CHICAGO (CBS) — For 38 years, police work was Patrick Thompson’s career. But painting was his passion.

In the early 1970s, he became a beat cop and later a patrolman and detective. But it was his steady night job that really made his day: painting.

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“It was relaxing, took off my mind off the job,” Thompson tells CBS 2’s Kate Sullivan. “I looked forward to coming home and creating something or working on something ongoing.”

And so after all those years of hard work as a cop and painting in the wee hours of the night, he’s finally being recognized.

His recent creation called “Into the Red Zone” has won first place and best of show in the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibit now featured at the Museum of Science and Industry.

He says he doesn’t paint to win a prize, but rather to escape.

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Thompson says his favorite place in Chicago is in front of his easel, a place where he can lose himself and find something beautiful.

If someone were to ask him why he’s an artist, he says, he would answer with a question.

“Why are you breathing? It’s not even second nature with me, it’s just part of me,” Thompson says.

In 2008, he retired from the force and has started teaching at the University of Illinois Circle campus. He also donates his time to teach art to children.

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