Passion won out over fear when Red Deer-raised Micaela Dawn decided to make art her career.
The Lindsay Thurber high school graduate dropped the “safer” psychology courses she was taking at Red Deer College and enrolled at the Alberta College of Art and Design to become an illustrator.
Four years after graduating from ACAD in 2014, her decision is definitely paying off.
The Calgary-based artist’s work has appeared in the art compendium Spectrum 23, she created six comic book covers for Victor Lavalle’s Destroyer series, and a variant cover for Saladin Ahmed’s Abbott comic.
She has also won the rare chance to exhibit her work in a booth at the San Diego Comic Con International next month.
“This is a huge thing for me,” said Dawn (who uses her first and middle names as her artist moniker — she was known as Micaela Blondin de Boer in high school).
As winner of the Kevin Workman Foundation’s Sponsored Artist Program, she will meet a lot of influential people who could ignite her career at the world’s biggest comic/pop culture convention.
Each year the San Diego-based foundation gets contest entrants from around the world. Dawn was chosen as their 2018 sponsored artist because of her unique “colourful, confident style” — which reflects the same boldness she has shown in life.
Dawn admitted that fear has been her constant motivator — always challenging her to push through her doubts and be true to herself.
At art school she overcame a personal stigma: That being a digital artist was somehow “lesser” than being a conventional artist — even though she uses the same drawing skills.
Before that, Dawn faced up to a bigger challenge — coming out as a lesbian while still living in her hometown of Red Deer.
While she can still remember the nervousness she felt getting off local transit buses with her pride pins stuck to her backpack, Dawn doesn’t think this city was any more intolerant than anywhere else at a time before society’s shift towards inclusion.
She recalled Lindsay Thurber as a pretty supportive place. She connected with many people in the local arts scene. Among her Red Deer influences is painter Susan Woolgar, ceramicist Dawn Candy and the Harris-Warke Gallery — which often carries experimental exhibits on the second floor of Sunworks on Ross Street.
Being a professional artist has pushed Dawn to become an entrepreneur. She still works full time as a designer for a children’s health care app, but makes a point of regularly posting her art images on social media.
She said editors at comic-book company Boom! Studios saw her angular, graphic works on Twitter and asked her to make covers for the Destroyer series.
The artist, who also performs as part of The 404s improv/comedy group, believes it helps to be an extrovert when marketing your work. But “the Internet’s also your friend if you’re an introvert,” she added, since anonymity can be an option.