CRANFORD, NJ — Local artist Cynthia Dawley, of Cranford, recently combined her passions for painting and Hanson Park by teaching a painting class to raise funds for Hanson Park Conservancy. Dawley, who heads the organization, taught a painting class for all ages and levels at the Cranford Community Center on Thursday, Aug. 3. The class had been originally planned for outdoors in the park, but had to be moved inside due to the weather.
Dawley taught a group of approximately 15 students to paint a red-winged dragonfly on canvas with acrylic paints.
“This is the first paint-party type class I ever taught,” Dawley told LocalSource in an interview at the event. “My goal is to have everyone paint something they can be proud of and maybe teach them something.”
Dawley’s paintings appeared on the famous television show “The Sopranos,” after the show sought the work of local artists to appear on the set.
“A few of my impressionist landscapes were used as artwork in the show as part of the set for the first three seasons,” Dawley said. “The artists were contacted through the counties and they contacted me.”
Dawley taught some painting basics in last week’s class, such as incorporating a light source and adding depth.
“I think it went well,” she said. “I’m glad I never attended a painting-party class because I want to do my own thing and not be the cookie-cutter person. My own personality went into this. My only concern was to have everyone feel proud because if they feel like a failure they will never want to do this again. I tried to make it fun and relaxing. The dragonfly is vibrant and colorful. I definitely want to do it in the park, but it got dark by 8 p.m. so I should probably have the class earlier.”
Dawley, who usually works in oil paints, finds switching mediums can be a challenge. She kept this in mind when creating the project.
“I created a project that would work well in acrylic paint and that could be taught in stages,” she said. “I can’t switch mediums without changing my mindset completely. It’s very nice to incorporate my skills with Hanson Park. I was a member of the board of trustees for many years and I believe in the park and its beauty, so it’s a privilege to be able to help the park in this manner.”
Hanson Park is also an inspiration for many of Dawley’s own work. She enjoys capturing different ideas wherever she goes.
“I combine different ideas,” she said. “I might see flowers in Hanson Park or the clouds in a sunset and put them together in a painting.”
Dawley’s father was a professional artist and mentored his daughter, who began experimenting with painting in his studio as a young adult.
“My father told me that my first still life painting was very good,” Dawley said. “He encouraged me to keep painting. I’ve been doing it for 25 years now and I never went to art school.”
Dawley also works on commission to create paintings upon request. One member of her class happened to own one of her pieces.
“I have one of Dawley’s pieces next to her father’s painting in my living room,” Carolyn Dittmar of Cranford told LocalSource in an interview at the event. “The name of the painting is ‘The Orchid Effect’ and it’s a beautiful color blue. It looks like an orchid greenhouse. I have it right next to her father’s boathouse.”
One of Dawley’s neighbors came to the class to celebrate a birthday.
“It’s my birthday today so I decided to treat myself,” Romy Malin, of Cranford, told LocalSource at the event. “Dawley is my neighbor and a beautiful artist. I wish I could afford her paintings. I wanted to learn from her but she’s too busy to teach me at home. I’m excited to attend a class with her in the park. I’ll bring some friends; it’s a nice community activity.”