Collins has fond memories of growing up in Amherst, Mass., but
after a 1974 visit to the Pacific Northwest, the young bride convinced
her husband to move to Portland. They packed their belongings
in a 63 Pontiac, drove cross-country and never looked back.
Their current household includes two daughters, three springer
spaniels, a pair of parakeets, a cockatiel and an African gray
parrot that's been a part of the family for 20 years.
Dawn Collins loves to paint nature, but professes a natural ability
"It all started when I took some photographs
to my painting classes to use for reference," she said. "Other
students saw my pictures, showed an interest in them, and encouraged
me to put the photos on cards.
"I feel honored to have my photo cards and
watercolors in homes all across the country."
Roses with dewdrops are Dawn's favorite subject,
both for painting and photography, but she doesn't limit herself
"I mainly paint nature gardens, ocean
scenes, snow scenes and huge flowers," she said. "But
I also like Victorian homes, porches and still lifes.
Dawn prefers working with watercolors to acrylic and oil paints
because of the effects she can create.
"With watercolors the white of the paper comes
through so you can make just wisps of color like a curtain
in a window," she said. "It's a negative way of painting
in that you leave the whites. It's light and very therapeutic
"I learned a tri-hue method from Gloria Webber,
using just blue, yellow and red to achieve all the colors in the
rainbow," she said. "It was a fascinating and very informative
class I learned so much about values. I'm what they call
a purist, in that I mix my own blacks out of the pure colors."
The Portland Rose Garden furnishes Dawn with an
abundance of inspiration and subject matter.
Some of her favorite artists include Webber, along
with Monet, Norman Rockwell, Jan Kunz, Arne Westerman, Georgia
O'Keefe and Susan McKinnon.
Enter at will
Though Dawn has sold her art, what she finds hard is selling herself.
"I must admit that most of my artwork has been
given as gifts," she said. "But serendipity has stepped
in when a friend of the friend sees the work and I get orders
for special pieces. And that's how it's ended up in homes all
across the country not from any great marketing technique."
Dawn, a member of the Watercolor Society of Oregon
for more than 10 years, has been in numerous shows and won various
"One award is from the Oregon Society of Artists
for a huge, single rose painting I entered in their annual Rose
Festival show," she said. "Two others are from the Village
Gallery of Arts for an abstract painting and use of light and
"I've also been in the Beaverton Showcase,
where I sold quite a few paintings."
Dawn's childhood was animated, fun and full of art projects.
"I was intrigued at a very young age by my
mom's creativity," she said. "She did everything; drawing,
oil painting, laying brick, making furniture, pinecone wreaths,
crocheting, sewing and our favorite gardening! That's where
my love and knowledge of plants comes from.
"Both my brothers were born deaf, so they also
influenced my life greatly. They made me very patient and very
observant two qualities that come in handy with photography."
Dawn's interest in photography was nurtured by her
dad, a part-time photographer who shared the tricks, intricacies
and secrets of his hobby with his daughter.
Dawn enjoyed art throughout her school years, but
didn't pursue it to any extent until after she married and had
She became a class junkie, taking night classes
in watercolor to have some time out of the house.
"I started with the Art Literacy Program when
our daughters were very young," she said, "and became
president of the local Village Gallery of Arts while teaching
children's classes. I love to work with kids. It's so much fun
to see their awe as colors mix on paper to create another color."
Dawn has also given private lessons and brought
her work to the local high school for demonstrating watercolor
Dawn to dusk
"My husband, Peter, has been very supportive of every art
thing I have ever done," she said. "All the while he's
kept a steady job to support his starving-artist wife."
Dawn has dabbled in many different arts-n-crafts
over the years: leather tooling, decoupage, painting on silk,
oil and acrylic painting, calligraphy, colored pencil, figure
sculpting, Bonsai, clay masks, and handmade rugs and Christmas
"My talents all seem to blend together well,"
she said. "One commission piece I did was combining the lyrics
from the song "The Rose" done in calligraphy, with a
rose painted next to it. It came out beautifully."
Dawn is now working on a calendar of exotic birds
in colored pencil.
"For this one, our parrot, Sadie, was my inspiration,"
she said. "She used to lay eggs, but one time around Easter
we caught her sitting on one of those blue plastic eggs
she had the cutest look of contentment on her face. Now I'm trying
to find the appropriate color parrot for each month."
Dawn's big dream is to be discovered and wanted in galleries around
the country. Closer to home, her goal is to open a gallery.
"My gallery would be a place where I'd teach
children's art classes and have featured artists displaying and
giving workshops," she said. "It would be a co-op where
people could play and work; a low-key atmosphere where everyone
artist or not could come to talk, have a cup of
coffee and enjoy the ambiance and the beauty of art in its many