Artist Interview with Dana Dion

This month I'd like to introduce you to award winning Australian artist Dana DionDana and I met via The Beaumont Studios here in Vancouver where I was giving a talk about the "3 WOW's" and the secrets behind what makes some abstract paintings sell while others sit in the studio collecting dust. Dana brought her ipad with her to share her portfolio and I became entranced with her work and wanted to know more about her and her process.... 

Dana, I have to admit I was intrigued by your accent when you spoke. Personally I grew up in Canada with a South African mother and Australian father so I've had my own small exposure to various accents, but the way you spoke I could not peg it! Could you share with us your childhood and how you came to live in so many places?

I was born in Israel. When I was two years old, my family moved back and forth between Kenya, Tanzania and Israel. We eventually settled in Vancouver when I was 14. My husband is Dutch, also with an accent. We have been living in Sydney Australia for the past 12 years, and before that, we spent three years in London. Maybe this is why Deb, you could not "peg it" I think it is a "mish mash" of accents. I call it: my own special brew. 

Generous Morning (c) Dana Dion
It also seems from reading your biography on your website that you were first more focussed on fitness - teaching pilates, yoga and personal training - before you came into the artistic portion of your life. How did art come into your life and please do tell us about this transition from tri-athlete and beauty pageant persona to working artist....

I see myself as a creative person. I always try and find a creative aspect in what I do, and believe that creativity can be executed in many ways: As an artist, as a creator and inventor, as a business owner, and as a Pilates yoga and Fitness teacher etc.... It is all creative to me. And with that comes a creative journey.  This journey is where you explore different ways to express. 

Unbounded (c) Dana Dion
Looking at your portfolio online I can see that you do work in a number of styles - still life, abstracts, landscape, etc. Is there one particular style that you enjoy the most. Why?

I work with passion and feeling. I am not precious about subject matter or technique.
It is the process and the act of creating that I am interested in.
I just want to express,and feed back into the image as it develops, allowing the result to dictate where I take it next.

Sometimes my work alludes to landscapes, sometimes to figurative, or abstracts.

The theme is of secondary importance to me, and I like to paint whatever comes to mind. Lately, I have made landscape paintings. I have a lot of fun with topics and styles, that sometimes do not matter at all, and sometimes they may be personal.

Dana, please tell us about your painting process. In particular I loved the process you shared with me when we spoke at the Beaumont about how sometimes you paint a surface and then stamp or lift another canvas onto that and then use this to inspire a painting... I've never heard of this before!  

My works are drawing and  paintings, as they represent both working methods. 
The canvas or paper serves as the basis of the work, I apply many layers of paint and build up paint quality. I then start introducing my mark makings, drawing lines and motifs I collect in my memory, developing my own language. I keep going until I am satisfied With what I see.

Other working methods include drawing using pastel, charcoal, ink, pen and pencil on paper. I also like the Intimacy of working on paper as it lends itself to  personal imagery.

Drawing allows for integration of my acquired language of mark making and vocabulary of semiotics, and for the freedom to let the paper play a large part in the finished work.

The process I mentioned previously, is a simple printmaking technique which gives exciting results. It is a method which produces a single print from a smooth sheet of metal, glass or acetate. which is used as the printing plate. 
I use a big sheet of perspex.
I apply paint (mixed with retarder) and ink and create shapes, or rub off some of the paint, and just have fun on the plate. Then I place un-stretched canvas or paper onto the plate, and use a roller to apply pressure and lift the image from the plate onto the support. I do this multiple times (allow to dry between layers) until I am happy with the image. I then stretch the canvas onto a frame, (don't need to do that with paper) and start to work on "resolving" the composition. 
That could be by adding more paint in areas, defining certain areas, push back some areas, etc....
I love working this way method. It is a great way to "start" a piece.

What's your favorite all time favorite art piece of yours and why? Your favourite art piece of another artist?

Usually when I paint family members, those works become my favourite. I get attached to them. They are created with lots of though, feelings and memories of moments with them. Reminding me of how important they are to me. Those pieces become important and I end up keeping them.

The Professor (c) Dana Dion
What are you working on currently ( a new series, a calendar,other) and please tell us about it...

my current work consists of landscapes examining different places. The landscapes aim to define or locate a place where I belong. I chase the feelings of belonging and look for a reaction to the feeling. The landscapes do not depict a specific place, but rather a memory or recording of the many places I have lived in: no borders, boundaries or identified area. 

For you, What the best thing about being and artist?

Being an artist makes me look and see. I am never bored. I am always searching for images and symbols to add to my visual language and I try to notice everything. I find it a great challenge to create an image on blank surface that can give people pleasure and ability to see whatever their minds want to see or needs to see.
its the greatest feeling to "Catch" someone looking, really looking, at your work. I think this is great. 

Fishing and Thinking (c) Dana Dion

For you, What 's the most challenging thing about being an artist? 

Resolving works is the challenge. Making it all come together. And making the time to do it.
Telling Stories (c) Dana Dion

How would you define success  for yourself as an artist? What are some success you have achieved thus far on your journey, and what has been a key factor in you achieving your success?

I guess what defines it for me is the validation of my efforts by being included in selective art shows and receiving awards. 
I know the awards are subjective and they do depend on the judges, but for my work to be noticed and singled out from hundreds of works, is a great feeling.
I started exhibiting my work in 2006, and since then have won over 25 awards, I guess that defines achieving success to me.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give to other artists -- specifically to other painters, perhaps younger than yourselves looking for advice and inspiration?

The more you paint, the better you get. you need to spend lots of time in the studio. It does pay off.

Misty Voyage (c) Dana Dion

What recent or upcoming shows/and or gallery representation can we look out for or go and see of your work?

In August I had a solo show in Sydney Australia, where I live, showcasing my recent landscapes.  It was called Without Borders. It would be great to have a show in Vancouver. As my landscapes have Vancouver in them.

Dana, Thank you for taking the time to partake in this interview!