Though Dawn Buckingham was a creative kid growing up, she said she did not expect to pursue art as a career.
“Sometimes, an artist will identify as someone who knew right from the time as an early child that they were destined to become a fine artist,” Buckingham said. “I didn’t fall into that category.”
Instead, Buckingham pursued a career in education, as an elementary school teacher for roughly 20 years before working to develop curriculum, programming and training teachers for a national education company.
When she retired, Buckingham pivoted to working with a nonprofit education group that created hands-on learning kits out of business and industry materials that might otherwise have gone to a landfill, she explained.
“That was kind of the end of my career and a really creative and joyful part of what I did, beyond what I loved doing in the classroom with kids,” Buckingham said.
It wasn’t until 12 years ago, when Buckingham took a local recreation department seminar on working with pastels, that she knew she wanted to be an artist.
Through her newfound passion, Buckingham continues to teach, offering pastel classes and workshops.
Now, Buckingham primarily works in soft pastels, but she plays with oil, watercolor and mosaics, too, she added.
Buckingham notes that working with pastels “is a very direct application; there is not a lot of drying time.”
“In the very beginning, I really learned to pastel paint as a plein-air painter,” she continued. “I was outside, enjoying nature where I love to be, and pastel painting was kind of an extension of that, because you don’t need to carry any liquids or solvents; it’s just a box and your surface.”
The impressionistic landscape artist will be joining one other South Orange County artist in Sorrento, Italy in October to display their art pieces at the Cloisters at St. Francis as a part of a visual arts exchange through Dana Point Sister Cities. Four other South Orange County artists who are unable to make the trip will have their work displayed in Sorrento as well.
“I am so excited for a couple of reasons,” Buckingham said. “One, to be a part of a cultural exchange, getting to share my art with other artists in another location. I think the camaraderie and building of community and shared cultural values, those are the things that excite me the most about being a part of this program.”
Buckingham will bring two pieces that represent Dana Point and the Southern California coast that were on display at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach and another piece “that represents a Nocturne at the Back Bay.”
“I love really capturing different times of day and moodiness,” Buckingham said. “I have one piece that is painted along the coast, showing Dana Point with towering clouds and a bright sunny day.”
“I have another piece that is the main beach in Laguna right at sunset of the marine layer coming in, so it’s really moody,” Buckingham continued.
Buckingham added that she’s excited for the opportunity to participate in the Dana Point Sister Cities visual art exchange.
“I’m just so appreciative of the Dana Point community for their support, the fundraisers and the opportunity for artists to ship work to this event,” Buckingham said.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported that six artists would be traveling to Sorrento, Italy to represent Dana Point this October. Because of unforeseen circumstances, artists Mike Tauber and Dawn Buckingham are now the only two South Orange County artists going. The other four artists have sent their artwork to be displayed at the Cloisters at St. Francis in Sorrento as a part of a visual arts exchange through Dana Point Sister Cities. This story has been updated to reflect that.