For this week’s artist conversation I chose Dawn Derry’s and Anahid Malek-Stepanians’ work in the Dennis W. Dutzi Gallery. Derry and Malek-Stepanians are both BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) students majoring in Painting & Drawing. They are both finishing up their last semester at Cal State Long Beach.
When entering Derry and Malek-Stepanians’ gallery, Viewpoint, you will see very large paintings hanging on all four walls of the gallery. Some of the paints have very vibrant colors and others are a bit toned down. After talking with Derry and Malek-Stepanians we found that the theme of their work was atmosphere and landscape. Their goal for each of their paintings was to bring the beauty of nature on the canvas. When asked what made them start drawing & painting, Derry answered that she had always enjoyed drawing but distinctly remembers her grandmother teaching her how to paint lilacs as a child, this is a very special memory to her. For Malek-Stepanians, she had seen the Mona Lisa and was in awe of how beautiful it was and wanted to create something equally as amazing.
The paintings are done with acrylic and oil paint, the acrylic is used as an underpainting and the oil is used to bring the life into the paintings. When asked what they prefer to use when painting (acrylic or oil) both Derry and Malek-Stepanians answered oil. Derry explained that oil never really dries so they have the ability to take their time and change things later. Malek-Stepanians also explained that she feels more confident with oil. When asked how long it takes to complete a painting Derry and Malek-Stepanians explained that the time it takes to complete a painting varies, but once they have a concept/idea the process speeds up, its just finding that concept/idea that’s the tricky part.
Malek-Stepanians’ pieces were based on the seasons while Derry’s pieces were landscapes and silhouettes. If you look closely at the paintings you will notice that they are not flat, they all have texture to them whether that be a bit more paint in certain places or scratches in the paint. Derry and Malek-Stepanians explained that they were able to create the scratches in the paintings by actually scratching the paintings with the palette knifes in order to take off the top layer of paint.
I personally thought that all of their pieces were absolutely beautiful but my favorite piece by each artist would have to be Winter (by Anahid Malek-Stepanians) and Aggregate 2 (by Dawn Derry). Malek-Stepanians said that Winter was inspired by her recent trip to Vancouver and Derry said that Aggregate 2 is actually Half Dome in Yosemite. The reason I really like Winter is because I’ve always loved the way snow looks. Some of my favorite photographs are actually landscapes with snow falling on the trees, I think there’s something so peaceful and beautiful about snow. As for Aggregate 2 I just thought it was really cool that it was Half Dome and I really like the purple background. To me it looks like the sun is just starting to rise, so the darkness of the sky is slowly fading away.
Derry and Malek-Stepanians hope that by the time their viewers leave their gallery they will make a connection with nature and enjoy its beauty. And I honestly think they have succeeded in their goal because when I left their gallery I just had the sudden urge to go hiking or camping and be one with nature. But I’ve honestly always enjoyed the beauty of nature whether that be going hiking or going to galleries and looking at the photographs.
Unfortunately Derry and Malek-Stepanians don’t currently have a website but if you’d like to know more about their work you can email Dawn Derry at firstname.lastname@example.org