Restorative Painting: The Architecture of Memory

I met Pat Wheeler at the Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC) in 2009. I had signed up for her The Architecture of Memory: Paintings and Constructions class, using plaster, acrylics, and cold wax. I was hooked. I proceeded to take Pat’s class for several years to hone my skills, but also to be in Pat’s presence and experience her energy, passion, and welcoming spirit. Pat and I became friends and I view Pat as an important mentor in my art journey.


A week ago, I received an email from Pat, asking if I could step in for her and teach both of her Pacific Northwest classes: one at OCAC and the other at Sitka. I was humbled, honored, and a bit overwhelmed. Plans were set in motion. Pat wrote a letter to her enrolled students and class descriptions were revised. Pat and I were in steady contact, collaborating on how I could best represent her in the classes, while bringing my own interpretation and teaching style to the classes.

I was out of town during all of this, taking a class on Whidbey Island. Throughout the week, I was furiously writing myself lists, making notes, reading Pat’s messages and her sources of inspiration. My version of the class began to take shape, starting with Pat’s process, folding in the way I have used Pat’s original process, yet made it my own. I’ve taught my own version of the plaster class myself, but somehow, stepping in for Pat, has a certain reverence to it.

If you aren’t familiar with the process, it is a wonderful experience. Here’s a snippet from the class description:

Dayna works in layers, revealing color, texture, and what came before. Using paint, plaster, charcoal, graphite, scraping, sanding, staining, writing, concealing, and revealing, Dayna will take everyone on a journey of discovery, building up a surface, then tearing a portion away, never fully revealing what came before. Look closely and you’ll see word fragments and decomposing texture. Dayna intentionally utilizes the concept of pentimento, where traces and shadows of earlier layers of paintings are revealed.

A few shots from various stages of the process.


Registration is now open at both OCAC (class runs May 30-June 3) and Sitka (class runs from June 5-June 8). If you have any questions about the classes or the process, please email me:

I will miss seeing Pat this year, but I’m looking forward to her return to the Pacific Northwest next year.


April Open Studios

Once a quarter, on the second Thursday of the month, Studios at the Mill host Art After Dark where we fling open our doors, serve refreshments, and celebrate the arts in our neck of the woods.

We are located on the second floor of the Wool Warehouse at the Willamette Heritage Center, which is across the street from both the Amtrak station and Willamette University, in the heart of Salem. We have 10 artists and everyone opened their door on the evening of April 12th. My studio is located in the NW corner, overlooking the Mill Stream, which runs through the WHC campus. Here’s one of my windows looking up from the outside.

I use my studio at the Mill for special projects since my painting studio is at my home. I love having a space devoted to working with paper, ephemera, book covers, black and white photos, and scraps . . . . all of which I call Salvage Collage.

Of course, I spruced up my space for this quarterly event. It is ever evolving and I love moving things around, touching everything, hanging things, and getting side tracked auditioning various pieces for ongoing projects. Here are photos of my spiffed up studio:



It is always more fun when people are added to the mix.

Our next Art After Dark is Thursday, July 12, 6-8 pm. If you’d like to be added to our studio newsletter e-mailing list, please send me your e-mail address:

The Gift of Art

My mom died suddenly on March 13 after a brief illness. She passed on her own terms, peacefully and after saying goodbye to family and friends. I felt lost and sad. I found myself in my studio a few days after her passing, mixing oil paint with cold wax, and beginning to find my way back to myself.

About a week ago, a friend contacted me and said she was unable to attend a workshop in Portland and wanted to gift me her place in the class as she felt it would be a healing place for me to be. I met Kathleen two years ago on a cruise to South America and we hit it off. We were both artists, so we had endless conversations about creativity and various mediums, and in one South American port (neither of us remember where we were), we spent the day walking, talking, and taking photographs. We stayed in contact and became even better friends.

At first I felt mixed about taking the three-day class, then I realized it was exactly what I needed. Kathleen knew.

The class was taught by Serena Barton, an artist I have known for several years and always loved her work. I told Kathleen I would be honored to take her place and I packed my bags for the three-day class in Portland. I’ve worked in oil and cold wax for several years and have taught it myself, but I put on my student hat and just showed up, ready to immerse myself into the process.

