Capturing faces with character
This story was featured in the February 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
When it comes to art, 2013 was a very good year for John Philbin Dolan. He was a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine’s annual competition, he won a top award in a Pastel Journal competition, and he attained Master Circle status in the International Association of Pastel Societies. As if that wasn’t enough, he was also juried into seven group shows, including the American Miniatures show at Settlers West Galleries in Tucson, AZ, which opens this month.
Dolan is also a self-described Renaissance man—he was an actor, a restaurant owner, and a technology consultant before giving that up to become a full-time fine artist. In 2000, while he was still working in technology, he began taking private art lessons on Saturdays in the studio of a Chicago-area artist not far from his home. Six years later he began applying to juried shows and competitions, but he received a series of rejection letters. Then one day in 2007, when he was on the verge of giving up, he received a letter of acceptance into a juried Pastel Society of America show and, the following day, an invitation to membership. In the summer of 2007 he attended a workshop at the Florence Academy of Art, and this was followed by a four-year classical art program with Matthew and Magda Almy at the Ravenswood Atelier in Chicago.
Although he also paints still lifes in oil, Dolan is known mainly for his pastel portraits such as LOST, which depicts a Chicago homeless man. “I love faces and ones that have character,” Dolan says. “I came up with the title LOST because it seemed like the gentleman had had a [whole different] life before [he became homeless]. And the title left room for the viewer’s own interpretation.”
A few months ago the artist, a fifth-generation Chicagoan, moved with his family to Santa Fe. The plan had been in the works for a while, but his house was on the market for six years before it sold and he could make the move. “My wife, Diane, is originally from California. After 28 years of Chicago winters, Santa Fe was a more desirable climate for her, while also being a major art market for me,” Dolan says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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