Art Tools of Missy Dunaway

For this series of Art Tools and Gears, we catch up with Missy Dunaway from the US.‏

Having graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and Humanities from Carnegie Mellon University in 2010, Missy Dunaway has been a full-time painter ever since, using ink on paper as her preferred choice of medium. She has also actively pursued her passion in weaving ever since she was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant in 2013 in Turkey where she studied Anatolian textiles and learnt how to weave traditional kilims and knotted pile carpets.

Originally from Annapolis, Maryland, Missy Dunaway is currently based in Portland, Maine and we have invited her to share with us her art-tools, artworks as well as give us an insight to her world of Art.

Qn: Can you introduce yourself to our readers? (How did you discover your passion for what you're doing currently? What has your journey as an artist been like?)

I currently have three main projects: paintings of carpets, paintings of fishing flies, and a book of one hundred paintings that depict my travels abroad. They seem unrelated, but these projects actually flowed from one to the next quite naturally:

My parents collect Middle Eastern carpets, so I always had an appreciation for their bold colors and geometric designs. I was pretty clueless about their origins, so I started painting the rugs in my home to acquaint myself with different patterns. I learned that design, color and symbols are all specific to a country, village and weaver. I favored Anatolian designs and wanted to learn more about their cultural significance, so in 2013 I moved Istanbul with a Fulbright Fellowship to study and paint Anatolian rugs.

During my grant year I spent Christmas in Devon, England with a friend and her family. Her father fly fishes and shared his collection of flies, explaining how each was made, which feathers were used in its construction, and which fish species it attracts. The regional specificities of fly patterns reminded me of carpets, and I fell in love with the art form. Just as I had done with carpets, I began painting fishing flies to familiarize myself with different styles.

While I was abroad I began painting landscapes and cityscapes in a Moleskine sketchbook. It was a relaxing way to end a day spent researching textiles. The journal is quite straightforward—it’s simply a visual diary that recounts my memories, thoughts and emotions. Now at one hundred paintings, it’s still growing and is my favorite project.

Qn: What are your art-tools and materials that you use for your paintings?

I paint with acrylic ink in a Moleskine sketchbook with kolinsky sable watercolor brushes and dip pens. Large paintings are created on watercolor paper. I never expected to become a sketchbook enthusiast. The practice started because I was required to keep one as an art student. After graduation I moved to Brooklyn and my sketchbook was the only media my tiny bedroom could accommodate. This was especially true when I began traveling, so the books continued to develop and I grew to love them. Now I paint in journals because I want to, not because I have to.

Qn: What do you enjoy most and enjoy least about acrylic painting?

I actually do not use acrylic paint. I use acrylic ink, which is a pigment ink medium. Ink is notoriously fugitive, so this variety has acrylic binders to improve permanence. It’s a versatile medium that can create opaque color or thin washes when diluted with water. It’s similar to gouache or watercolor.

Qn: I see from your website that you tie and paint 'fishing flies' - Can you share with us more? (What is a 'fishing fly' and how do you create it?) (Can you share with us a picture or two of your fishing flies too?)

A fly is a handcrafted imitation insect tied to a hook for fishing trout and other freshwater fish. Flies are created by tying feathers, fur and synthetic materials to a hook by winding thread around the metal shaft. Every fly pattern imitates a species of insect in the nymph stage. Fly fishermen “read the river” before choosing a fly: native insects, weather, and how the fish are feeding will all determine which fly is used.

I’m not good at tying flies; I just learned a few basic patterns to better understand my subject matter and inform my paintings. I can tie a pretty decent woolly bugger (as shown below) and bead head soft hackle, though.

Qn: Is it challenging to weave a carpet? Can you share with us how the process of creating your collection of carpets? How long does it take you to complete weaving, and where do you get the inspirations for your carpet design from? :)

Similarly to my fishing project, I learned weaving to better understand my subject matter and inform my paintings. I took lessons from a master weaver in Istanbul for several months and completed a small kilim, but I am not a professional weaver. In my short experience, I learned that weaving requires a lot of patience and is rough work for your fingers.

The intention of my research was to create informed paintings of significant Anatolian carpets. I wanted my painting technique to mimic weaving, so I filled large fields of color with tiny interlocking shapes. The technique is very repetitive and tedious—like weaving. The designs are inspired by traditional motifs, but they are not copies of carpets. I look at a real carpet for a template, but as the painting progresses I alter the pattern, change colors and make mistakes. The finished painting is always different from the starting template.

Qn: What are your art-materials you use to design and create your carpets?

My carpet paintings are rendered with acrylic ink on 140lb cold-press watercolor paper.

Qn: Can you tell us more about your experiences living in Istanbul, Turkey & Morocco to learn textile weaving? (How long were you there for? What was the most interesting or scariest experience you encountered living all alone in a foreign land with different culture?)

Apartment hunting abroad is always difficult, especially in Istanbul, a city of 14 million people. I had never been to Turkey before, so when I arrived I could hardly pronounce street names, let alone know fair prices, good neighborhoods, or where to find a roommate. Internet forums said most expats lived near Taksim Square, so I moved there. I arrived shortly after the Gezi protests in 2013, so my neighborhood was often patrolled by tanks and police milling about in riot gear. It was unnerving at first, but I got used to it fairly quickly.

Qn: Do you have any tips to share with regards to acrylic painting and textile weaving?

With any art form, I think it is important to have patience with yourself, your medium and the process. Each painting in my sketchbook has several failed attempts beneath it, but that has never discouraged me. I am quick to ditch a failed painting and start over. It speeds up the learning process.

Qn: Have you read any art-books or art-related instructional mediums that you can share with us?

I always have Hawthorne on Painting at hand, as well as The Human Figure by John Vanderpoehl.

Qn: Finally, who (artist/s) do you think we should feature next?

Kendyll Hillegas! Her colored pencil drawings of food are a feast for the eyes.

We thank Missy Dunaway for sharing with us her artworks, art-tools, and giving us an insight to acrylic art and textile weaving. For more of Missy Dunaway and her artworks, you may visit her website or blog. Missy Dunaway also shares her artworks regularly on her Instagram page.

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