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Early Life

Creating visual images has always been a part of my life. As a child, I loved to draw, and I was the typical school kid bringing home the creations all parents are so proud to (hopefully) receive. I took art seriously throughout my school years and in high school I   majored in Art, Geography and Rock & Roll, not necessarily in that order. 


I also had a passion to see the world and in the summer of 1963, I left Canada to explore Europe for six months. Four years later I returned after having spent two years in Europe and two more in Africa and Asia.

Ken and his 99 year old mother, Hilda Pattern

Me and Mom, artist Hilda Pattern at 99 - the source of my artistic DNA

Spec mural at Nat Bailey Stadium created and painted by Ken Pattern (right) and Terry Chan (left)

Me (right) with Terry Chantler and our first prize mural at Nat Bailey Stadium, 1971


In 1968, I enrolled at Vancouver Comunity College and later transferred to Simon Fraser University with the idea of finding a career. I wasn't sure what that would be so dabbled in a variety of courses, majoring in Sociology. Fortunately, the times allowed for a lot of exploration and eventually, I returned to what I loved to do the most - Art.


I have always felt that the most meaningful way of learning something is through on-the-job training. In the early 1970s, I joined SPEC, one of the first grassroots environmental groups in Canada. My job was to create posters, brochures, displays and a newspaper. I learned from others and applied the new skills directly to the tasks at hand. On a diet of mainly brown rice and with very little money I was part of a passionate, idealistic group of people in similar circumstances, out to save the world.  Through this, I gained a wealth of skills and experience that launched me into a career in art.


After SPEC I pursued a life as an artist in fits and starts, taking odd jobs when the money ran out, which it did quite often. Commercial art got me through some tight spots and in 1974 I was hired by the federal government as a graphic artist. Three years later, with some savings in the bank, I left the comfort of a bi-weekly pay cheque for the Art wilderness and booked my first art exhibition one and half years down the road. After some more travel and a dedicated work schedule, I had enough paintings to mount my first exhibition in the fall of 1978, at the old Vancouver Public Library. My savings almost gone, I fortunately, sold enough in that show to get me to the next exhibition in the summer of 1979.


That same year, I enrolled in a summer course on basic lithography. I learned a great deal but knew this was only scratching the surface, so to speak, and enrolled at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in September 1979, majoring in printmaking.


The cost of setting up a printmaking studio was prohibitive but fortunately, Vancouver is home to one of the best co-op printmaking studios in Canada, the Malaspina Printmakers Society. It became my printmaking home for 35 years and I was able to hone my skills in the art and craft of lithography. This allowed me to create limited edition prints that I could display through a network of galleries.


With my new printmaking skills, I signed a contract with a leading art publisher, Canadian Native Prints, and this opened up new markets for my work. In the early 1980’s I served on the boards of Malaspina and the Burnaby Art Gallery as well as being a founding member of the Northwest Print Council, a group of professional printmakers headquartered in Portland, Oregon. In 1984 Van City Credit Union commissioned me to illustrate their 1985 wall calendar. The connections and exposure raised my profile and I no longer had to depend on odd jobs to get me through.

Lokomata Tana Toraja - Acrylic on Board Painting

Lokomata,Tana Toraja, Acrylic on Board

Indonesia as Muse

In 1990, I began to draw (pen & ink) images of typical kampung street scenes of Jakarta neighbourhoods.The word kampung usually refers to a rural village but in Indonesian cities it describes poorer or working class communities. I soon realized that much of what I was recording was literally disappearing before my eyes.


My usual modus operandi was to go out and photograph scenes that interested me as well as taking notes and making rough sketches. It was sometimes many months between the time of first seeing a scene and getting down to actually drawing the image. On one of these occasions when I returned to the location to study it further, I found an empty space where some months before stood a thriving busy community. This prompted me to begin recording disappearing traditional scenes across the city, I was on a mission.


Over the next six years, I drew almost a hundred images depicting every-day Jakarta life as well as those showing the dramatic changes taking place in this rapidly developing city. Many of those images juxtapose the old with the new and the rich with the poor which is the reality of Jakarta. This subject matter may have little historical or architectural value but portrays what I consider to be a social heritage.

Ken, wife Helen and grandniece Nyla
Ken Pattern drawing on limestone in process of creating lithographs

Drawing on Litho limestone at Malaspina Printmaker’s Studio


My earliest influences were the works of Rene Magritte, a Belgian surrealist artist and  the Dutch graphic artist, M.C. Escher. Early themes were surrealistic/satirical images of the conflict between humans and nature. Coming from a part of Canada where forestry is a major industry much of the early work dealt with this subject. Eventually, I evolved into a landscape artist, both surreal and representational in style.

In 1985 my wife Helen Vanwel was hired  as  Director of a Canadian government-funded project at a university in Beijing, where we lived for close to 3 years. I didn’t achieve much artistically myself while in China but met some brilliant Chinese artists and printmakers. I organized an exchange exhibition in Beijing and Portland with printmakers from the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts and members of the Northwest Print Council, a first for both groups.I was also fortunate to have some amazing travel experiences in the region, including to remote areas.

In 1989 Helen and I moved to Jakarta Indonesia for a year on another Canadian government contract for what we thought would be a one year assignment. That one year turned into 30 before we permanently returned to Canada. With no access to printmaking facilities in Indonesia, I returned to painting and drawing and   participated in exhibitions in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Jakarta Reflections - Ink drawing

Jakarta Reflections, Ink

While living in Indonesia for 30 years, I returned to Canada almost every year for a few months to create limited edition lithographs at the Malaspina studio in Vancouver. In Jakarta I continued to portray environmental and social concerns in my paintings and drawings.

Here & Now

Helen and I returned to Vancouver in 2019, not long before Covid lock down. My current interest is mostly something of a return of what inspired me back in the 1970’s, trees and themes of how we humans interact with our precious planet.

My wife Helen, grand niece Nyla and I at home

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