Category: Art

Those are the breaks

by dawning on / Art, Personal

After the death of a loved one, I create this piece. I didn’t show it to many, and honestly I kept it under my bed for a couple of years. I hesitantly brought it out for my first solo exhibition over the summer. I wanted to fill the space with as much work as I could. Unfortunately, the gallery where I was showing my work is also a venue for large gatherings. My piece got broken. I didn’t want the owners to feel obligated to pay the large “I don’t want to sell this” price, so I just took the broken pieces home and tried not to cry about it in front of them.

I mourn this piece. I didn’t get many pictures of it, and I regret hiding it away. I thought it was beautiful and it held so many of my emotions within it’s fragile fired clay. Tears were shed when making it and now tears are shed for it. That was the circle of life for this piece.

My husband wants to put it back together with some epoxy so I can hang it in my studio. That would be nice.

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Make art that feels good to make | art

by dawning on / Art, Personal

As an artist, sometimes I get too consumed with making a perfect amazing masterpiece each time I make art. But, that wasn’t the goal when I started making art. I started making art because it makes me feel good, it is an outlet, and it revitalized my soul. When you turn something you love into your career you really need to take a moment to remember why you fell in love with it in the first place.

Pieces like these are just fun and relaxing to make. I really love the finished product too. Exploring color and form can be a very enjoyable process. Plus, the bonus of thinking about awesome animals that I love!

dsc_0312buck feline


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Charcoal Reduction Thoughts

by dawning on / Art

I have been thinking about the artist’s process a lot lately, which is something that I usually take for granted. I realized recently, that the artist’s process is fascinating to some people. To me, I am just in the zone and doing my thing, so it is easy to overlook.

I would say that 90% of my process is staring, examining, looking or what ever you want to call it. My pieces take days to make because I need to look at them for that long before I know I have what I want. Every step that I make, I have to sit back and absorb and see what I need to fix so I can make it more of what I am imagining. It may sound boring, but for me (and many other artists) it is the process…our meditation and becoming one with a piece.

This is my newest piece that I have been working on. I am challenging myself to create natural elements in life with charcoal, a very natural medium that I am able to produce myself. It is coming together nicely and is almost done. Here are my steps along the journey of making this piece:

Showing steps - Dawnings Art

Dawning’s Art Process Charcoal Reduction

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Scarab Series: First Painting

by dawning on / Art

Watercolor painting offers so much variety. You can create saturated bold colors or very light stains.

I have always been drawn toward the image of the scarab and I think the bold colors support the stylistic lines in this piece.


Dawning’s Art Watercolor Scarab

This series creates a story in my head. Scarabs breaking out of eggs that are actually all the planets in space. Our Earth is shattered and from the molten explosion a sacred beetle is given life.  The universe transforms in the mind of those who are left to ponder our small existence on the surface of an egg that birthed an insect.


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Meet the Snoozle Womps: A children’s story I’ve been working on

by dawning on / Art, Writing

Meet the Snoozle Womps

by Dawning McGinnis


On a planet named Crystalline,

there is a mountain that has stood the test of time.

The mountain is covered with crystals,

and everyone on the planet can see them like signals.

Down the mountain a creek flows,

and Quartz is the name that the villager’s know.

Quartz Creek has a steady stream,

making the village of Mineralia extremely pristine.

In their small village the Snoozle Womps delight

in finding new ways to use the crystal’s light.

Mineralia has many unique amenities

from all of the Snoozle Womps’ different specialties.

The Snoozle Womps have discovered crystals that have the ability

to do anything from cook their food to create tranquility.

Mineralia runs smoothly

because the Snoozle Womps know their callings resolutely.

For the first time in who knows how long,

a Snoozle Womp who didn’t know his purpose has come along.

Abelard Snoozle attempted to find his true calling

by trying out everybody else’s jobs, as if he was trawling.

None of these jobs made Abelard happy,

so he went to ask advice from his Uncle Mapsy.

Mapsy lives high up the mountain as a cartographer,

and every time Abelard goes to his house the trip gets rougher.

Abelard doesn’t have to explain the reason for his visit,

the turmoil he has been going through is implicit.