Serena is an excellent teacher, and her methods are wild and free. I love this photo of her demo space.

I started slowly, just laying down paint, with the idea of working looser and wilder than my usual careful self. I painted so many things, all of which got covered over and transformed by the third and final day. These are all starts, none of which remain.


I learned some new things, like applying India ink as the first layer, which I transformed so much, none of the India ink even shows, but I know that initial bold mark making is in there somewhere.

Studio views of the class.

Studio views of the space.


Here are the pieces I completed (or are in process).

Parting shot.

Thank you Serena, for three great days of art-making, and thank you, Kathleen, for your generosity and friendship.

If anyone had ever told me I would get to the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market . . . .

. . . . I would not have believed them. But it happened last Sunday.


We were on vacation in Los Angles last week to see an uncle, visit museums, art galleries, and just do some general tromping about. The sites we wanted to visit were divided by neighborhoods to minimize the time spent in the car. On a whim, right before we left for the airport, I googled “flea markets.” The Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market, of course, popped up. It is held one Sunday of the month. Guess which Sunday it was being held? (Insert gasping and hyperventilating.)

We arrived early (they have different entrance times and prices, we were there by 8:00 am), got our bearings, and set off for the Orange Area: Antiques and Collectibles. This was important because there are 2,500 booths, so we needed to narrow our focus.

My focus for the market was black and white photos, paper debris, and any sort of ephemera; I rounded up a smattering of everything.But the mother lode was a scrapbook I saw, walked away, then had to go back and purchase.

The scrapbook belonged to Virginia Anita Bugg, and chronicled her early 1930s high school experience on through getting engaged and married. The scrapbook was crammed and crumbly, so when I got home I carefully deconstructed each page into categories: letters, photos, gum wrappers, menus, ticket stubs, dance cards . . . . I even discovered a smashed celluloid doll toward the back. Take a look:

The deconstruction:

I’ve already integrated the pieces into my studio and I’m looking forward to creating new lives with the remnants of Virginia’s life.

Back to the Flea Market, some photos of roaming about.

And the rest of my bounty:


What’s Your Story: Back-to-Back Workshops

Last October, I taught a one-day workshop titled What’s Your Story, Real or Imagined: Telling Stories Through Black and White Photos. It was very successful and I had several artists tell me they wanted to take it if I offered again. I decided to turn the one-day workshop into two days and to hold it at The Art Studios at Mission Mill, where I have a studio.

I limited the class size to four participants so we would have plenty of room to move around in the smallish classroom. Both workshops filled quickly as I contacted everyone who had mentioned they were interested.

The two workshops were a blur of energy and activity. Rather than try and share the individual workshops, I’m just going to post a series of photos which represent the frenzy of creativity that took place the last two weekends of January.

On our first day, everyone created a series of backgrounds using acrylic paint, a variety of pencils, inks, plaster, and stains. On day two, mixed media collages were created using vintage letters, envelopes, and ephemera, and then a black and white photograph was added – either the photo of a stranger from my stash, or a photo of a relative, brought by the student.

Show and tell. Just a sampling of the collages created over the two weekends.


What’s Your Story: Open Studios Mini Workshop

Once a quarter, The Art Studios at Mission Mill, host Art After Dark/Open Studios. Our most recent event was January 11th. I was the featured artist in the studio gallery/classroom and I decided in addition to hanging some of my recent work, I would offer a mini workshop on creating a modified What’s Your Story mixed media collage. I set up some of the walls in the gallery as teaching walls. One wall told the history of the project, another showed samples of possible backgrounds, and then one wall showed the progression from blank 140 lb. watercolor paper to finished mixed media collages. (The other two walls were my most recent work using old, defaced books, but I’ll share those pieces in a separate post.)

I created three small sample collages, done using original letters, envelopes, and an assortment of ephemera, along with photocopies of black and white photographs.

With my guidance, guests were invited to create a little mixed media collage.

All ages participated, and Alex sat and read old letters to us during the evening.

Of course, sometimes the adults found it difficult to resist reading the letters.

Some of the collages created during the evening event.

