Patrick, originally from Quebec, started drawing at the age of 5, and never stopped. He was steered in other directions, but found his way back to his calling in the Visual Studies program at Montreal College. While working at a call centre, he met his future wife, Diane, who is from Moncton, although both had other romantic partners.
Two years later, the day Diane left Montreal to marry her Moncton fiancé, was possibly the worst day of Patrick’s life. He realized that the love of his life was leaving and he was with the wrong woman. He immediately broke off his relationship. Then, as fate would have it, Diane’s fiancé broke off their engagement two weeks before their wedding day. Devastated, Diane turned to Patrick for support and he finally told her how he felt. Patrick moved to Moncton and he and Diane have been together ever since, and married for 10 years.
Meanwhile, Patrick developed his favoured illustration style when he was drawn to the Coast Salish style of art. “I did illustrations for friends who said I should go pro,” he says, “so my dream of making a living from my art came true when I began working for a design firm in Bouctouche in 2006.”
a focal point
In July 2006, Patrick and Diane’s son, Samuel was born. Not having much experience with children, he seemed fine at first, but as he grew into toddlerhood, it became more and more obvious that Sam was not at the same level of learning as others his age.
Sam has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He was diagnosed with Level 1 ASD (the least affected of 7 levels of the disorder) at the age of 3. “Social aspects like hugging and playing with other kids do not come naturally to Sam; we had to teach him these behaviours through repetition and still have to ask sometimes,” says Patrick.
Soon after Sam was diagnosed, Patrick found a way to combine his love for his son, and his love of art to help his cause — he donates 10% of all his earnings to Autism Canada. Since Patrick became a full-time designer and artist in 2012, he has donated over $3400 to helping the autism cause.
Patrick’s latest project with Autism Canada will be a series of 17 books based on his son — called My Friend Sam — that will be promoted to schools across Canada. Remarkably, there are no books to help children and adults understand autistic children together. The series will each cover a different topic such as, textures, sounds, pressure points, bullying, why Sam needs a Teacher’s Aide, etc.
one talented kid!
Sam is progressing well in school. “Every autistic kid is good at one thing, and Sam is great at math problem-solving. His Teacher’s Aide explains the problem visually and within 15 seconds or less, he gets it,” says this proud Papa. “He’s so good at it that other students in his class look to him to show them how to figure it out.”
Sam is also a great puzzler. He did his first at 3 years old, a 48-piece puzzle for ages 5 to 7 years — in just over a minute. He does puzzles differently than most of us; studying the picture then putting the individual pieces exactly where they are meant to go, never moving them. When the picture side of the puzzle became too easy for him, he put the puzzle together using the blank backside of the puzzle, perhaps allowing the puzzle piece shapes to guide him.
Sam’s senses are incredibly stronger than the typical child’s and he is especially sensitive to sound. He loves crunchy foods and it took weeks for him to be comfortable participating in music class at school, but everyone who knows him understands that Sam needs to come to change on his own terms. The Hardy family attends a Grace Church in Bouctouche and they offer a huge support system — going so far as to do a While You Were Out kitchen renovation for the family. The pastor of the church was careful to take Sam into the kitchen to show him the changes before showing the family.
like father, like son
Sam is also developing some serious art skills. He tells his father what animal to draw and Patrick will draw the head for Sam to complete. Then Patrick takes the drawing and adds colour and texture. The results are beautiful father and son works of art.
At 8-years-old, Sam is a pretty typical kid in a lot of ways. “He likes school, but doesn’t like homework,” says Patrick. “Some people might consider having a child with autism a challenge, but we see it as a blessing.”
Just the other day, Sam used his quiet voice for the first time without asking. Says Patrick, “We are the lucky ones. Most parents don’t get to experience miracles every day like we do.”
You can see more of Patrick's beautiful illustrations on facebook