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Dawn Lee Thompson

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating?
I've been drawing and painting ever since I can remember. One of my favorite childhood memories is of my mom teaching me how to really draw when I was about 8. She would set up one of my Bryer's horses in front of me and coach me to look at the horse as I drew, and not at the paper, except for quick glances. I was an art history major in college, though I ended up changing majors my senior year and graduating with a business degree! I didn't pick up art again until just over a year ago.
What is your medium of choice?
Stained glass, in the traditional lead came method. I have always had a fascination with glass art, both hot and cold, and had in the back of my mind that I would like to be a glass blower. My husband John convinced me to take a stained glass class. I was actually reluctant, but got more and more excited about the idea as the start date approached. On the first day of class I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I somehow knew it was going to change the direction of my life, and after cutting my first piece of practice scrap I was hooked. I prefer the lead came method for several reasons. Working with lead forces a simplicity and elegance of line that is often missing in all but the best foiled pieces. I also find it spiritually gratifying to employ the same methods and craftsmanship that artisans have been utilizing for centuries to enlighten and inspire.
What are your motivations for creating?
I can't stop! It has become a compulsion with me. The excitement and anticipation inherent in the process is absolutely addictive. It feels almost illicit, like a gambling addiction. There is a moment, when I have finished the last solder joint and carry the piece upstairs to place in a sunny window, that is sublimely satisfying. I honestly can't think of anything to compare it to. Of course after a few moments, the critic kicks in and I start to pick at flaws. Once some time has passed, I am again able to look at a piece and think "I built that" with immense satisfaction.
What other artists and movements inform your work?
I am such an art junkie; I admire and appreciate so many artists and art movements. I have always had an affinity for subtly stylized human figures, and over the top decorative elements. The art of ancient Assyria, Babylon, and Crete, European Medieval art, (including illuminated windows!), and finally the Art Nouveau movement are all big influences on my work. There is something about those -on the verge of static/stiff, but somehow still fluid- figures that I find endlessly fascinating.
What do you find stimulating right now? How does this influence your creative process?
I'm dreaming of summer! I've been planning my gardens, so have been focused on the aesthetics of plants, especially herbs. Tall spiky rosemary and lavender, bushy basil, feathery dill, curly mounds of parsley and cilantro. It is a diversion from winter for me to look through my plant books and plan my gardens to look the most pleasing; even the vegetables!
Read anything good lately?
The last book I finished was "A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway. Right now I'm working on "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf along with "The Best American Short Stories of 2003" anthology. I like to be reading a novel and a story anthology at the same time. That way, if I have a little bit of time, I can read a story, and if I have an hour or so, I can work on the novel.
Tell us a little about your glass-painting techniques, which really enliven your portraits.
The juxtaposition of painted detail and subtle shading with the very graphic lead and glass elements of a panel creates a visually interesting tension and contrast. Again, I can thank John for his influence on the painting. He was the one that encouraged me to use the airbrush to flesh out the portraits. I use a low fire paint, (I don't have a kiln, so have to use my oven), that is somewhat difficult to work with. After the glass that is to be painted is cut, filed and cleaned, it is painted and fired- prior to the leading process. Facial details are painted in layers using very fine brushes, then the lines are cleaned up and sharpened using an exacto knife once the paint has semi-set. Shadows and contours are painted using the airbrush, laying on very thin layers and building them up where the shadows are the deepest. Generally I will use two color mixes and apply the lighter color layers first, then the darker color in the deepest shadows.
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
I am a peaceful and reflective person, and my goal and hope is that my panels will invoke feelings of peace, reflection and serenity in the viewers.

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