Mapsy had no advice for Abelard so instead he told him what he sees

when he watches Abelard from high above Mineralia’s idiosyncrasies.

“I see you try all kinds of things that bring you nothing but havoc,

although, I can easily say the thing you enjoy the most is your stomach.”

“I do love to look at my stomach” Abelard exclaimed,

“I feel like if I look hard enough the secrets of our world will be explained.”

Abelard went back home with new pride

knowing that his true calling had been identified.

Abelard now spent his time staring at his stomach and performing experiments

which led him to an amazing discovery and his utter merriment.

The news of Abelard’s breakthrough traveled fast

But soon all of the Snoozle Womps’ expectations would be surpassed

Abelard prepared a presentation that made him feel sublime,

and chose to share his findings at dinnertime.

The Snoozle Womps gathered together for a feast,

and as they waited for Abelard their anticipation increased.

The smell of the feast was more than tempting

though nobody was eating due to the presenting.

Finally Abelard declared with certainty

that he knows the reason for the Snoozle Womps’ internal luminosity.

A demonstration had everyone convinced

there must be a reason the Snoozle Womps and the crystals coexist.

The Snoozle Womps have lived in Mineralia for how long, nobody knows.

But, the light that is in the crystals makes the Snoozle Womps’ bellies glow.

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Dawning’s Art at Alberta Abbey

by dawning on / Art

There are only a few more days to see my art at Alberta Abbey in Portland. Viewing is free, so come see my art in person at this wonderful venue! Until January 20th.

Alberta Abby Website

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An Artist’s Process – Charcoal Reduction

by dawning on / Art

By Dawning McGinnis

I turned on the television, but I never looked at it or even noticed the noise coming from it while I was eating. I just stared at my newest art piece. I looked deeply at the dusty charcoal, trying to find imperfections that I could fix. After I was halfway through my sandwich I realized that my self-portrait was done and truly was an amazing first attempt at using this medium. It wasn’t that I needed to keep working on this piece; instead I realized that it was time to move on to my next artistic venture. But, my self-portrait was still nagging at me.

After another hour or so of contemplation, my husband got home and right when he walked through the door with his black hood from his sweatshirt pulled over his head I realized what I wanted to create.

About a week earlier my husband had gotten the October 2013 edition of National Geographic, which was a 125th anniversary collector’s edition that celebrated photography. On the cover was the Afghan girl, that mesmerizing green-eyed girl who never knew the effect that her picture had on the world. Those intensely deep, yet glassy reflective eyes were the source of my inspiration. The severe look on that Afghan girl’s face was what my self-portrait reminded me of. I wanted more than a reminder of the look that this girl gave to the camera man, Steve McCurry, in the refugee camp in 1985. I wanted to capture that intensity with my charcoal. I felt that my self-portrait looked more scared or eerie than intense, so I needed a model that could convey strength in addition to intensity.

I told my husband my idea. I had one caveat, I didn’t just want him to pose for my portrait of him, I wanted him to scan his face like I had scanned mine in my self-portrait. I loved the line of light reflected in the eye from the scanner. I felt that one bright line added to the intensity of the portrait and also reminded me of the large amounts of reflected light in the Afghan girl’s eyes. My husband agreed to the challenge of scanning his face, but first we looked up the Afghan girl’s story for inspiration.

I had never gotten a chance to read the story of the photographer finding the Afghan girl as an adult. The revisited story that National Geographic put out in 2002 was more than I had hoped it would be for inspiration. The article gave a name to the woman who had stuck in my mind since I was a child and that was priceless for many reasons, but the largest reason was biblical in nature. In college I had taken a literature class covering the Old Testament, and in an attempt at feminism I had researched Jewish words to give names to some women that were pivotal in stories but were never named. I felt that having a name gave these women who struggled, and were prominent characters, their own identity and power which they never were allowed to have in their society or stories.

