21 SECRETS Spotlight :: Dawna Magliacano


Every Wednesday at Dirty Footprints Studio Tonia Jenny, the 21 SECRETS Creative Director & Course Manager,  is interviewing one of the talented teachers in our program.  Be sure to sign up for blog notifications below to never miss a spotlight — and CLICK HERE to check out past interviews. 

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Hi Dear Friend!

Our Spotlight Artist this week is Dawna Magliacano. Like a few of the other artists I’ve mentioned in this interview series, my first experience with Dawna’s work came about from the work I did on a “coffee-table” series of highly-visual books called Incite – The Best of Mixed Media, published by North Light Books. The thing that stands out about her work, for me, is that it’s incredibly story-esque. In fact, Dawna herself says, “It’s all about the story to me” on the “About” page on her website. In her 21 SECRETS Paper, Glue, Scissors workshop—Paper Portraits—Dawna walks you through an approachable process for creating a portrait—human, animal or creature—in her own lighthearted style. I’m happy to share more about this down-to-earth storyteller with you, in her own words.

How have your creative pursuits morphed or changed over the years?

I learned to love art at an early age. I was ten years old when my older sister taught me to draw using something she called “line relationship” and that has stuck with me always. I thought I would go to art school, but life took me on a slightly altered path for a while. I married and had children when I was just out of high school and ended up being a single mom for fourteen years.

I got an English degree with a minor in art. I worked in the legal field as a trial paralegal for twenty years. However, art-making always factored as a strong part of my life. I used it to earn extra income while raising my children, and if I saw something I wanted, I made it. It was generally the only way I could afford it. Then, at the ripe age of 49 after being remarried to an amazing and supportive husband, I finally could no longer suppress the artist in me and took the leap to become a serious full-time artist. I have never looked back.

In my exploration of art on this new intense level, I did not limit myself to any one medium and pursued them all. Now, ten years later, I work in a multiple of disciplines and have three studios in my home where I can create in a number of genres.

How are the things you value most in life reflected in what you create?

I love nature—animals of all sorts, but especially birds. A lot of my work features how humans relate to animals. I love animal elements with human figures, and/or giving animals human characteristics. You will see a lot of this in my sculpture pieces especially. I also love the feminine aspect to earth and humans, so my figures and portraits tend to reflect females and their nurturing quality.

In what do you find inspiration that it seems few others find inspiring?

It is very difficult for me to narrow down the question of inspiration. I am essentially inspired by everything I experience. Someone once asked me what it was like inside my head and where my ideas come from. My response was that it feels a lot like one of those Viewmasters you played with as a kid (maybe only my generation—ha!) where you have multiple images flipping into view with every click of the lever, only sped up to hundreds per minute and each image leaving an impact. Literally every day, I will have hundreds of art ideas or concepts jump through my head. (I tried writing them down, but that would have me writing all day and not making the art.)

I never stare at a blank canvas and wonder what will I do. It’s more a matter of which one gets to come out and play today.

What is the one thing you hope we remember from your workshop?

Be playful, trust your instincts and don’t take any of it too seriously. Your work will be perfect no matter what!

What is your life mantra?

“600 Years.” (I saw St. John’s Cathedral in the Netherlands last year and as I looked at this massive and beautiful piece of architecture full of carvings and details, I saw a sign that said it took them 600 years to build it. I say this mantra to remind myself to slow down and take my time with my work; it’s worth it in the long run.)

I’m happy to hear Dawna will never run out of ideas for creating her wonderful, often whimsical, storytelling works of art. If you’d like to see more of her work, please check out the info below.

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About Dawna Kinne Magliacano

Dawna-Magliacano_headshotDawna Kinne Magliacano is a multi-discipline artist who considers herself a visual storyteller and art adventurer. “I am in love with exploring processes and then combining those processes to tell a story.” From traditional portraiture and painting to sculpting, printmaking, assemblage and collage, her work leans toward the whimsical and enchanting with often amusing story lines.

Generally a self-taught artists, though she had several years of formal art training early on, her college focus was English. She has been an artist for over 45 years, but officially and full-time since 2007, when she left two 20 year professional careers – trial paralegal/professional comic. In the past 10+ years she has intensified her art study and earned a number of accolades for her work. Her work is collected internationally.


Dawna teaches “Paper Portraits” in 21 SECRETS Paper, Glue, Scissors

In this workshop we will be using a variety of papers—some of which we’ll print ourselves using a Gelli Arts plate, as well as other collected papers—to create a portrait (human or animal; realistic or whimsical). I will show you how to mix either photos or your own sketches with traditional collage to make an interesting and fun portrait. We will warm-up by making some playful practice pieces and then create one final piece that incorporates several of the processes that I will demonstrate. Your practice pieces will be worked in your journal and your final piece will be on a substrate of your choosing or in your journal.

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