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Elphinstone Chronicles: When a hero exceeds expectations – meeting Joni Mitchell

Local artist meets her long-time idol (because, YOLO)
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Area E renowned painter Pat Ridgway meets Joni Mitchell, whose work captivated Ridgway at 17 and never reliquished its influence.

We will be missing a huge stopover on the 2023 Sunshine Coast Art Crawl map right in the heart of Area E without our renowned painter, Pat Ridgway, who is an integral part of the art scene. Her studio won’t be open due to medical reasons this year, but I was intrigued because I saw on Facebook she had just connected with Joni Mitchell and I know Pat’s artwork is somewhat inspired by the singer-songwriter. I thought I could see what kind of impact that had on her and share some of Pat’s story, so we’re not missing her too much during Art Crawl. 

Pat welcomed me into her warm, beautiful studio space at her and Ian’s property off Pratt Road. In the studio, amongst so many original paintings of Gospel Rock, local forests, and her own vibrant garden was a large, signed print of a Joni Mitchell self-portrait in the style of Van Gogh. “It was given to me by a friend many years ago because they knew how much I loved Joni,” said Pat, and it is the centrepiece of the room. 

When Pat was just 17 years old, she discovered Joni Mitchell’s album Blue and became captivated. Through reading articles and biographies, she discovered Joni had always considered herself “a painter first, and a musician second.” Ironically, Pat started out wanting to sing, but fell into painting as a career. Joni takes time to paint every chance she gets, some of which made the covers of her iconic albums and her archive of paintings is substantial. Pat admires the colours, styles and many self-portraits Joni has created over the years, following her visual art as much as her music. 

During Pat’s life, she has crossed paths with Joni a few times, but hasn’t had the chance to talk art. Last week one of Pat’s dreams came true when an opportunity popped up to meet the star. She and a couple friends decided to go out for dinner at La Trattoria Italiana at Ruby Lake Resort. Since she heard Joni had been at her residence here on the Coast recently, Pat brought a card print of her Joni painting along for the ride. This gorgeous painting is the one Pat created, inspired by a black and white Jack Robinson photo, for the Gibsons Art Gallery during their 2015 Both Sides Now exhibit. When they walked in the door of La Trattoria, there was Joni Mitchell facing the entrance, eating front and centre, “like she wanted to be seen that day, like she might be feeling social.” Pat and her friends finished dinner and were mulling over the long drive home, when the owner approached to ask if they’d noticed Joni. When Pat’s friend mentioned the card, the owner said they must come over and give her this gift. They were assured Joni had been there hours and really wouldn’t mind the company. Heck, YOLO. 

Joni was thrilled at the gesture. She took Pat’s hand in her own and thanked her for the card, praising her work and beaming ear to ear. “Having loved this woman and followed her my whole life, I really felt like I was on cloud nine,” Pat says of the run-in. It’s not often we get to meet our heroes, but when we do it’s even more rare when they exceed our expectations in kindness and take the time to connect with us. 

Although Pat’s studio is missing from the Art Crawl this year, she has generously donated an original painting for auction at the Art of Healing exhibition at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Gardens to raise money for the Sechelt Hospital Foundation. The Botanical Gardens are open to view the exhibit throughout Art Crawl, but you’ll have to snag tickets to the live auction event on Oct. 21. 

Feedback and suggestions are welcome, so email me at hello.elphinstone@gmail.com.