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 the animals who have been a constant in my life.

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.

In 1999, during a year's leave from teaching, I decided to reacquaint myself with my artistic side: jewelry making and calligraphy. Then, because I've always been drawn to the lightness and flow of watercolor, I decided to take a watercolor class. While I had tinkered with leather work, stained glass, jewelry making, calligraphy, it was only as a diversion from my many professional tasks as an educator. I had always considered myself "Jill of all trades, master of none." The creative part of me that had been necessarily put on hold was reborn. I fell in love with my new passion... watercolor painting.

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. I stumbled out of a key workshop with Tacoma watercolor artist Val Persoon, that"blew the doors off" for me. With her guidance and techniques and excellent teaching style (a teacher's teacher), I found my way, my styles, my voice. I began to show my work, which wast a little scary at first... putting my heart and soul out there for all to see. To my amazement there were requests for me to teach workshops. It was the blending of my two favorite endeavors... painting and teaching. My "unintentional" career, my art, had begun in earnest.

When asked where I find inspiration for my paintings, my answer is: life experiences. From Spring Creek which flowed through Bellefonte, the dry richness of the Mojave desert and the Southwest, canoe trips in watery wildernesses of the Quetico in Canada and the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, and here, at home in the Pacific 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 I use different ones to create different images. If I do a background first with no thought to the end result, the paper and paint often dictate the subject matter, as they did in Somebody's Off Their Rocker and Savannah Trek. 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 piece on top, lift and see what surprises await, as in Reed's Fish and Reed's Other Fish. I may cover the paper with soap to give it a sense of texture, as in The Journey Forwrad. 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. These images are fresh and "one of a kind", not to be duplicated by me or anyone else! Throughout the years I feel like I have been given a few gifts.... images that appear and are effortless to bring to fruition. If the subject of the painting demands realism, as in Daniel, Quiet Moment or The Peaceful One, I will use and opaque projector to get the proportions correct. Then the challenge is to translate what I see to the paper and to give the image the honor it deserves. Paper can also influence the outcome, whether it's Canson Montval, Arches or Yupo... all very different but all very helpful in creating the image and result I am looking for.

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 forty-two years, two horses, two dogs and two cats.

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