All of this was a great set up and preparation for last weekend, when I taught the first of my two-day full length What’s Your Story, Real of Imagined workshop. I’ll be doing a post about my workshops in the coming days.




2017 Was a Wild Ride!

The past year has been the most exciting and exhilarating of my art career. It all stared in the fall of 2016 when I told people, I have nothing major on my calendar for the upcoming year. I plan to just play and explore. And then everything changed . . . .

I’ve blogged about most of these events, but here is an abbreviated summary of my 2017 art life.

Spare Parts Show at the Salem Public Library


Art Featured in New Book: Cold Wax Medium

Solo Show at Guardino Gallery: Waterlines

Salem Art Association Mentorship Program

Taught an Oil and Cold Wax Class at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology

Private Master Class with Pat Wheeler

Two Person Show at Borland Gallery

11th Annual Day of the Dead Show at Guardino Gallery

Artist in Residence at the Salem Art Association Art Annex

Salem Art Association Panel Discussion

What’s Your Story Workshop

Symbols Show at the Art Annex

Guest on KMUZ Talking About Art

Sitka Art Invitational

17th Annual Guardino Gallery Little Things Show

BEST IN SHOW Something Red Art Walk

It was a great year. And I’m not making any proclamations about 2018. Mum’s the word.

Best in Show!

The 15th annual Something Red Show and Art Walk, sponsored by our local art group, Artists in Action, kicked off on Wednesday night. Artists were invited to submit two pieces of art featuring the color red, which were then juried and placed in locations around downtown Salem. Maps were provided so people were able to take a self-guided art walk to see the 100 entries. The jurors for this year’s show were: David Wilson (Gallery Director at the Bush Barn Art Center, Salem Art Association), Mary Lou Zeek (Gallery Owner and Art Consultant), and Thomas Rudd (Professional Artist/Sculptor and Gallery Curator). One of my pieces was chosen by the owner of Wild Pear Restaurant and the other piece was placed at Elsinore Framing and Fine Art Gallery.

Wednesday night was chilly, but clear and dry, so we bundled up and did the art walk. We found Filaments of Memory in the window of Wild Pear Restaurant, and slipped inside for a photo.

We continued on the walk, ending up at the Elsinore Gallery and Frame Shop, where my other piece, A Seasonal Echo, was hanging with other entries in the special exhibits gallery.

The awards ceremony took place at 7:30 and the room was packed with members and guests. Awards were given for several Bests: Use of Red, Digital, Photography, 3D, 2D, Youth, as well as two Honorable Mentions and two Juror’s Choice. I didn’t know how many awards were to be given out, or what the categories were, so as the awards ceremony was coming to an end, it was announced they would  give out the final award, Best in Show. When my name was called, I was so shocked, I didn’t comprehend that I had won. In additional to a big, beautiful ribbon, I received an award of $100! I had no idea there was money involved.

When Howard I left for the evening, we walked back over to Wild Pear Restaurant, so I could stand in front of the window with my Best in Show ribbon.

“Filaments of Memory,” 24×24, plaster, oil, and cold wax, from my Evoke Series, by Dayna J. Collins.

What’s Your Story: Artist in Residence Concludes

My month long Artist in Residence  (AIR) at the Salem Art Association’s Art Annex, ended on November 22. I moved into my temporary studio on October 24th (and blogged about it on October 25th and again on October 31st). It was a busy and exciting month of creating a series of mixed media collages on watercolor paper, as well as pushing myself into some new territory.

Where I hung out for a month, located in the middle of Bush’s Pasture Park.


Welcome to my studio . . . .



During my Artist in Residence, I had open studio hours and loved having visitors.

A page from my guest book.


Stephanie and Tory stopped for a visit; Jim and Jo Hockenhull were frequent visitors and brought their nephew.


Visitors to the Annex stopped to check out my project.


Cynthia worked on collages she started in my earlier workshop. Howard stopped by to wire some of my art.


Irene enjoyed looking at my old photos.


Nic (Dave) and Sloy (Sandra) stopped for a visit.

I completed an expansive body of work. Here are ten of my completed mixed media collages, all created using black and white photos of strangers.


For those curious about what the day-to-day experience of my AIR was like, I’m sharing some of my journal entries and corresponding photographs.

