Dawn E. Whitelaw

photo of Dawn E. Whitelaw

""It's not about rendering every eyelash or tree limb, but about finding the character of your subject and presenting the essential information.""

- Dawn E. Whitelaw

After over 30 years of teaching painting, Dawn Whitelaw still thinks of herself as a student. “As a painter, I am always a student, eager to learn more about my craft so I can speak more eloquently in paint,” she says. “Although my aesthetics are linked to the painters at the turn of the last century, I feel like I am a modern artist. What could be more modern than to paint in response to the world I live in?”  Dawn aims to bring her artistic interpretation to her paintings, rather than laboring for bare realism.  “When someone looks at my portraits, I hope they are engaged with the person,” she explains, “not the painting style.”  Like the artists she so admires — Sorolla, Sargent, and Zorn — Dawn draws on the essence of her subjects, allowing the inner character to shine through.

Most of Dawn’s formal instruction comes from continuing study with master portraitist, Everett Raymond Kinstler. Today, Dawn is an artist in residence at On Track Studios in Franklin, Tennessee.  The opportunity to paint  “en plein air” with colleagues in the Plein Air Painters of the Southeast adds richness and honesty to her studio work.  

She is currently on the faculty of the Peninsula School of Art and the Portrait Society of America, where she holds the office of Vice Chairman. The Plein Air Convention and Expo featured her as an instructor in their conventions in Nevada and California and she is also on the faculty for Plein Air South.  For over 25 years she taught painting as an adjunct instructor at David Lipscomb University.  She continues to teach throughout the country by conducting workshops in oil painting principles and drawing. 

Her work has been featured in Plein Air Magazine, and the American Impressionist Society elected her to Master status in 2016. Whitelaw was one of 10 American women artists invited to exhibit in “Inspiring Figures” at the Butler Institute of American Art in 2010.  She is also a founding member of the Cumberland Society of Painters.

show more

Selected Commissions & Collections

Dawn's work is included in the permanent collection of the Rahr-West Art Museum. as well as numerous private collections throughout the United States.

Honors & Awards

  • The American Art Collector’s Master Award of Excellence at the 2017 AIS Annual Juried Exhibition
  • Master’s Award of Excellence, AIS Small Works Showcase 2017
  • Elected to Master status by the American Impressionist Society, 2016
  • Award of Excellence, AIS National Exhibition 2016
  • Award of Merit, AIS National Exhibition, 2015
  • 1st Place, Piedmont Plein Air Event, High Point, NC, 2014
  • 2nd Place, Door County Plein Air, Fish Creek, WI, 2015 and 2014
  • 3rd Place, Richmond Plein Air Event, Richmond, VA, 2014
  • 2nd Place, Pastel/Dry Medium: Richeson 75: Figure/Portrait International, 2007
  • Award of Excellence, Oil Painters of America Regional Show, 2002
  • Best of Show Award, International Portrait Competition, 2001
  • The Avalon Award for Creative Excellence awarded by Lipscomb University, 1997