Spotlight: Dorothy McDevitt (Dorothy)

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on July 5, 2010

Art will forever be my passion, because it tells a story without words. Sometimes I happen upon an artist who with one brush stroke can say more words than I could write in a lifetime. I'd like you to meet one of those very talented artists. Chances are, you might already know her.

***I've been watching Dorothy's art work for several years, and with every new painting she shared with us, I was both impressed and inspired. I never really talked with her, but I felt I knew her through her paintings. Without words, she told us she loved nature, people and animals, and without words she gave us a glimpse of her life. Now she's added words along with some of her paintings, so let's get to know her even better. 

Please tell us a little about yourself, Dorothy, have you always been interested in art?

Dorothy:  I grew up in upstate NY, and discovered in grade school that I loved to draw. I was a very good student, and since I excelled in math and sciences, I was strongly discouraged from pursuing art.2010-07-02/Sharran/9b8dbc

Even so, I had a high school art teacher who championed my cause. I was always enamored of the landscape, and I would ride my bike out to the farm country with a backpack easel, and paint for hours. I won various local competitions, and sold pieces fresh from my easel. I wanted to paint everything. I painted Lake George, the Hudson River, the little canal behind our house, and even mud puddles, while trying to figure out how the sky color affected the water color. Along with the awards during high school, I also was awarded scholarships. 

***You had a wise art teacher, Dorothy. What happened after high school?

Dorothy:  I studied fine arts at New Paltz and Skidmore before graduating with a BFA from Syracuse U. In college I found I could sell landscapes right off my easel for $100 - $200 before they were even dry. This was very exciting for a student!

I was invited to stay on for the summer MFA program, and in that program I met an art director from Simon and Schuster who arranged for me2010-07-02/Sharran/6be362 to get a scholarship at the Art Students' League in NYC. So I had lots of positive feedback along the way. In my senior year, I studied with the illustrator Murray Tinkelman, who was very excited and encouraging about what I did. He also proved to be very helpful. 

I was scared to death going to NYC. I packed my easel, a spare pair of jeans, and a toothbrush, and got on a bus. Still my parents were not very supportive, but I was "drawn" (bad pun) to keep studying. That first night I stayed at the YMCA....eventually I found a good room to rent on W. 74th St. I remember how utterly unbelievable it seemed to be a naive 22 year old just taking a bus to the city!

I walked every morning to the ASL and studied from 9-12. We painted a live model, in complete silence, in natural light from the skylight. The time flew by! I remember concentrating intensely, and being very frustrated at first. I never once thought of leaving!2010-07-02/Sharran/a1ab45

Several months into my studies, I received a call that my father had died suddenly from a heart attack. I went home in shock, and remained there for a month to help my mother get settled. I was back one month when I received a call from my mother again, saying she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. She was 55 and widowed two months, living alone.

Again I went home, stayed through her surgery, and then returned to school. I studied for a total of two years at the ASL, working in the afternoons, painting on weekends, and attending life drawing sessions on Saturdays.

When I finally left, it was because my mother had relapsed. I moved back home and worked painting scenery for theatre, doing murals, and helping her through her medical problems. 

I eventually went back to school and got an MBA. I think I was too emotionally drained to try to keep going professionally in art. My mother died, I married, raised kids and did lots of artwork and gardening with them. I enjoyed being a mom, but as my third kid hit senior year, I dug out my art supplies again.

Last year I returned to the art world w2010-07-02/Sharran/15c928ith great trepidation. I was terrified to have "lost it", sad for the wonderful opportunities I thought were gone forever....and instead a whole world of light and joy and friendships has opened up.

In a way it was like pushing open a door and finding an enormous surprise party, just for me!

***It's been said that artists thrive on passion and emotion, and those characteristics show in their work. You lived those emotions when you were studying, and it still shows in your work. Lessons in your art and lessons in your life seem to have gone hand in hand. Tell us about your art life that you know you never really 'lost it'.

Dorothy:  I have come to really love pastel and I have always loved  oil. I like pushing thick color around, I like brushstrokes and boldness. I love line work.

Currently I show locally and am a member of the Upper Hudson Valley Watercolor Association, the Adirondack Pastel Society and the Adirondack Art Association. 

I hope to build a website this winter and recently I have done commissions, including some for members of Cubits.

I loved the Barbizon School of plein aire painters in 1800's France. They painted landscapes that are peaceful and tranquil and I always felt I could sense the mist settling over the fields at twilight. I studied classical portra2010-07-02/Sharran/4e409eiture for years, in the style of Rembrandt, and I loved that. There is not much that I don't enjoy in the art world, but I expect I will always incorporate classicism in my own work. 

I am inspired by nature. In our current society of noise, disposability and waste, I find I love even more capturing tranquillity and seizing moments that speak of lasting things, the change of seasons, or the sun moving across the sky. I love the joy and humor in the expressions of pets! I want to capture those moments and share them. 

I wish I had a website up and running but with the gardens, I'd either have a website OR artwork, not both!  I also have four horses, three dogs and three cats to keep me busy.

***I love all your work, your paintings of your pets, your clever candid people poses, and I can see within them, especially the landscapes, the peace you mention. Your work is without words, but speaks volumes. What do you enjoy most about art?

Dorothy:  I think I most enjoy capturing a moment, a glance of an eye, an expression, a brief ray of light on snow. When you can feel the moisture in the air, smell the mist, hear the silence, when the painting sings...then I will have been successful. Meanwhile, I feel very blessed to have the chance to try2010-07-02/Sharran/356cd9.

***And Dorothy, we are very b2010-07-02/Sharran/d42978lessed to be among those who see your work, and feel the beauty and peace that flow from it.  

Dorothy:  PS...If I ever make anything of myself, I think half the credit, at least, has to go to my friends on the DG Coffee thread. I'd post what I was working on, and they'd be kind enough to encourage me, through two long lonely winters!!

***Dorothy, thank you so much for being our Spotlight artist this week. Whenever I see your work, trust me, I hear those paintings singing!

Dorothy has three children, two daughters ages 23 and 19, and a son who is 21. She lives in the Adirondacks in New York State. Even her environment is inspiring.

Folks, if you'd like to chat with Dorothy, please do so in the comment threads following this article. And if you'd like to see more of her work, take a look at her Pastel Painting cubit.

Related articles:
art, art schools, artists, drawing, painting, pastels, pleine aire, watercolor

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Art Students' League boojum Jul 12, 2010 12:08 PM 0
I Wish I Could Do That! nap Jul 7, 2010 11:13 AM 22
Skidmore? Lance Jul 6, 2010 6:15 PM 1
Beautiful kaglic Jul 6, 2010 5:46 PM 0
Wonderful article about such a great lady PollyK Jul 6, 2010 1:53 PM 2
Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!!! sjweld Jul 5, 2010 10:06 AM 4

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