Ikouii Feature | Dylan Pierce
It’s World Autism Awareness Day and we want to celebrate artist, Dylan Scott Pierce. His extraordinary ability to capture the true strength and spirit of Africa in his watercolors, is spell bounding! Dylan’s exquisite attention to detail evokes the majestic and rawness of wildlife in its most authentic state.
At the age of two, he was sketching. By ten, there was a waiting list for commissioned artwork. From an early age, he has received local and nationwide media attention. Dylan has been featured in numerous publications, included the National Geographic Today, Wildlife Art Magazine, and Teen People Magazine. Dylan has overcome challenges and broken barriers related to Asperger Syndrome. His watercolors and love for the wildlife, have been his therapy and inspiration.
What made you venture into watercolor? How did this become your medium of choice?
As a kid I loved to draw all the time. One day while on a family vacation in Florida, I took a watercolor class, it was my first real experience with watercolor and ever since it has been my medium of choice. I later learned oil painting but am always drawn more to watercolor. Watercolor is such an interesting medium. The dynamics of the relationship between the paint and watercolor makes it very fun, the paint will move with water and colors flow into each other. Watercolor also has a brilliant transparent quality that can be so beautiful, allowing the colors on the paper to glow with light reflecting through it off the paper.
You spent several years painting the people and animals of southern Africa, the subject matter for much of your work, which is full of beauty and vulnerability– What was this experience like? How did it inspire your artwork?
When I was growing up, animals were always my main interest in drawing. We went to Africa on safari to paint wildlife, which was amazing, but eventually I was inspired to paint the people as I grew fond of them and got to know them better. I saw many things in the African people that I wanted to learn from, like the joy they have in community and how they take care of each other, and they have a resourcefulness that amazes me, and such a fun sense of humor. I wrote more about how I ended painting the people of Africa here.
How do you think art has influenced you as a person, and one with a disability?
Has being an artist impacted how you cope with challenges as a person on the Autism spectrum?
It’s hard to imagine my life without art, it has shaped my life in so many ways. I have always been very introverted and my peers often could say I was anti-social but art made a way for me to connect with people. From the time I was 12 years old and through my teen years, my mom and I traveled across the country to hundreds of art shows. It was a great experience. I connected with people through my art and would enjoy when people would engage me wanting to know about my paintings. I also liked the camaraderie among my fellow artists at the festivals, we had a good connection through our lifestyle as artists and our shared love of art.
I also feel a sense of satisfaction when people make connections with my paintings. It is a special thing how art has a way of communicating a message straight to the soul of the viewer. it is rewarding when someone gets a sense of my experience which I’m expressing through a painting and the viewer appreciates it or identifies somehow with it.
In addition, being an art teacher has definitely changed me in a personal way, it has caused me to come out of my introverted and disconnected way of relating, to enjoying people more in engaging in conversation with more confidence. Through teaching art I’ve learned how to communicate more and more clearly over the years. Also, I’ve made relationships with my students through our shared love of art. I feel I have my friends in my students (and mothers), haha!
Was art your immediate vehicle for coping?
Yes, painting is always a place where I get focused and in the zone, and troubles are easily forgotten. I put music on and am so engaged with the paint and water, in the moment it’s like nothing else exists. I feel completely at home there, and I also feel like it is a place I connect with God. I may have coping mechanisms such as cleaning, organizing, pistachio ice cream, or going on a long hike in the woods, but painting is more fun and much more satisfying than those, haha.
You wrote on your blog about losing your passion for painting to enjoying it now more than ever – How did this happen?
At one point years ago, painting had become like a chore to me, the joy I’d always had was gone. It’s a terrible feeling to feel like you’ll never have the joy again and not know why. I’d gotten into a habit of copying what I see while painting, it had lost it’s creativity. When I first became a student at Chris diDomizio’s art school, he saw it and explained to me what I was going through before I even told him, he understood it well because he’d been there too. Chris gave me back the joy in creating, he taught me how to tell a story with art which made the process more meaningful and satisfying. I enjoy art more now than ever before.
You have a new exhibition opening this month! Tell us about that.
I will be having my first museum show, titled Legacy of Hope soon at the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art. They will display nearly 35 of my paintings from Africa, people and wildlife. The opening night is April 14th (6-8pm) and is up until June 17th.
Which artists influence you – why?
Stephen Scott Young, Mary Whyte, Liu Yi, and Dean Mitchell, these are some living artists who inspire me. Besides their technical abilities, I like the way they see their subject which allows the viewer to see the subject in a special light. They tell stories with their work and make you feel like you get a sense of who the person is and what their life is like. I’m also inspired by Dean Mitchell’s unique life story (described in the book: Against All Odds) as an African-American artist who grew up in poverty. With determination, he would not accept the limitations of others in his pursuit of becoming an accomplished artist.
What advice would you give to other artists?
Work from life more, it will teach you and make your eye more sensitive and discerning, it also will force you to capture the essence quickly and make you decide what’s important and what is not. Painting and drawing from life is challenging but it will cause you to grow as an artist. Also, paint what you love, don’t worry about what others are doing and about finding your style. It’s like penmanship, you just have to do it a lot and your unique style will come naturally.
Images Courtesy of Artist, Dylan Pierce