Debra Joyce Dawson’s solo show at the Markay Cultural Arts Center in Jackson, Ohio, features scenes drawn from trips out West, in Ohio, over in India, across in Europe, and from up in the Adirondacks during her visit to the Publisher’s Invitational Paint Out, sponsored by PleinAir magazine. But beneath all her paintings are untold stories, as this featured work shows.

“Flurries, January,” by Debra Joyce Dawson, 2010, oil on linen, 6 x 8 in.

“I found this wild field climbing up a hillside on a cool, gray autumn afternoon,” says Dawson about “Autumn Field, New Philadelphia.” “With a horizon line only a quarter of the way down the square, I had a lot of room to paint this field. My problem was how to depict it. I organized the space by searching for patterns of color that were there, changing and placing them as needed to suit my design, and to add movement. Suggesting a field of stuff, not painting each plant, was a chance to play with thick, juicy paint and lots of brushwork. Sounded fun and easy, but it was a battlefield. Trust me, there are a lot of dead bodies under those brushstrokes. I was confronted with one of the beginner’s most frequently asked questions, that of how to lay wet paint on top of wet paint without making mud, especially when the paint is really thick. My answer is courage, a lot of paint, the right brush pressure — so you’re not mixing paint on the canvas unless you mean to — wiping your brush a lot — often after each stroke — and practice. Once you’re aware of all of these things, it also helps to know how you want the surface of your painting to look. Then take the time needed to build that surface, and have the fortitude to see the battle to its end.”

“August Afternoon, Clear Creek Farm,” by Debra Joyce Dawson, 2012, oil on panel, 6 x 6 in.

The exhibition features about 45 pieces comprising oil paintings, watercolors, intaglio prints, and drawings. Dawson reports that the venue has several areas, so she will be able to group her work by medium or by subject matter.

“Poetry in Motion,” by Debra Joyce Dawson, 2012, oil on panel, 12 x 9 in.

Dawson says she is increasingly attracted to patterns, simple shapes, and contrast; she is focusing more on the play of light on surfaces and a more subtle approach to color. And although she has painted in many spots on the globe, she finds that depicting scenes near her home in Ohio has its advantages. Familiarity allows an artist to focus on a smaller set of problems. Of course, that advantage can eventually be seen as a negative for a restless painter like Dawson.

“Paris Pochades #7: Apartment Still Life,” by Debra Joyce Dawson, 2013, oil on Arches paper for oil, 11 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.

“I look at painting like golf,” says Dawson. “As someone said about that sport, it’s you against your game. It is only you against that painting in front of you. It’s about that one moment in time when you either win or you struggle. It’s always a pleasure when a piece is just given to you, and it just comes. But some are just real bears and you just have to battle them and battle them. The more familiar you become with a situation or a landscape, the more you figure out how to do something. But I’m not a painter who learns how to do something and sticks with that. I have to keep challenging myself.”

“Tower of Power,” by Debra Joyce Dawson, 2013, oil on panel, 10 x 10 in.

So she travels, and paints, and approaches her art in new ways. This show, which opens November 15 and runs through December 22, demonstrates the results of her exploration.


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