Sharbat Gula, her name is Sharbat Gula. She has seen more war and suffering than I can imagine. It is not only ferocity that shines in her eyes, it is strength, it is endurance, and it is hope. Steve McCurry’s famous portrait of Sharbat Gula was first taken in 1985, when she was a young girl during the height of the war with the Soviets, and the photographer returned nearly 20 years later to learn what might have become of her and took her photo again, this time in the midst of another war. The pictures Steve McCurry took in 2002 show a woman that looks closer to fifty rather than thirty. In 2002 she was no longer beautiful the way she was in her first portrait, but she was still mesmerizing.

After hours of scanning my husband’s face, and my husband getting way too into the process, I decided that one of the first scans was usable for what I was planning. Even though I found the right picture to work from, my husband insisted on scanning his face several more times to make sure I had what I needed. I do not know how his eyes survived over seventy scans, but I do know that he is definitely devoted to the arts.

I wanted to start working on the piece right away, but it was close to three in the morning when we stopped destroying my husband’s vision with our scanner. I was ushered to bed by the man who takes care of me when I become too obsessed with my projects.

I slept hard and woke up around eleven in the morning with the same, if not more, zeal as I had before bed. I somehow found the will to get dressed, brush my teeth, run a brush through my hair, and feed my cat before I started working, but that is all I had the patience to accomplish before making a charcoal mess in my living room.

I grabbed my twenty-four by eighteen inch drawing pad and carefully tore out a piece of the toothy paper. I secured the paper to my wooden drawing board and laid the whole thing on the hardwood floor. Holding the tiny compressed black stick in my right hand, I made huge strokes pressing down on the paper. Once the entire paper was covered in black I rubbed it with a soft chamois cloth that was once a light tan color, but after my one attempt at using charcoal had turned just as black as the medium itself. After the paper was uniformly blackened I picked the drawing board up and set it on my easel. I took some tape and secured the picture of my husband to the drawing board for reference.

With eraser in hand, I removed the black charcoal from the paper starting with my husband’s jaw-line working up to his nose. For hours I pressed my eraser hard into the paper, stopping occasionally to smudge some charcoal back over with a small piece of paper rolled like a tiny unicorn horn. Four hours of pushing the charcoal around the paper, removing where needed, then finally adding darker lines. My art teacher in college always told me, “You have to earn your black.”

I looked at the clock. It was almost nine at night and my husband would be home from work in about a half an hour. I stepped back to see what I had created. I was pleased, and it was time for the final touches. I was finishing up the white highlights that I was adding with Conté Crayons when I heard my husband’s car pull in our driveway. I listened to his radio belting out a funk song for a few minutes while I continued to fidget with his portrait. When he finally walked in I was standing back and observing the piece again. All he said was “creepy.” I gave him a minute to set his stuff down before I barraged him with questions. When he came back though, he answered all my waiting questions when he simply said, “It does have the intensity you were going for and it looks better than the scanned picture of me.”

My passion for recreating the feelings that were captured in McCurry’s amazing picture of Sharbat Gula in 1985 was sedated for the time being after making the portrait of my husband, but I have been thinking about revisiting this subject.  Sharbat Gula’s expression is impossible to recreate in the face of my wonderful peaceful husband. I think that if that expression is what I want to capture than I may need to go to the source. A portrait of Sharbat Gula will be on my list of projects.



Denker, Debra, and Steve McCurry. “A Life Revealed.” National Geographic. N.p., Apr. 2002. Web. 31 Nov. 2014. <>.

  • Image Afghan Girl

Draper, Robert. “Why Photos Matter.” National Geographic Oct. 2013: 28-33. Print.

McGinnis, Dawning. Scanner Rich. 2013. Charcoal. Portland, Oregon.

  • Image Scanner Rich

McGinnis, Dawning. Scanner Dawning. 2013. Charcoal. Portland, Oregon.

  • Image Scanner Dawning

Newman, Cathy, and Steve McCurry. “A Life Revealed.” National Geographic. N.p., Apr. 2002. Web. 31 Nov. 2014. <>.


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Modern Mixed Media

by dawning on / Art

Bubblephant is truly modern mixed media. First I made a painting and then I created a collage on top of the painting (the circles). After that was finished I took a picture of the piece. Using Photoshop I enhanced the colors and added some shapes. Then, using Illustrator, I made a vector of a creative commons image of an elephant. Several more steps later, Bubblephant was born! I enjoy taking paintings and other pieces that I am just not satisfied with, and turning them into something completely new and wonderful. Digital art is another outlet and can be very expressive and satisfying.