Wednesday, October 25: First official day of AIR. Fine tuning my set up. Brought in another table, also a comfortable roller chair. I will finalize my class packets today, hang sample collages, and hopefully get started on sample technique cards: paint, plaster, transfer, inks . . . .


Wednesday, November 1: Ready to settle in to do my own work, but first I need to finish putting things away from Saturday’s workshop and put away my bounty from Sunday’s antique EXPO. Of course, all my stuff makes me reevaluate how I have things organized, but I get joy from organizing it and I am continually inspired and come up with new ideas.

Wednesday, November 3: My brain is full and bursting with ideas. I try and jot notes as ideas form and then transfer the ideas into my journal. TAKE AWAY: Dedicated daily studio time is essential for spinning off new ideas and to create a body of work. Yesterday I worked with transfers and backgrounds. I will continue with that thread. Also, wood. I am moving away from paper and toward wood.

Wednesday, November 8: A full day ahead, as many hours as I want or need. Continuing to work on wood pieces, especially the crate pieces. I must tackle the center of the wood pieces; stymied by the transfer image I put in the middle. I need to build a surface. Color? Plaster? Original style: collage on complex background? Or grid using papers, and then unified by collage (simple or complex). Yikes. I’m stuck.

Thursday, November 9: Yesterday was extremely productive and I landed on an idea for the three wood pieces, which gave me focus. Today I will hopefully create three book cover collages (or five . . . .). I will also finish 3-5 collages for my wall in the style of the original pieces. Fun to continue expanding that vision. Not bored with it after all.

Wednesday, November 15: Rainy and I wanted to stay home, tucked inside, but I’m honoring my commitment and I showed up. Puttering with paper collages and getting ready to sand and stain my plastered boards. I’ll begin to lay out book covers, matching a photo with a library check out card – I’ve got some good ones. Counting today, only four more days of my AIR . . . . unless I work this weekend. It’s possible.

Three completed pieces showcasing defaced book covers.


“The Accuracy of Memory,” by Dayna J. Collins.


“Years Bleach Away the Sense of Things,” by Dayna J. Collins.


“The Familiarity of Something,” by Dayna J. Collins.

Tuesday, November 20: Final day of working in the studio. Feeling sad to be leaving. I’ve treated my time here as a job, showing up regularly and moving my projects along, gaining new ideas and insights along the way. Today is a bit about photography – capturing images, more than enough. My friend Stephanie said I was part archivist, part storyteller, part mad scientist. Another quote to post.

My big, beautiful, and expansive inspiration wall.


Wednesday, November 21: Packing up and moving out.

Taking down the last of my inspiration wall.


Packed up and moved out.


I’ve spent the past few days getting settled into Studio A, my space for the past three years at The Art Studios at Mission Mill, located on the second floor of the Wool Warehouse at the Willamette Heritage Center. It feels good to be back and I’ve already been working on my What’s Your Story project.

I’ll end by sharing a quote from my friend, Stephanie Brockway:

I love your alternative history exploration. This speaks to me so loudly, not everyone was important. Some lived quiet lives, with no heirs, lives boxed up, taken to the curbside and scattered to the wind. Taking the broken fragments, detritus, and ephemera is such an act of love and respect… conserving with a twist, the odd elements of the human condition never cease to amaze me, too. I’m hyperventilating about our next archaeological dig and what might be found and discovered.

Sitka Art Invitational

This premier event is taking place this weekend and I am one of the lucky participating artists. I submitted three pieces of art, all loosely related to ecology and nature.

“Magnetic Attraction,” 18 x 18 inches, plaster, oil and cold wax, by Dayna J. Collins.


“The Smell of Salt Lingered in the Air,” 20 x 20 inches, plaster, oil, and cold wax, by Dayna J. Collins.


“A Seasonal Echo,” 12 x 42 inches, plaster, oil, and cold wax, by Dayna J. Collins.


Friday night was the opening reception, Party With the Artists. Every inch of the exhibition hall was packed with artists, art lovers, and collectors. There were delicious appetizers, drinks, and live music, and of course, lots of art filling the space.

I don’t know if any of my pieces have sold, I’ll find out later today, but fingers crossed that I won’t be bringing all three pieces back home.



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