Jo Dunnick Watercolors

Jo Dunnick, Artist and Educator

Jo Dunnick

Beginning Chapters

Have you ever turned the pages of your life, reading them in your mind's eye just as you would an autobiography? It would be easier for me to illustrate my story than to write it. I am, after all, an artist. But I will try to transform the words into images so that we may be introduced.

As a child I lived in Bellefonte, PA, population 7,000. Wooded rolling hills and rural farm land provided the backdrop for an early love of the outdoors. My companions, The Lone Ranger and My Friend Flicka, galloped across the screen of my mind as surely as they did on the family TV.

The dramatic western landscapes against which were told stories of courage and camaraderie gripped my imagination. A masked man and his faithful Indian friend, a fragile boy and his strong-willed horse � On reflection, I can see that the characters and their surroundings became building blocks for my art today. I have been heavily influenced by western themes and take for my inspiration an appreciation for beasts great and small. I cannot remember life without animals, domesticated and wild.

Middle Chapters

I call it my "intentional" career, this almost 30 year commitment to young people as a P.E. teacher and coach. The settings have been schools in the vast, arid Mojave Desert and the lush, green Willamette Valley of Oregon. Against these backdrops I have taught youth, just as they have in turn taught me. I now more clearly understand their excitement at mastering a complicated physical skill. The "aha!" moment is akin to my own delight in bringing my emotions to a paper's surface and the resultant piece of art.

Like many of my students in their formative years, I, too, continued to seek a calling. In 1999, during a year's leave from teaching, I decided to reacquaint myself with jewelry making and calligraphy. Drawn to the lightness and flow of watercolor, I also took a watercolor class. While I had tinkered with these and other art forms throughout my life, it was only as a diversion from my many professional tasks as an educator. The creative part of me that had been necessarily put on hold was reborn.

Returning to teaching full time for two more years, I again balanced teaching, farm chores and painting until I retired in 2002.

Not the End

Retirement brought freedom to sort out my passions for art and embrace watercolor. I took more classes and stumbled out of a key workshop that "blew the doors off" for me. I found my way, my styles, my voice. I began to show my work. Requests for me to teach workshops were answered with an enthusiastic "yes!" My "unintentional" career, my art, had begun in earnest.

When asked where I find inspiration for my paintings, I answer easily. From Spring Creek which flowed through Bellefonte, in the dry richness of the Mojave, on sojourns spent in the watery wildernesses of Minnesota and Canada, at home in the evergreen Northwest - these landscapes feed my work. Animals, forever present in my life, connect me to feelings of companionship and comfort. The peace they lend my spirit inspires me to paint them in a manner befitting their importance in my life.

When asked about my techniques, I respond that different ones are used to capture certain images. If I do the background first with no thought to the end result, the paper and paint often dictate the subject matter. I put together colors that please me and then, get out of the way! Or I may put paint on one piece of paper, press another on top, lift and see what surprises await.

These techniques require me to follow the flow of the paint, not knowing its direction. The subject is there; I just need to find it. My artistic challenge lies in painting subjects and experiences that move me and allow the viewer to participate in the final interpretation.

I am now teaching a little and painting a lot. A hobby gone amuck is how I describe it! I love this unexpected journey, these chapters in a life not yet finished.

Jo Dunnick lives on a twenty acre farm in Dexter, Oregon. She shares her space - and sometimes her studio - with her partner of thirty-seven years, two horses, two llamas, one dog and one cat.

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