Dawn Schreiner is just fun.
I’ve seen her colorful portraits and other art on Facebook over the last year or so, so I guess I knew that. But when you meet her, what was assumed is confirmed.
As I sit across from her at Panera Bread on Park Avenue, I hear a quote from “My Best Friend’s Wedding” in my head: “Love the bag, love the shoes, love everything.” Cause I did. Her cool haircut, her fun round tortoiseshell glasses, her polka dot shirt, two wrists lined with bracelets and yes, an awesome purse, and even a tote of her own design with a Star Wars Storm Trooper in a Victorian style dress. Fun.
I’m shocked when she tells me, “My high school art teacher told me that I should never be an artist. I should give it up.” She laughs, adding, “That’s not a good memory, but I remember that.” I think of a similar story of my own, as we talk about expectations and doing things differently, the way you want to do them.
Dawn’s work is oftentimes more than art to me — and others I believe — as she creates portraits of actors and actresses, notable television and pop culture icons from decades gone by. There’s Gilligan, Fonzie, Grandpa from “The Munsters,” and Florence Jean “Flo” “Kiss my grits” Castleberry from ’70s TV show “Alice.” Her style has a simplistic magic to it, as, with a portrait she did of Rebecca McCamy, owner of Winter Park’s Sassafras Sweet Shoppe, her subject’s personality comes through in her work. That’s a talent better called a gift.
I ask if her kids like her work and she excitedly responds, “They do! They love it.” Her Star Wars creations are because her son, she says, “Is so obsessed with Star Wars. It sticks in my head, cause we’re watching the movies all the time; we’re talking about it.” But she notes, “He didn’t like the dresses. But I wanted to do it in a way that it wasn’t just straight up Star Wars.”
Dawn brings along a number of my favorite pieces, including the Abominable Snowman and Hermey the elf who wants to be a dentist, both from the classic “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” special I’d eagerly watch each Christmas as a kid. I’m surprised to find much of her work is done on the backside of cardboard food boxes — ingredients or product instructions just opposite her art.
“One thing I realized when I decided I’d start painting everyday was that I didn’t want to make a big carbon footprint,” she says, “so that’s how I started with the boxes.” She says, “Now I have more than I know what to do with,” as people are always saving them for her. I ask if she’s a hoarder and she zigzags a bit, “Not too… well, now I am. But it’s not 10 tons. I don’t have any in my hallways.”
Her favorite canvases, however, are old projector screens, “Because they’re in the garbage and they’re perfectly good. And the greatest part about it is that you can recess it back into its thing and then you can carry it around or move it around.” She talks of them being really fun, but a commitment, because of the time they can require.
I ask her about inspirations and she speaks of Tim Burton. “I can remember going to see ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ in the theater for the very first time and just being star struck by his creativity, between the stripes and the characters and the pumpkin, everything. You know. There’s a certain whimsical quality. It’s dark, but it’s whimsical.”
As Dawn is the type who encourages my inner child to show up spontaneously, I ask her what her maturity level is, and she responds with laughter. “Yeah, yeah, I think I like being an adult, not having to be a teenager anymore, but I like the idea of magical thinking. I still want to have the idea of magical thinking.” She continues, “I tell my kids, when somebody asks you what you want to be when you grow up, I want to hear you say: ‘Happy.’ I want you to say I want to be happy. That’s what I want to hear, whatever that means to people.”
We talk of creativity, creative license and she remarks, “I can mix this with that and that with this and make her look like (something else). I’ve had a couple that they wanted the woman to look like ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ had a couple of those, so I can do that.” Another, she said, “I had one guy who wanted to be a dog. He wanted a funny portrait of himself mixed with his dog.” But similarly, “I turned one woman into a dog, and I don’t think she’s speaking to me now.” We both laugh. “You know, it was in the beginning and she had nothing else she could offer but her dog’s pictures, you know what I mean. If she had talked about Cher, OK, I could have turned her into Cher, but she only talked about her dog.”
And I thought that sounded like a lot of fun.
Local Luv'n Local
Winter Park artist Georgia Roark has been drawing Winter Park-area scenes and landmarks since she was 6 years old and discovered the local-inspired work of another artist on a visit to Park Avenue with her mother. She now has a varied and extensive portfolio of sketches, murals and other paintings and enjoys doing special commission work. Her work can be viewed at GeorgiaRoark.com and prints are also available, as shown, at Miller’s Hardware, 143 W. Fairbanks Ave.
Clyde Moore operates local sites ILUVWinterPark.com, ILUVParkAve.com and LUVMyRate.com, and aims to help local businesses promote themselves for free and help save them money, having some fun along the way. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to ILuv Winter Park on Facebook or Twitter.