conclave of artist studios. 2014 was a turning point. Tribastone was awarded Master Pastelist status and rented a Canandaigua studio as she and her husband downsized to a community north of Victor. Soon after, she opened her storefront gallery and studio on Canandaigua’s Main Street in the historic Hubble Block building (home to numerous past and present galleries and artists, including the late renowned landscape painters Charles Dickens Wader and Frederick D. Crandall). ArtSpace36, a new gallery, is right next door.
“Canandaigua has been the best move,” says Tribastone. “The people here have been just wonderful to me. The downtown area is beautiful and it is a totally different atmosphere.”
In addition, her work is more visible because the street-level gallery includes both a retail space and a studio. Walls are adorned with her works plus special guest artist exhibits several months during the year.
Canandaigua has evolved as an arts destination; attracting new artists, galleries and studios that entice art lovers to visit. Tribastone has played a role in that for the past five years. She is an active participant in the Arts in Canandaigua committee, which meets monthly to brainstorm, plan downtown arts events, cross-market and network.
Tribastone gradually gravitated toward oil as her favored medium. “I do more oils because although I enjoy pastel, it is very messy in the gallery to do it, and they don’t store well unless they are framed,” she explains. “Plus oil paintings sell better.” She teaches both mediums at artist Pat Rini Rohrer’s gallery, across the street from her own.
Canandaigua artist Karen Sorce has taken various classes from Tribastone. “Her teaching has influenced the way I set up a still life arrangement, how I begin a drawing and what paints and colors I use,” says Sorce. She and her husband David are also avid art collectors. “We have several Tribastone oil paintings in our home; still life and florals that glow with color and beauty.”
Tribastone has come to realize how important the beauty of art is to her. She says that the sole purpose of her artwork is to bring beauty to the world. The artist takes that mission seriously, and joyously, as she continues on her remarkable artistic journey.
“I begin by finding one object that intrigues me, whether it is a flower or a vase or an old shoe. I then pick the supporting objects, keeping in mind my color scheme and composition. I sometimes do a very detailed monochromatic drawing first, or else I do a drawing on the canvas. Having chosen my color scheme, I usually begin by painting in the background.
If I am painting flowers, I try to get the blossoms in before they wilt. I then continue painting the objects, one by one. I often go in with subsequent layers to modify my colors, shapes, and edges. When the painting is mostly finished, I let it sit in the studio for a few days or a week to decide if it needs correction.”
— Patricia Tribastone
View Tribastone’s work at P. Tribastone Fine Art Gallery, Canandaigua and Oxford Gallery, Rochester. For more information, visit patriciatribastoneart.com.