My next interview is of local artist Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh, who is based in Berkeley, CA. I only met Dawline once, through a mutual acquaintance at a Creative Morning talk in Oakland. She handed me this beautifully made business card which folded out and included exquisite tiny versions of her work. I was immediately intrigued and promptly went home and "stalked" her. The more I looked, the more I liked. Her work is so varied, from prints to paintings to photographs to drawings yet, her voice is clear and distinctive. There's a simplicity to her work that I'm drawn to and I was so delighted when she agreed to the interview so, I can find out more about her process. I hope you enjoy the interview. Also, note that she has a few shows coming up in the next few months so, please take this opporunity to see her work in person.
Work in Progress
How would you describe your work?
I would describe my work as figurative with quirks. My focus is not on the perfection of a form but more on the atmosphere surrounding it. I use a lot of strong, confident color with a heavy line. Recently I've been making a lot of work about home and security using the architecture of the Bay Area as a recurring image.
What mediums do you most frequently use?
I consider myself a multidisciplinary artist. I love learning about and experimenting with different mediums. Lately I've been doing a lot of pen and ink work with watercolor and gouache, but I also love to create linoleum block prints.
Describe your workspace.
I have a couple of set ups - one at home, and one at Oxtail Studios and Gallery in Berkeley, which I share with a jeweler. My shared space is great for those times that I need to work on a focused project with minimal distraction. I get to set things up there and leave it in between work sessions. My home set up is a little larger, so I can spread out a bit.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you. Do you keep any routines? Are you a full time artist or do you have another job?
I have a full time day job, but luckily my studio is a five minute walk from work. I try to purposefully unwind between my work day and studio time to minimize distractions and burnout, so I'll grab something to eat, scroll through Facebook and Instagram and think about what I want to do before I get started. Going to the studio is a lot like going to the gym- there are some days that I feel too tired to go, but I try to go even when I don't feel up to it because it's crucial to my well being. I usually walk out feeling invigorated and excited about the next work session. When I work at home it's a little bit more casual - I work on projects all day, take breaks to walk my dog and run errands. I usually work with a podcast or documentary playing in the background.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find inspiration everywhere - in daily walks, commuting to and from work, anecdotes I hear from friends or reading the news. I try to visually document everything using my phone, or by making quick sketches when I have my sketchbook. I also jot notes down on my phone when I get stray ideas to refer back to later.
What’s some good advice you got that you would like to share with other artists?
My advice to other artists is keep producing. Practice your craft everyday. I used to get that advice all the time and didn't heed it until I realized that every time I started making work again after a long break I was working in a vastly different way than the last time. It was interesting, but I wasn't giving myself the chance to complete a thought and create a cohesive body of work. My work was fractured.
I would also say: Go outside, meet new people, get involved in things you care about. Take a class to expand your skill set. Give yourself a chance to grow and don't settle for the cliche of what an artist should be - isolated, misunderstood and competitive. There is strength in connection.
What are your thoughts about being a woman and an artist? How does it inform your work, if it does?
I've been an artist for as long as I've had a self identity, so it's hard for me to
About the Project
I created this series because I was constantly meeting amazing artists in the Bay Area, mostly woman. I wanted to know more about their work, process and who they are so, I created a project that would give me a reason to contact them. The interviews help me grow as an artist and I hope that by sharing them others will benefit too.
separate from that and be objective. The same with being a woman - I grew up with three strong and independent sisters who acted as my mirrors, so there have never been any alternatives for me. It bothers me that for many people art made by women is viewed in a box marked "female art" as opposed to "art".
I remember growing up and reading books in English class, and being asked to identify with the point of view of a male protagonist. I think that was when I made a conscious decision that I too was going to turn my voice into a universal voice. It has to go more than one way.
Is there anything about the Bay Area that is especially beneficial or not so beneficial to artists? Any Bay Area artists that you follow or admire?
The best thing about being an artist in the Bay Area - specifically the East Bay and San Francisco - is that there is an art niche for everyone. Animators, classical painters, photographers, street artists, illustrators, abstract painters, people who make spiritual or secular work, you name it, all have a market and peers in the Bay Area. There are venues for everyone to show their art - you just have to do the research.
There are actually so many Bay Area artists that I admire and follow, that to list some and exclude the others would be a shame. I have been thinking of a project that will give me a chance to name and honor all of the artists that influence me in some way, so look out for that at some point soon.
Who are you reading, looking at or listening to these days?
I haven't read a book in ages, which I miss. I haven't had the time recently to sit and get lost in a book. I have a regular roster of podcasts that I listen to while I work at home: Back Story with the American History Guys, Reply All, Invisiblia and Radiolab. I'll watch just about any documentary about space or World War II. I'm no snob though - I love binge watching comedies. I recently watched the entire season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in two days.
Any final words or thoughts or upcoming projects that you would like to share? What are you working on these days?
I'm currently working on a show of work that my friends and I put together that will run April 3rd - May 31st at the New Parkway Theater, followed by exhibits at NIAD art Center in Richmond in May and a solo show at Art Attack SF in June. It feels amazing to be able to realize a lifelong dream and do what I love.