Elephant and summer dots small

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New Digital Art Typography Self Portrait

by dawning on / Art

I made a new self portrait! I tried to really think of myself, my art and my goals when I was making it. I have to say that it turned out exactly how it should be, and I am very happy with it! I plan to do more like it for those inspiring people in my life.

Dawning Graphic purple to blue

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Creativity Explored – A Studio for Developmentally Disabled Artists

by dawning on / Art

When I was in San Francisco my uncle took me to an incredible place called Creativity Explored. This place was the largest and most diverse studio for artists with developmental disabilities that I had ever imagined. I was awestruck when I walked from the gallery into the studio and saw hundreds of talented artists working away. I met many artists and they seemed happy, safe, and in their element. I wanted to stay and meet/talk to everyone there, but that would have taken weeks.

For the last several years I have been exploring Art Therapy, but after an internship and learning more about the field I sadly realized it wasn’t for me.

I think that art takes you where you need to go on it’s own. The emotions that need to be released, will be during the process of making art if you are in a free and safe environment.

Creativity Explored is an art studio, not an art therapy studio.

I have always wanted to create a truly safe and happy place for all people to find their creative passion, and where I could teach when people need teaching and create along side other creators. I haven’t fully formed my notion of this perfect studio space, but I know I want to share it with any and all others.

While I was at Creativity Explored I got to chat up the Executive Director, Amy Taub. Amy is a salty older woman near retirement with extensive knowledge of the inner workings of a studio devoted to artists with developmental disabilities. She said that if she had it all to do over again, she would never have made the studio so big. I thought that was a shame because it is mesmerizing seeing such a large group of people busily enjoying their work, but obviously I do understand. Amy’s complaint was that the people there aren’t getting as much individual attention as some may need or want, and it is too challenging to organize a place like that.

Amy also said that only a fool opens a studio for artists with developmental challenges without government assistance. I wanted to ask so many more questions after she said this, but I also didn’t want to take up all of her time. In my mind I kept thinking “the catch is, to get government assistance, as far as I have read, a non-profit has to be in operation for a certain amount of time on it’s own. How is this achieved?” ……

The last advice that Amy gave was never show art unless it is good. I loved this sentiment. I wouldn’t show my own art unless it was good. Turning off customers that were once interested due to promoting an artist that was not ready, that is the worst. That customer probably wont be back to see the artist develop, and now just thinks of the business as one that has bad art. It was great advice for every artist and studio.

My visit to Creativity Explored was beyond words amazing for me. I have so much to learn and so many questions. I could have easily spent my whole trip to San Francisco in this one studio, meeting people and picking Amy’s brain. I hope I get the chance to go back.


Creativity Explored Artist John Patrick McKenzie They are Full of Holy

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Dawning’s Art Shop now has CLOTHES!!!

by dawning on / Art


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by dawning on / Art

Here are some highlights from Oddville! A Burning Man affiliated art show I was in on November 13th at American Steel Studio in Oakland.


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New Raku Kiln

by dawning on / Art

This is Dawning’s Art Studio’s new Raku kiln and the first pots to come out of it.

Construction is moving along!

First firing in Raku resized

There is still soooo much to get done though….

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Horse Hair Pots

by dawning on / Art


Studio construction is going slowly, and Summer brings too many fun activities.

Despite how slow things are going, I am still finding time to create. Here is a picture of the most recent horse hair pots.

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Home studio planning

by dawning on / Art, Personal

Changing a living space into a multi-functional art studio:

The new studio will be the former master bedroom of my house. It has a separate entrance with a small yard and a bathroom. It is also right next to the garage. The studio will have my wheel, a big art table, a painting area with easels, a big TV for watching demos, and tons of storage for supplies. The garage will have a clay wedging table, an electric kiln, and a lot of clay ware storage. The Backyard is home to barrel firings and cast iron stove firings. I am not quite sure where the Raku kiln will go, but I am sure we will figure it out.

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