A Textured Interview with Artist Dawn Boyer
It’s time for another interview with an illustrious member of the adult coloring world! Our friend Candace M. reached out to the talented Dawn Boyer, who has published over 130 books, to ask about her life and art. All questions are asked by Candace and answered by Dawn.
Q: What is your name?
Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D.
Q: Are you married? If so, how long have you been married?
Yes, I am married to a wonderful man, James (Jim) M. Stallings. We met April 2nd, 2005, and have just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this last January 6th, 2017.
Q: Do you have children, and if so how many?
I have one biological daughter and two step-daughters, and one fur-baby cat.
Q: When did you first become interested in drawing?
When I was five years old, I started scribbling with a pencil and piece of paper (my mom put that sketch in my baby book). Since then I have not stopped drawing, creating, painting, sketching, sewing, weaving, constructing all forms and types of creative fine art.
Q: How did your first beginning drawing propel you to continue with your artwork?
I am a ‘Type A’ workaholic (my husband calls me “Robot”). I cannot be still, so my hands must be continuously engaged in something; whether I am drawing, tearing and folding paper for my mixed media paper artwork baskets, or 3-D constructions, crocheting Afghans for family, or sketching and then inking pen-and-ink drawings of historic buildings and old barns, I cannot sit still, so my hands must be continuously engaged in something. I am also a writer and have been chronicling my life for 48 years.
Q: What type of training have you had in the art field?
I have a formal degree – a Bachelor of Fine Art in Graphic Design and Illustrative Art from Radford University in Radford, VA (1985). I can’t say I learned much about the ‘fine art’ process from this degree; most of the creative art I do now is self-taught.
Q: What was the best part of your art education?
I liked the idea of creating graphic design, but my heart and passion were more into creative fine arts. At the time I received my degree, the art community was still using ‘press-on lettering,’ and I missed the computer-generated design training I wished I could have achieved today (PhotoShop, etc.). I did appreciate the multiple drawing classes I had in the program. I thoroughly disliked the art history classes where we were required to memorize artwork, artist’s, period styles, and dates.
Q: Have you attended school for any other types of training and if so, what was it for?
I have not. I do watch YouTube videos and just started the ‘how-to’ series on Lynda.com (free subscription with a professional paid level on LinkedIn) on how to use the Adobe Creative Cloud (PhotoShop, InDesign, Illustrator) and hope to at least get through that series in the next year.
Q: What type of art design most interests you?
I am more interested in taking art types and methodologies (versus design styles) and trying to create and discover more creative ways of using those. For instance, there are paper crafting methods of Origami, Bubble-Gum Wrapper chain making, football folding, weaving, and quilling, where I use all these methods to create three-dimensional artwork, such as by weaving the paper chains to create baskets, or using the woven paper strips and ‘footballs’ (those triangular pieces of paper one folded in high school to pass notes or ‘play football’ in the cafeteria when one was bored). Using these folded paper forms, I create Owls, Peacocks, lizards, wolves, and buffaloes in art pieces that build up from the two-dimensional paper to a 3-D form that imitates the real-life form of the creature I am illustrating.
Q: What have been your most proud moments in your art achievements?
I am proud of the series of books I have drawn and published. I self-publish, and have branded myself as the originator and illustrator of the Fairy Houses and Fairy Doors (series). I just published my 134th book last week – the newest topic for this coloring book was Fantastic Flora and Fauna – with illustrations of animals in settings full of flowers and/or woodland scenes.
Q: Tell me something about your unique style of art that is different from other artists?
I don’t like sticking with one type of artwork. I get bored relatively quickly then move on to another type of artwork, as the mood hits me. What is funny – while I have illustrated over 40 coloring books – I ‘suck’ at coloring myself. My artistic forte is drawing pen-and-ink (black line) illustrations.
My favorite topic to draw on is historic architecture from the restored district of Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, VA. My parents started taking the family to visit there 54 year ago, and I have been visiting no less than once a year since. What I recently figured out is that all those pen-and-ink illustrations of the architecture I have been creating for years could make a fantastic coloring book for adults, so created one book of my drawings. I am now working on several other books of gray scale coloring books of the same topic. My second favorite drawing topic is old barns in a state of decay or collapsing old homes or grist mills. Those seem to have an untold story that creates character into the drawings I create.
Candace: Dawn, I have to agree with you about old places. They do have a story to tell, and many books have been written that involve these old buildings.
I spent about two years figuring out how to weave the bubble-gum chain wrappers into woven baskets. First I had to figure out how to create the chains from something other than gum wrappers (to keep my teeth cavity free), so I discovered magazine pages make awesome and pretty durable folding pieces.
I have sewn over 40 quilts in my lifetime, and used to sew all my own clothing before my daughter was born. I have probably crocheted over 100 afghans – I visit the thrift shops regularly for inexpensive yarn packages, sort the colors into groups, then crochet simple squares with single- and double-crochet stitch.
I have painted murals on walls and painted eggs (blown-out) with nail polish to create beautiful Christmas tree ornaments. I love upcycling furniture, also. I will take a solid wood piece of thrift store or a curb-side rescue and strip the finish, then re-stain it in patterns, swirls, or creative ways (not paint, wood stain only), to create some amazing pieces. Sometimes I will use stain to ‘paint’ a picture – I painted to two wolves howling at the moon on top of the inexpensive wine & glass stand I purchased for $10.
Q: Can you relate something humorous to your adventures in the art world? Please share that with us.
