Artist Ann Dodys says it's 'one of the best decisions I ever made.'
Morgan, Green and Putnam counties have recently become a favorite arts destination for both those who collect art and those who create it. Pastel artist Ann Dodys, winner of the 2021 Lake Oconee Juried Art Show, is one of the talented artists who, attracted by local art venues, recently moved full time to Georgia’s Lake Country.
The magic begins
Ann Dodys started out a creative child gifted with a passion for all things art. By high school, she knew she wanted to be a full-time artist, but her father did not agree.
“Being an artist sounds like fun,” her father said. “But how are you going to make a living?” Two children and a divorce later, Dodys found out exactly what he meant. But by then, she knew what to do about it.
Notes Dodys, “I found myself working as a picture framer and raising two young children alone. But my life was starting over. And this time, I was determined to follow my true artistic passion and find a way to ‘make a living’ at art.”
Dodys sent herself back to school and chose to build on her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Stratford College in Danville, Virginia. A lot of black coffee and midnight oil later, she earned a K-12 Art Teacher Certification. Later, she earned a Master of Art Education from Georgia State University in Atlanta.
Decades of delight
“I did not start out aspiring to be an art teacher,” Dodys notes. “But I found that I was good at it. To help children discover the gratifying magic of art is one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Dodys spent the next 30 years delighting in her students’ artistic successes. And she painted on the side. “Over time, I instructed students from pre-K through high school in the Dekalb County Schools and Atlanta Public Schools systems. My main focus was to give students a great art experience.”
Dodys’ success as a teacher is more than noteworthy. In 2015, she was named “Teacher of the Year” for Warren T. Jackson School. But more compelling, during her long teaching career, the “teenager who wanted to be an artist” grew up to instill a love for art in more than 10,000 students. It is a legacy of which her father would be proud.
Retreating from city life
Fast forward to 2019. Now remarried, Dodys retires and the couple decides to retreat from city life.
“An 1895 farmhouse on four acres within walking distance to the town square in Madison stole our hearts,” says Dodys. “There was an old Nut house/1953 bomb shelter that we could convert to an art studio, an old stable my husband could transform into a garage for his car collection, and a historic house built 31 years after Sherman marched through Georgia. We were looking for ‘Mayberry’ and a town that celebrates the arts. Madison is all that and more.”
They moved in their new home two days before the country shut down for the COVID pandemic. Through the winter, they converted the nut house into an art studio, the stables into a garage, and the house into a home.
“I recall the first time I sat before my easel in the converted studio,” Ann shares. “The air sparkled with the freshness of early spring. In that moment, a soft, surreal sense of completeness engulfed me. Had my father been there, I’m sure he would have said, ‘Now Ann. You have come full circle. Now, it’s time to paint for fun!’”
Exhibiting internationally & the Southeast
Ann has worked with a variety of art media over the years, but she fell in love with pastels after participating in a workshop outside Paris with Master Pastelist, Margaret Dyer. Soon, she excelled with the new media. Dodys exhibited her pastels at La Bonne Etoile, Fontaine-Fourches, France in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. More recently, she participated as one of only 35 top Georgia artists invited to the Georgia Colors Plein Air Event at St. Simons Island. Currently, three of her works are on exhibit in the POPS exhibit at Madison Cultural Center.
A prolific artist, Ann has achieved Member of Excellence status with the Southeastern Pastel Society. Today, she exhibits throughout the southeast, teaches in-studio adult pastel classes, and is an active member of Madison Public Arts Commission, the Madison Artists Guild and The Artisans Village Guild.
The painter’s voice
There is no surprise in finding that Dody’s paintings demonstrate skills of properly managed values and hues, strong composition and artful pastel strokes. The surprise comes from the intangible.
“My paintings tell a story,” says Dodys. “I want the viewer to be part of that story. So, I work loose and try not to give all the information. When looking at my work, I want the viewer to make their own personal connections to the visual elements of the painting and write their own story.
“You could say I paint an idea, not just what you see — the story of a ‘moment caught in time’ is what I seek through each painting. For example, in my painting, Into The Poppy Field, the idea is to imagine the scene beyond the door. I painted this during the initial COVID lockdown as reports of hospitalizations, deaths, and the virus’ rapid transmission flooded the news. I found myself cloistered in my studio — my safe space — wondering what we faced.”
Lost for a moment in her memories, the artist vividly recalls, “The door is partially open; light floods in and warms the studio floor. Though my view is only a small sliver of green, I imagine the joy of a sunlit, carefree walk in the meadow beyond. The thought comforts me, and I paint the idea of imagining a world beyond the door. When my viewers see the painting, I hope they, too, will be inspired to add their own images of a beautiful world, to write their own story of beauty waiting just beyond their door.”
For more on Ann Dodys, visit her website: http://www.anndodys.com
How Dodys paints pastels:
Step 1 & 2: “First, I use reference photos or paint Plein Air to draw a pencil study. Then, I lightly sketch simple contour lines on pastel paper to layout my basic composition.
Step 3: “Next, I use only soft pastel sticks and spread a thin pigment layer to indicate darks and lights, but allow most of the paper to show through.
Step 3: “Finally, I add many thin layers of dark, light & medium toned pigments to refine the composition. Each layer is pressed very lightly to allow some paper to show through, creating an impressionistic image and leaving something for the viewer to imagine.”
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Story by Judi Martha Collins, as published in the March/April 2022 issue of Lakelife magazine.