About The Artist

Photo by Bev McMullen

The walls of David Dawson’s studio/gallery show his passion for colour. The Gravenhurst-based artist says he uses landscapes as a way of exploring colour, shape and line, rather than as a way of representing a specfic scene.

Moving Beyond Mere Detail

Through light and colour, David Dawson explores the structure of nature

David Dawson was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and raised in Ancaster and Galt. He is an honours graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and an elected member of the Ontario Society of Artists. He began painting with oils at the age of ten and remembers, “my earliest inspiration in drawing came from my dad when my twin brother and I would sit on either side of him on his big armchair and watch him sketch bucking horses and cowboys”.

He also received encouragement from his grade six teacher who, upon retiring, gave him some of her oil painting books; and from his dad’s Aunt Theresa, who would set him and his brother up with oil paints and canvases in her sunroom surrounded by her magnolia gardens and goldfish ponds in Brantford, Ontario.

David Dawson has spent much of his career painting places he’s never seen. Now he’s focusing on places as only he sees them.

One part of Dawson’s portfolio draws an exotic path through the architectural world: soaring glass towers in Jakarta, Amman and Beijing, massive sports stadiums such as the Skydome (now the Rogers Center) and the Saddledome, offices and hotels and resorts the world over. Dawson has been to hardly any of them. “I don’t get to go to those places, the architects do,” Dawson said with a smile.

Dawson once focused on creating architectural renderings (illustrations that let architects show their clients what a finished building will look like), but now he focuses on his real passion, painting.

Enter the Arts at the Albion co-op gallery in Gravenhurst, and you will see in Dawson’s gallery space, images devoted to expressionistic paintings rather than architectural fidelity. On the walls are Dawson’s large, vibrant canvasses, with gleaming swaths of colour that show the parts of the world that interest him most. Some lean towards abstract, allowing the viewer to find their own meaning. You will also see his, what he calls ‘fun’ paintings done in a ‘vintage inspired poster’ style of iconic places of Muskoka.

In some cases, the physical location of the landscape is obvious – a mountainous scene speaks of the Rockies, while another shows an island-dotted, big skied landscape that could only be Georgian Bay. But most of the paintings have a geographic anonymity and many blur the lines between landscape and abstract. While he can identify the locations of all of his landscapes if you ask him, Dawson doesn’t view these paintings as paintings of a place; rather, they are paintings that are simply inspired by a place. “I use the landscape more as the subject matter for these studies of colour and shape,” he said.

His work begins with simple sketches, three or four inch wide scenes he does quickly in a sketchbook. “I do my on-site studies with pencil crayons because it allows me to focus on the immediate aspects that interest me, not the details.”

But even in his more representational paintings, it is the colour, line and shape that are the significant elements; thinking about one of his paintings afterwards, viewers are likely to recall the glow of luminous yellow set against a sinuous dark line rather than remembering it as a painting of an autumn tree.

Andrew Wagner-Chazalon
Beyond the City (with permission)