When I first started my formal art degree at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Art Foundation program, they had ‘life study drawing classes’ which, as a naïve 18-year old, I had no idea what that meant. I walked into class first day, put up my easel, got my paper ready, charcoal stick out, then looked around the corner of the easel to see a naked man posing in the middle of the room. In my astonishment, I immediately blurted out, “Is he NAKED? Talk about embarrassing!
Q: What is the something you would like to see changed in the art world?
I would like to see art galleries stop charging the artists so MUCH to display and sell the artist’s work. While I perfectly understand that the gallery has to make a profit and has overhead expenses, also, instituting a 45-55% commission on the art work means the artist has to jack up their price by 100% or more to get what they originally want to make as revenue on the art piece. This makes it expensive for the common man to find quality art work they can afford in galleries.
I do love that social media and the Internet has changed the game for selling artwork – I constantly build a presence for each of my illustrations in my coloring books by posting Works in Progress (WIP) and get my fans excited and amped up to purchase the book when it is released. I see other coloring book artists doing the same.
Q: I am sure you have had many challenges in your life, what has been your greatest challenge and how did you get through it?
I have several challenges I have had to overcome and working on overcoming:
I have always wanted a dedicated art studio with lots of space to work on large pieces of art work and several projects at once. I established one in the den of my last house, then we promptly put it up for sale, and I had to pack everything. When we moved to the current house, I spent thousands on getting the garage fixed up for an official art studio, then we found out we had to sell this house and move again, so essentially, my ‘art studio’ became a small light table bumped up against the hearth in my living room (about six square fee). I am now back to juggling my drawing surfaces on my lap while sitting on the sofa and finding a space at a small table. When I permanently move in with my mom, I will be working on creating a full-scale art studio in her sun-room.
Q: Where do you see your art taking you in the future?
I cannot wait to reach what my husband and I call, Phase III, which is (after kids grow up and get out on their own) where he and I will start being more creative with art projects, home building (retirement house and 40 acres), and to be able to afford more art tools (like a plasma cutting CNC machine that cuts metals, or a wood routing machine one can program designs into so as to cut huge wooden planks).
Q: How many books do you have published? How many adult coloring books?
I have published at least 134 books in total, 114 are on Amazon now, and of those at least 40 ‘Big Kids Coloring Books’ (series name). Interested readers who want to see the listing of most of my published books on Amazon can find the listing at my author’s page: https://www.amazon.com/author/dawnboyer
Q: What is a good quote that you find has helped you through many situations in your life?
My father had two quips I have always sworn by:
He would ask my sister and I: “What’s the most important thing?”
And we would always answer: “Family.”
Then he would ask us: “Why?”
And we would answer: “Because they will never let you down.”
When I got stressed about something – money, boyfriends, work, etc. …
Dad would ask: “Well, what’s the worst that could happen about this issue?”
I would answer: (with all the worst case scenarios)
Then he would ask: “Can you die from it?”
I would answer: “Of course not!”
Then he would respond, “Then it’s not a problem.”
Q: I see that you have interviewed other artists. Is this your first time being interviewed?
This is my second time being interviewed as an artist. It’s quite flattering to think that someone ‘out there’ is interested in my way of thinking or art style or artwork. I am usually ferociously private about the methods and manners in which I create my artwork – I don’t like sharing anything with others until it’s finished. Over the last four years, I have learned to adapt to being ‘social’ about my artwork, and overcome someone physically looking over my shoulder (husband) while I work, but also to share works-in-progress (WIP) as I draw, and have even started asking my fans what they would like to see in my illustrations (e.g., cats, dragons, hippos, Tarsier monkeys). I am adding my coloring street team’s cats in my current illustrations as they share their photos of their fur-babies in poses I can use in my next coloring book.
Q: What types of artists have you interviewed?
One artist was a ‘beach’ artist originally from Hawaii who focused on waves, and tropical motifs; another artist was a clay sculptress who created huge clay creatures for the garden and welded metal tools and everyday utensils with other found objects to create small, humorous pieces; and the third creates large, hauntingly-beautiful pictures of women, using pan pastels as a medium.
Q: Where was your most favorite place to interview an artist?
The interviews with these artists were conducted via email by sending them the interview questions, allowing them to be able to answer the questions at their own convenience in their own home or studio on their schedule.
Q: Where can your books and PDFs be found?
My paperback books can be purchased from my author’s page listing:
I also sell Fine Art Prints of some of my pen and ink illustrations at Fine Art America: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/dawn-boyer.html
I sell page packs of my coloring books on Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/DawnDBoyer
Q: Do you have any advice that you would give an aspiring artist just starting out in the adult coloring world?
For gosh sakes – the best advice I can provide is to BRAND yourself and do NOT ignore marketing, branding, and advertising methods – which most artists totally suck at.
Use social media to post your works in progress to build interest – and not just one platform. If you don’t have accounts yet for the following: Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, Behance and Fine Art America, LinkedIn for networking with other artists and PayPal to accept payments; create them, figure them out, and use them. ASK others how they use them, and don’t be a idiot and use them ONLY for advertising. You must create a ‘relationship’ with your fans and followers. Provide interesting tid-bits to your posts and followers versus constantly blasting them with ‘buy my art’ ads.
Q: If you could go anywhere and color, where would that be?
It’s more a mindset ‘place’ I want to visit versus a physical place. My absolute favorite place to be is sitting at a comfortable table with loads of arm and elbow space, with all my necessary media within arms-reach, and be ‘in the mood’ to do my artwork. A Netflix movie or series would be playing on a TV screen in front of me, where I can look up occasionally to see what is happening on the screen. If my husband is in the room, also, that’s a bonus (he would likely be working on his computer on homework or website building).