Most art galleries feature established artists who’ve been honing their artistic practices for years and already have followings out in the world of buyers. Here in Prescott we have a gallery whose mission statement holds that it is “dedicated to showcasing emerging and established artists in the region.” People often retire to Prescott and take up work other than what they did professionally, and with much practice and some talent often build quite good skills in these new pursuits. A number of members of the Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery have retired from their careers and “come out” as professional artists. Dorothy Dooley is one of them.
Adopted and raised by missionary parents, Dorothy began her life in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She attended an international boarding school where the student population was made up of many nationalities, so she was exposed to ideas and customs that built in her a lifelong interest in other cultures. She always loved art classes, and her career goal as a child was to be an artist one day. Summers were spent in the bush with her parents, where she no doubt acquired an appreciation for wildlife.
Dorothy found school rather dull when her parents moved from Africa to Oregon. She got through high school and, forgetting for the time being her earlier desire to be an artist, she studied social work in college, married and raised two children. Years later she did an extra year of college to get her teaching credential, got a Masters in education administration and became a seventh-grade language-arts teacher, a job she loved for 17 years. After retiring from teaching, she and her husband sold everything they had that wouldn’t fit into a 10x10’ storage unit and became vagabonds, traveling throughout the US and other countries for over four years.
When they were finally feeling the urge to settle in one place, Dorothy and her husband chose Prescott and bought a house with room enough for a designated studio. She at last had the time to focus on art, and took a watercolor class, but it wasn’t until she took a class in pastels with Don Rantz that she was hooked, and soon was spending hours at the easel and producing very nice work, focusing on wildlife and landscapes. As an artist Dorothy was “emerging” fast. She clearly has an eye for capturing the subject on paper. She applied and was accepted last year as a member of Arts Prescott, and has continued to grow in her work and establish herself as a pastel artist.
Unlike paint, pastels are pure pigment. If you take pure pigment and mix it with oil, you get oil paint. This can yellow over time, but pastels don’t do this. Pastels have a binder in them which, when mixed with the pigment, is pressed into a form and becomes firm enough to hold in your hand. “It’s a lot more organic and intimate for me than painting, because I put the pigment right onto the paper with my hands. The fun part of working in pastels is that some of it is smushy-smeary. I don’t need many colors because I mix them from pigments right on the paper.” For fine details, like fur on an animal portrait, Dorothy sharpens her pastels on a mesh screen.
Dorothy has come a long way in a short time as an artist and is enjoying finding life lessons in her new practice. “For a good painting to have meaning and beauty, you have to have contrast; bright and dark, the sharp edges and smooth edges. So painting for me has been a life lesson. Good times and bad times have to go together for life to be meaningful.”
Dorothy’s work can be found at Arts Prescott Gallery on Whiskey Row and at https://dorothydooleyprescottartist.com.