For those who have lived with someone for a long period of time, you already know that there is precious little to keep secreted away from each other. There is little we need to hide. There is not much we haven’t already made known to each other over the breakfast table, or those nights just before sleep takes us. It is in these moments that we realize we have shared our deepest thoughts with someone we trust, someone who will take those thoughts and make them part of themselves.

When I was a young kid, maybe ten years old and like boys of my own age, I was curious about everything, and because our house was small, nothing escaped notice. I knew where my mother kept a secret stash of money, or where my father hid the spare keys to the Buick, because after my embarrassing attempt to go for a drive one night, he was forced to hide them. But the holy grail of curiosity was my sister’s diary.

My sister was very secretive about that little book. If I remember now, it had a padded cover and a small lock attached. If I happened to see her writing in it, she would quickly put it down and, with a very small key, lock it up. This of course made me want to know what secrets might be inside. After all, a book with a lock was as close to me as catching a spy that I was ever going to get. I never did find that diary. Maybe she lost it, or hid it somewhere and forgot about it, but what she kept locked inside will be there forever, consigned to the past.

Pat Owen, sketchbook drawing.

Pat’s sketchbooks are in a way like that diary, and like that diary they hold secrets. There is no need for these to be hidden away under lock and key. These books are everywhere in the house, accessible and available to leaf through, but I see them as private and, for one reason or another, I never look into their pages unless I’m invited to do so. Those “secrets,” those drawings and passages of writing, are at times only half formed. They are ideas for a future project, and only she knows them for what they could become. Those entries are from a time and place in an artist’s head, and as close as I am to the artist herself, I am a stranger to their meanings.

owen pat 4from my sketchbook copy

Pat Owen, sketchbook drawing.

Sketchbooks are like a good mystery. They can hold clues to what lies ahead, what might be revealed in the next chapter, that unfinished piece of evidence that will divulge the story and its outcome.

I was talking to Pat recently about how and why she made entries in her sketchbooks. I wanted to understand how she went from someone I have lived with for the better part of my life, to someone who makes art, a process that is separate from our everyday existence, a process that is personal and independent from me. As we talked, it became clear to me that her entries in these books were instinctive and of the moment: ideas that were born from events of the day, an emotional reflex from the past or something very present. These were questions I would never have asked had it not been for my putting down these thoughts.

owen pat 2from my sketchbook IMG 0505 copy

Pat Owen, sketchbook drawing.

Now when I see her writing or drawing in one of these books I have a better understanding of what might eventually emerge from the studio. Only then can I begin to guess what and how the mystery will unfold.


Tony and Pat Owen live in the West of Ireland, and have been together a long time.


Image at top: Pat Owen, sketchbook drawing.