September 6th, 2017
Jesse Gussow

We’ve had a few artists reach out to us about being featured and that is a pretty awesome feeling! It’s a great way to discover new art which is what we are all about here at Chaotic Utopian. One such artist who reached out to us is the incredible Ari Dawson, whose work is absolutely amazing! Her watercolors especially are a favourite of mine. She has one piece that is of a naked woman wearing a unicorn head. That piece is just outstanding; it is simple yet says a million different things. That’s what I love about the work of Ari; her work speaks volumes: it’s an amazing emotional journey that I urge you all to partake in.



Where are you from?

I was born in California (please don't hold that against me). I moved to Colorado when I was 8 and to Portland when I was 16. Currently I'm living in Boise.



How did you start on this artistic journey?

I started when I was 8 years old. I went to a neighbor's house. She was my best friend at the time. She showed me a little drawing that she had done of these two little girls. I thought it was the most impressive thing I had ever seen. Looking back this was a really defining moment. It was the first time that I had seen something drawn besides stick figures. And I remember thinking that I wanted to go home that moment and draw like that…but better than that. So I went home and tried to draw that exact same thing. And it sucked! Epic fail. I thought to myself, ‘If I practice drawing like this every day for the next ten years I would be better.’ That day I made a commitment in my little 8 year old mind that I would practice every day because I wanted to be a good artist. I literally have never stopped drawing since then.



What is your preferred medium to work with?

It used to be just drawing but now it is acrylic. I like it because I feel like when I have an idea in my mind for a color or a form, I can get 99% of the way there with acrylic. I have heard that the next step is oil. But honestly that kinda intimidates me!!



The beauty of art is that people see all kinds of different things in the work. What do you see in your artwork?

I think I see myself and all of my emotions. I have been through a lot this past year. A lot of darkness, death, terrible feelings. I am not too good at talking about them (I really don’t like talking about myself—answering these questions is so weird!!) But I have found that I can express with my art the darkness in my soul that is hard to talk about or hard to think about. I know it helps me. And I hope it helps others. I think it was Van Gogh who said something like art says what words cannot.



What's the most shocking thing someone has said about your work?

I feel like some of my family that doesn’t really know me asks questions like, ‘Why is your art so dark? Why can’t it be happier?’ Or they won’t ask. They will tell me. Draw happy things.



How are you different from your artwork?

In person, I am not really a dark or negative person. I am outgoing, kind, personable. And I really do like people. I like to ask questions and get to know others. I think this might be some kind of security blanket I carry in my relationships though. If I ask questions and get someone to talk about themselves maybe they won’t ask me questions. I think the women in my art are a little more honest than me.



What inspires your artwork?

It really all starts internally. With an emotion that I am dealing with. A lot of my work has to do with how women view themselves or how others view women. It is this whole love/hate relationship that I have with my body and that I think is common to the female experience. We are taught to be beautiful by the way our society measures beauty and when I look in the mirror I don’t always measure up. The Masks We Wear series was my own struggle with how I feel about my body and emotions. Sometimes I go to Instagram and just look at random pictures of people for an interesting pose or facial features that will help bring to life these feelings.



If you weren't an artist what job would you have?

I would be a musician and tour the world! I really look up to the artist Grimes. I just bought her Art Angels on vinyl. She created a piece of art for every one of her songs! So maybe I will just do both.



If you could have any super power, what would it be, and why?

It would have to be shape shifting. It has been my favorite super power since I was 12. Not only could I shape shift into any other person but an animal or even an inanimate object. Like Mystique. I love Mystique. I made my boyfriend dress up like Mystique last Halloween. Shape shift into Lady Gaga and walk down the street and know what it was like to be famous. Or just as a chair and be invisible for a while.



What's the hardest thing to draw/paint?

I would say hands. I know that is everyone’s answer. But that is because it is true!!! But for a more original answer I would have to say backgrounds or landscapes. I just don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. Hands are difficult but at least when they are done and they are good they become the centerpiece of your work. If the background is a little off, who cares.



How have you improved as an artist since you started, to now?

After my attempt to duplicate my best friend’s drawing back when I was 8, I went on a fantasy road where I just drew the characters from Manga I was reading or Anime I was watching. I have a few notebooks full of this sort of copy work. But now I feel like I have an idea from within me and am able to capture an actual emotion.



What would you like to get more proficient at?

I think that I still am chasing that image that is in my head. I want more control of the paint and colors and technical process. I know this comes with time and practice. So really I just want to be more disciplined. I have this idea of setting apart time every day to work on my art but then I work 8 hours at a desk and then have to run and eat and shower and then suddenly it is 11 and I just wanna cuddle in bed.



How long does it take you do complete a piece? What is your complete process?

From start to finish it could take anywhere from 2 hours to 10 hours. Usually it starts with an idea or feeling I have. Then I sketch out a bunch of different drawings or different parts of the piece like a pose or an expression. I combine all of my favorite ideas into one piece outlined in pencil on a canvas. Then I start painting usually with the eyes and face and work out from there. For me a facial expression makes or breaks the painting. If I can get that right everything else will fall in place. After that it all becomes chaotic randomness.



Where can people see your work?

 I have a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and now a website.



Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?

Oreo. Crunched up. And in a Blizzard.

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