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Applying the Lessons of Artist Dawn Emerson
Sara Macaulay, Visual Arts Faculty

This story starts in a truck pulling a horse trailer with a conversation between two women, both avidly interested in art and riding. On our way to a horse event that day, after exhausting the topic of horses, our talk turned to art. My friend, riding partner and fellow artist Alexia mentioned the book Pastel Innovations by Dawn Emerson. After hearing her rave about it, I promptly bought a copy for myself. Ever since we've been introducing projects from it to Winsor students at every level of our Visual Arts program. 

Michelle Wu-Pears

Michelle Pu ’20, "Three Pears"

Pastel Innovations by Dawn Emerson

Spread from Pastel Innovations by Dawn Emerson

When I heard that Dawn would be coming to Massachusetts in 2018 to teach a workshop on Cape Cod, I was so excited and immediately promised myself that I would attend. While the timing didn't work with our school schedule, I contacted Dawn and inquired about coming out to her Terrebonne, Oregon, studio to learn the exact things that she would be teaching in the Cape workshop: redefining drawing, monotype as an underpainting, and experimental pastel techniques. 

She said yes! Even better, my Winsor colleague Julia Harrison ’77 agreed to join me on the learning adventure. Together, we applied for and received a Virginia Wing Faculty Enrichment Grant from Winsor to work with Dawn for a week this past summer. As luck would have it, Julia and I both already had plans to be in California at the end of June, so we met in Oregon on July 4 and made our way to the small town of Terrebonne, located in high-desert horse country. We booked lodging in a cottage located on a farm, which sounded totally charming until we discovered it was actually in the middle of a cow pasture. Cows, we learned, wake up around 4 in the morning and start mooing incessantly until they get what they want. As an added bonus to an already wonderful week, each morning we got up early (we were already awake from the cows) and hiked in nearby Smith Rock State Park, a rock climbers’ mecca. 

I definitely had a preconceived notion about what we would do based on Dawn's book but the week with Dawn exceeded our expectations! I went in with some ideas, but Dawn had even better ones about what we should learn and what we should take away from our week with her. 

Dawn in her studio

Dawn in her Oregon studio

Ms. Harrison and I would work all day and then go home at night and talk about where and how we were going to integrate these new ideas in our curriculum.

We learned how to make frottage (rubbings of textured surfaces) landscapes; the IIs and the AP students did it this fall. We painted brayered landscapes and now so do the students in Advanced Painting. More on these alternative drawing and painting techniques in my next post!

Dawn is known for her large mixed media animal "paintings;" the Advanced Painting class created large mixed medial paintings of animals this fall.

The Chief

Dawn Emerson, "The Chief"

Karen Li-Wolf

Karen Li ’21, "Wolf"

On October 17, Dawn spent the day at Winsor and wowed three different groups of students with her demos. Many of these students didn't even realize that they had already been the fortunate recipients of her influence!

She first did an open demo during Day 3 Arts Block for anyone who wanted to attend. Her next demo was for the AP Studio Art, Portfolio and Drawing and Painting classes. Her final demo was for Class IV Painting and Color students. Her demos involved an innovative technique (everything that Dawn does is innovative) that she developed using sumi ink and pastel on both clay board and paper. Through Dawn's generosity, Winsor has acquired three of her demo pieces to add to the Winsor Art Collection!