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Art “I guess it makes me who I am.”

Local artist Dawn Marie Tipton has had art on her mind since she was a child. Now, with colorful and inspiring mixed-medium works of art, she is living a dream that serves to sooth her mind and ease daily stress.
“I’ve wanted to be an artist ever since I was a little girl,” Tipton said. “When I was five or six, my mom bought me my first easel, and I’ve loved it ever since. For me, (my work) is what defines who I am. It’s almost like an internal healing process for me. It calms me, and it soothes me. When I go into the studio, it relaxes me. I guess it makes me who I am.”
An Erwin resident, Tipton works in East Tennessee State University’s Fine Arts Department and has two children, 15 year-old Jeremy and 12 year-old Hunter, who attend school in Unicoi County. In fact, earlier this year, Tipton painted two pieces of art to hang in the entrance of the new Unicoi County Middle School, where Hunter – a 6th grader – would be among the first to attend the new school.
“I thought it would be nice to commemorate the new school and donate it since my son is one of the first students in the new school,” she said.
When she approached Director of Schools Denise Brown with the idea, she said Brown was excited.
“She told me to paint whatever I wanted,” Tipton said of Brown. “She was excited for some new work to go up. I wanted to do something that wouldn’t go out of date, which is why I used the inspirational words and made it colorful. I wanted to make it appealing to children and adults alike.”
Now hanging in the entrance of UCMS are two paintings, created to inspire students, bearing bright colors and words like: create, journey, happiness and smile.
Tipton, and her fiance, Kurt Allen, who lives in Burnsville, sell their art via the couple’s website, as well as at art and craft shows.
“My two favorite are the (Unicoi County) Apple Festival and the Mount Mitchell Craft Fair in Burnsville,” she said.
Allen, a heavy equipment operator for Young and McQueen Grading Company in Burnsville, is a more traditional artist than Tipton. Allen is a naturalist and is inspired by the scenery around him. He has been drawing for years.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve always drawn,” Allen said. “I’ve always had a desire to draw and to paint. If I see a pretty landscape or blooming trees, it makes me want to put it on canvas – I just have a desire to paint what I see.”
Tipton said she is inspired to paint by an overwhelming desire to create a work that will speak to her and to others.
“I have a great, huge desire to create,” she said. “My mind is constantly running rampant with ideas of things to paint. I love to mix contrasting colors. It’s hard to describe. I like to mix old distress with the modern. It’s like a modern room with a few pieces of antique furniture – the distressed look spills over in my art.”
Tipton added that her favorite piece she has created happened by happy accident.
“It doesn’t have a title,” she said, “but I was painting on a piece of wood, and I asked my son to help me. We were cutting on a table saw, and it slipped out of my hand and cut a weird groove in it. So I included that into the piece. I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t take anything for it.”
Allen’s favorite painting is called “Winter Scene,” and hangs in his parents’ home. Another favorite painting, “The Orchid,” is one Allen feels showcases his abilities.
“ ‘Winter Scene’ is one of my first full-fledged paintings,” he explained.
“Kurt had mainly drawn when we met four years ago,” Tipton said. “He wasn’t as experienced in painting, but to see his work, you’d think he’d been doing it all his life. His first painting is ‘Winter Scene.’ It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Both artists, Tipton and Allen say they feed off of each other’s creativity in their relationship.
“I can ask for his opinion if I think a piece is missing something, and he can ask for mine,” Tipton said. “We feed off each other. I give him ideas and he gives me ideas.”
In the future, Tipton said she would like to teach art classes in the town of Erwin.
For more information about artwork by Tipton or Allen, visit their website at