Your Ah Haa Moment: Pastel Landscapes With Doug Dawson

Wharf Study, Dawson

Wharf Study, Doug Dawson

The Telluride Gallery of Fine Art has a stable that includes some of the best pastel artists in the world, among them Sally Strand, Carole Katchen, Bruce Gomez –  and Doug Dawson.

Dawson is also a Visiting Artist at Telluride’s Ah Haa School for the Arts, where he is teaching an intensive weekend workshop, “Pastel Painting: Studio Landscapes,” July 27-28.

According to the course description pastels offer a unique bridge between drawing and painting. For a painter who loves color, the directness of the heavily pigmented pastel stick to paper is intoxicating. Dawson will help students discover and develop their own personal style. Each day begins with a demonstration, illustrating one of the two basic approaches to painting, with Dawson providing a continuous monologue explaining the thought process that goes into each pastel painting. After the demonstration, students are given the remaining time to try their hand at the skills illustrated. Individual instruction for each student will be based upon need. All skill levels are welcome.

The medium of pastels was mentioned in one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks dating back to 1495. Artists such as Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Rosalba Carriera used the dry crayon-like sticks to create masterpieces as far back as 1703. During the 18th century, pastels became all the rage for portrait painting, especially in combination with gouache. In the 19th century, Degas, one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, worked in pastel to create his famous series of ballet dancers, legitimizing the medium.

Across the pond in the U.S., pastels were the Rodney Dangerfield of the art world, step-children compared to the more stable medium of oil, and were used only occasionally in portraiture. However, following Degas’ lead, in the late nineteenth century, pastel  (and watercolor) became more popular. The Society of Painters in Pastel was founded in 1885.

Willow Study, Doug Dawson

Willow Study, Doug Dawson

Doug Dawson is a celebrated member of the American Watercolor Society and the Pastel Society of the Southwest, The Knickerbocker Artists (New York) and the Pastel Society of America. His work has been featured in museum shows, including a one-man show at The Charles and Emma Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA; John F. Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; and the Societe Des Pastellistes de France International Exhibition, Paris.

Dawson is an alchemist with those colored sticks, coaxing the extraordinary out of the ordinary. An astute observer of the everyday, he finds magic in quotidian activities: a nap, parked cars, rainy days, and sleepy streets in small towns such as Telluride.

To learn more about the artist, click the “play” button and listen to the interview we conducted in 2009. It provides basic information about Dawson’s life and work.

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