We were delighted to feature Dawn Emerson’s artwork on our new Sketch & Tone kit packaging. We are huge fans of Dawn’s work, and while we haven’t had an opportunity (yet) to attend one of her workshops, we have heard they are powerful. Dawn’s work is full of positive energy, and apparently that’s how she teaches. Inspiring and encouraging her students to push the limits of their own creativity. Dawn has been using PanPastel in her mixed media paintings for some time. So this short interview about her work and her use of PanPastel is long overdue. Enjoy.
I started to paint in nursery school. I drew television sets–important in my life then, as being allowed to stay up to watch TV was a very big deal. We didn’t have a color set, so I drew and painted in black and white. I stuck with black and white through college, graduating to charcoal, litho crayon, and sumi ink as my favorite drawing/painting tools. At the time I was torn between illustration and design, so chose the much more employable subject of English as a major. Many more drawing and graphic design classes after college in the Boston area finally got me jobs in the graphic world of book design. Things do work out, even for English majors!
Growing up in New England, where schools abound, I never considered taking an art workshop. Moving westward from New England to the high desert in 1987 opened up new learning opportunities, employment, and subject matter. I supported myself by teaching art, but didn’t consider myself to be a practicing “fine artist.” Ten years later I took a workshop with Harley Brown and was immediately smitten with pastel. So began my journey with pastel, the drawing tool that can be used to paint and draw with.
The western landscape offered a whole new perspective on subject matter, color, space, and texture. I looked to drawing the people around me, the animals and the landscape to understand the new culture around me. I wanted to paint the spirit of the place, the feeling of the running horse, and the toughness I saw in the faces of the people I met.
The past 20 years I have explored the outer world around me, honing my craft of using pastel. Color and movement were the elements I became known for with my imagery. For the past four years I’ve been exploring printmaking–specifically monotypes using soy based inks. This led to drawing into the monotypes with pastels, pencil, gouache, and gesso. (See details of materials used in the artwork shown, below).
“Long Afternoon” by Dawn Emerson (mixed media with PanPastel)
I’m amazed by the many ways one can manipulate the visual texture, space, and color, and PanPastel Colors have had a lot to do with it. By applying the pastel with the large wedge applicator, I can make images appear to emerge out of abstract textures. Because of their fine composition, the colors can be applied very thinly to create an almost translucent layer over the surface. I can change a totally flat color to a graduated wash. Making parts of images transparent and other parts opaque is a matter of how thickly or thinly the PanPastel is applied. I’ve played with scratching down through the PanPastel to reveal other colors, and erasing through them with or without stencils.
Using the applicator with stencils is another approach I am now exploring, and it makes the pastel process like watercolor or silk screening, again dependent on the opacity. In short, PanPastel Colors have allowed me to explore this mixed media approach in ways that regular soft pastels can’t, and I am very grateful. There is so much more to the colors than using them for underpaintings!
“Flamenco Style” by Dawn Emerson (mixed media with PanPastel)
My goal is to continue to evolve to become the best artist and teacher I can be. I want to explore the pastel medium in combination with mixed media to create work that is meaningful, poetic, and contemporary in use of space, imagery, and movement.
Note: the images shown (except Scizzors) are mixed media pieces which were created using a combination of charcoal, PanPastel, soft pastel, and gouache applied on top of a background that is a monotype. The monotype was created using a plexiglas plate, onto which Dawn brayered Akua intaglio inks. The plate was run through a press, sometimes several times to achieve the desired background abstract image. “Scizzors” was created using sumi ink, gouache, PanPastel, colored pencils, and soft pastels. Rives BFK was the ground used for all of the pieces shown.
Dawn Emerson is based in Central Oregon (USA). To see more of Dawn’s work and find out about the popular workshops she teaches visit her website: www.dawnemerson.com