We had the good fortune of connecting with Edna Dapo and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Edna, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, and very difficult when you do.”
-Edgar Degas

I find this quote truer every year. I have been painting and drawing for over two decades, and keep finding new challenges. There is so much to think about when creating art; from materials used and physical aspects of art, to the meaning and potential narratives. Form and content influence and depend on each other. Creating art can be an escapism, but that is also a social commentary. Why are we escaping, is the world too much to handle? Do we have a responsibility to create a contemporary commentary of our time, or do we delve into abstraction, form, color, textures, the paint itself sitting on the surface? What is our personal experience that will make our work unique? Can we reinvent ourselves with each piece? To create art that will outlive us, it takes courage and a responsibility. As an art educator of many years, I see how important it is for people to take at least one painting course in their life. To begin to appreciate a painting, one must have pushed some paint on the canvas first, attempted to paint and struggled. Then tried again. So many people think of the “best art” as realism, a faithful copying of their photo, when rather, that is learning of techniques and learning how to hold a brush. To transfer your vision on the canvas, pull things out of your imagination, while using all the formal aspects, and applying strong content – now that is not easy.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In my art I am constantly experimenting. I keep coming back to figurative work based on reality and enveloped in imagination. I have been teaching life drawing and painting for many years, and never get tired of studying the figure. The human figure is a timeless subject. It is our best way of formulating our insides, it is vulnerable and raw, and so difficult to capture. I am excited about my latest body of work which centers around figure in three elements. The first element are drawings – 5 minute gesture studies of live models, drawn rapidly, with economic wavy lines and simplicity of a single pencil. After the model finishes a pose, I am left with a memory of it, and continue working from imagination, attempting to capture that fleeting moment of a figure frozen in time. The second element are paintings based on drawings. To retain the original freshness of the model’s pose, I use the study of gestures and add on dynamic distortions, color and light. The colorful paintings with assertive brushwork, and restless zigzag contours, serve to underline the symbolic power of a solitary figure. The bodies are used as a vehicle of expression. The third element includes two figures, and immediately becomes narrative in nature. The narratives turn towards stories of love: falling in and out of love, love lost, gained, unrequited. The models for these were either two complete strangers, or solitary figures. The figures are either drawn compulsively towards each other, or away from each other. What is not told is enigmatic. In the end, the figures try to reveal an interplay of human experiences using this wild substance – paint, and pushing it around. Professionally, my development was influenced by the educational and academic ideas of many art teachers, and all teachers and mentors. I started in an art high school in Dubrovnik, Croatia, with 6 hours of drawing and painting a day. Upon moving to USA, I attended SCC, and earned a BFA in Painting from ASU. I completed my studies with a MFA in Painting from SCAD. I continue to draw inspiration from everything, from old master paintings to contemporary artists, movies, magazines… ideas are everywhere. Yesterday I looked at the laundry I folded and saw a pleasing color scheme. Learning how to see, and what to see, is a lifelong search. Art education is not easy, but it is worthwhile. The challenges are plenty, there are many artists competing for very few opportunities in Arizona, especially now. In the current pandemic, many artists have lost income and have had galleries closed and shows canceled. My teaching gig with the Phoenix Center for the Arts has been postponed. In a crisis, Art is the first to go, but what are the repercussions? Art professionals bring billions to the economy, but not only that, they make life worth living. In these times and in the future, I hope we can continue to support artists. There are many ways of doing so: share artist’s work on social media, recommend to a friend, write a review, buy an original, or a print, commission a painting, sign up to an art class, donate to an art organization, etc.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Phoenix Metro is a diverse area with many little towns, that each can be a daily excursion. In Phoenix, I would take them to my painting studio at the Phoenix Center for the Arts. Then to Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue in downtown Phoenix to check out local galleries and get a bite to eat. There are many little restaurants around there, hopefully they can stay open through the pandemic. Then to Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard. Crescent Ballroom to catch a small concert of some cool band. Madison Center for the Arts in mid Phoenix, to check out a Christmas show. In Scottsdale, there’s the Old Town – galleries, bars, and restaurants, and SMOCA for contemporary art. In Tempe, ASU Art Museum often has world renowned artists visiting. In Mesa, Mesa Art Center and Arizona Museum of Natural History. Old Town Mesa has many vintage stores. For a further drive, I’d recommend Tubac in southern Arizona. Tubac is an art village south of Tucson, which I became familiar with during my solo show at the Tubac Center of the Arts.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Phoenix Center for the Arts – it has been my home away from home, and to many others! It is a fantastic place that provides affordable art courses to public, and art content for all levels and ages. This non-profit is a people connector where you will find friends from all walks of life, all connected with their love of art.

Website: www.ednadapo.com
Instagram: EdnaDapoArtist
Linkedin: Edna Dapo
Facebook: EdnaDapoArtist
Youtube: Edna Dapo
Other: www.phoenixcenterforthearts.org