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Sketch Pad

Dawn Collins
Natural blend
by Kathy Anderson

awn 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.

Dewdrop in
Dawn Collins loves to paint nature, but professes a natural ability for photography.

"Amherst's Jewel," watercolor

"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 to flora.

"I mainly paint nature – gardens, ocean scenes, snow scenes and huge flowers," she said. "But I also like Victorian homes, porches and still lifes.

Dewdrop Tequila
"Dewdrop Tequila," photograph

Rainbow connection
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 to me.

"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.

"Sunshine Shawnie," watercolor

"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 awards.

"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 shadows.

"I've also been in the Beaverton Showcase, where I sold quite a few paintings."

Kidding around
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."

Glass Lilies
"Glass Lilies," watercolor

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 children.

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 techniques.

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."

Tender Love
"Delivery Day," watercolor

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 cards.

"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."

Coffee talk
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 forms."

E-mail Dawn at thedawnsart@aol.com. Reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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