He’d been doing oil paintings and other artwork since high school.
“Somebody had told me, maybe it was my art teacher, that watercolor was the hardest medium,” he said. “So I found a watercolor artist in North Canton, Bette Elliott. She became my teacher and I fell under her wing.”
That was 25 years ago. Today, Lawson is an award-winning and celebrated watercolorist, known regionally for his distinctive and vibrant cityscapes.
Lawson gradually worked his way up through Elliott’s painting classes to her top-level critique class, comprised of experienced watercolor artists.
“I tried to compete with the other people, who were all painting barns and flowers. They had mastered that, and I didn’t do so well with it,” he said. “About 2002, I started experimenting with shapes and figures and then it became city scenes. That really became my voice. That was my style.”
Because his daughter Emily is based in New York City—first as a costumer for Jim Henson and now an entertainment lawyer—Lawson often travels to Manhattan, where he routinely photographs street scenes to paint from. “I’m often taking photos at the same places, but there’s always different lighting, different cars, different people,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of material. Midtown is probably the best, but Brooklyn is great, too.“I started off with really good cameras,” he said. “Then I decided I was better off with a point-and-shoot, then I found out the iPhone works pretty darn good. That’s my sketchbook.
That’s how everything comes about. I work exclusively from my own photographic reference material. All of my artwork is from an event when I was there. I might use bits and pieces from more than one photograph to create a composition that tells a story.”
The artist’s city scenes inspire recognition with some viewers.
“People will say, ‘I’ve been there’ or ‘I know where that is,’ ” Lawson said.
Lawson has found much-deserved success with his paintings.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said.
He took best of show at the Little Art Gallery May Show in North Canton and the Stark County Artists Show at the Massillon Museum. He took second place in the Ohio Watercolor Society’s Watercolor Ohio 2015. He has had solo exhibits at the Canton Museum of Art and Summit Artspace. He has had paintings in group shows at the American Watercolor Society and the Pleiades Gallery, both in New York City.
Lawson numbers many local painters as his friends and speaks positively about the effects of ArtsinStark, First Friday, 2nd April Galerie (now Avenue Arts Marketplace) and the Canton Artists League on the local art scene.
A retiree, Lawson was employed for 32 years by Marathon Oil (previously Ashland Petroleum) in maintenance engineering, construction management and regulation compliance.
As a creative artist, Lawson likens himself to an author writing a novel.
“People read a book and it’s like a dialogue that they’re having with the author,” he said. “My self-expression is painting and telling a story about a moment in time. Every time I’m making a painting, I’m not only doing it because I enjoy the process, but because I enjoy reliving the moment.”
For more information, visit tedlawsonartist.com.