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Biodiversity Blog


Tower Girl Gets Her Portrait Done

 "Tower Girl: Peregrine Falcon, 2018" watercolor on paper, 42" x 38"

UT’s resident Peregrine Falcon, Tower Girl, has many fans and admirers. Amongst them are painter and writer, Carol Dawson, who has painted a large watercolor piece featuring the falcon.

This piece is now on display at the Wally Workman Gallery as part of Dawson’s solo show. It runs until September 29th and features birds and botanicals as subjects. Her show addresses how birds are both iconic but also seemingly beyond reach. With her paintings, Dawson aims to encourage the viewer to think about birds as equals and how we can contribute to their conservation.  

Carol studied English Literature and Anthropology at UT, and is not only an accomplished painter, but a novelist as well. She took some time to answer some questions about her work.

What attracted you to painting birds?

I first started painting birds after studying an Audubon original in the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth and realizing that, unlike Audubon, who accomplished his astounding achievement by (of necessity) painting dead birds, I wished to capture the sense of powerful life in my subjects. I also prefer for them to be much larger than their real scale, if possible, so that the viewer will be confronted by his or her equal, and therefore cannot dismiss the creature as being less important than a human. This explains why I always paint birds staring straight into the eye of the viewer, making a very direct and immediate connection. In this way I hope to honor the life energy, or chi, of all my subjects.

How did you prepare and select your bird subjects?

I spend a great deal of time watching and photographing birds in the wild. I then choose the photos that capture that straight-on gaze, and draw and paint from those. Personal contact with the bird--or, in the case of Tower Girl, as personal as possible, considering that I studied her for long periods strictly through the livecam, rather than on a flesh-and-blood basis--is an absolute requirement. In fact, Tower Girl is my sole exception to this policy, and I'm very grateful to the Biodiversity Center for offering such access.

Conservation consciousness is, of course, one of my main goals. Each bird presents its own set of challenges to paint, problems to be solved, and solving them is intrinsic to the joy of discovery.

You also are a writer. Are your novels at all informed by your paintings and vice versa?

 Carol Dawson

Since painting is a very different creative process from writing (deploying the opposite hemisphere of the brain), I find that the practice of both permits me to live a very fulfilled life, and, I hope, to transmit that chi to the fellow participant--my viewer or reader.

Dawson’s show can be seen at the Wally Workman Gallery until Sept. 29th. To see more of her work visit https://www.wallyworkmangallery.com/ The address is 1202 West 6th Street
Austin, Texas 78703

Parking is available in the front lot as well as the lot behind the gallery, accessed from the alley off Blanco and Harthan St. Unrestricted street parking is available on Blanco St. and parking is allowed after 7pm on Harthan St.



"Red-tailed Hawk, 2018" watercolor on paper, 40 x 32 inches

cardinal 01

"Munch the Male Cardinal, 2017" watercolor on paper, 40 x 33 inches


"Grackle II, 2016" watercolor on paper, 40 x 30 inches


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