Having been interested in drawing her entire life, Dawn Emerson has peppered her existence with, if not immersed herself completely in, art. After receiving her BA in English and art she worked as an art director for 10 years at a New England publisher. All the while, she took art classes from a variety of local schools in a variety of subjects: design, drawing, calligraphy, Chinese landscape painting?”everything that interested me.”
Upon moving to the West Coast she looked for a graduate program to further her studies. Not finding one, the Terrebone, Oregon, artist turned to workshops to fill the void. The result was both educational and inspiring. “I ran life-drawing groups out of my studio for years, but never dreamed of becoming a gallery artist until I began taking workshops,” she says. “The instructors helped me realize that I wanted to paint and that classes with great teachers–like Bill Herring, Doug Dawson, Harley Brown, Albert Handell and Sally Strand–would be the equivalent of graduate study.”
Such inspiration and instruction lead her to paint Walking Through Sunlight (at right). Emerson began with a photo reference she took on location, and then did thumbnail sketches and small crayon drawings to get the best design and value arrangement. She based the size of the painting on the thumbnail proportions, then did a Conte or charcoal sketch just like the thumbnail. Next, she laid in soft pastel over that. “This painting took about two to three hours, done in one sitting,” she says. “This painting pretty much painted itself and kept me entertained along the way as I recalled my enjoyment of running around the place taking photographs.”
A workshop instructor now herself, Emerson?s advice for beginning artists is to keep learning anything that interests you, because at some point it?ll come in handy. “Nothing you study seriously will go to waste,” she says. “The show I?m putting together now will reflect the Chinese painting I did more than 20 years ago. I believe that the experiences and learning layer themselves and are revealed when the time is right.”
Joanne Moore is managing editor for The Artist’s Magazine.