Eileen Dorsey: Cleveland’s landscape artist paints from the hip


The last thing painter Eileen Dorsey wants to know is how much exactly she spends on paint. In her first-floor space in 78th Street Studios, table-sized palettes lay flat with paint chips as big as apples. Walls are lined with a dozen oil paintings of a green-and-purple Ireland, those all furnished with the well-known Dorsey schtick: a palette knife and a ton of color.


One of Cleveland’s most active landscape painters, Dorsey has spent the last decade climbing up the local arts scene. Her work, which has made its way in many galleries state-wide, consists primarily of eye-catching landscapes with the semi-realist eye of a modern-day impressionist. “They have my own twists,” she says. “I just can’t help myself. I’m in love with color.”


A graduate in fine arts from Kent State University, Dorsey picked up her palette-knife style off the light suggestion of a professor. After a stint of figure painting in her early twenties, taking residency at the acclaimed Vermont Studio Center, she gravitated to landscapes around 2009—all while keeping her medium intact.


“I was trained to mix colors with a palette knife,” she says. “Because I’m more of an impulsive painter, I skipped using the brush and put the knife straight to the canvas. And over time I just developed a knack for it.”


The result is a thick layering of oils, which forms a rich, in-your-face texture not possible with usual bristles. Skipping the need to add resin or paint thinner (typical for oil painters), Dorsey’s knife-to-canvas style actually makes for more colorful oomph than through conventional methods. And the effect is felt: a Blarney Castle pops with purple; waterfalls fall with thick motion; Yellowstone snow lays on canvas like cotton. One painting–Whistler Rapids, a portrait of a Vancouver stream Dorsey visited a few years back–won her the top prize from the National Arts Program in 2011.


Other than her annual excursions around the country—most recently a two-week trip to Hawaii—Dorsey is, of recent, trying her hand at teaching. She leads small classes in her studio at 78th Street. Guiding students through green plains or skinny purple trees, overall it’s for Dorsey to communicate perspective: to help others see what she sees.


“Color is something I’ve always been interested in,” she says. “To me, it’s related to the way colors react to each other in nature. And nature’s something we all have in common, right? It’s kind of our universal language.”


Eileen Dorsey Studio

1305 West 80th Street

Cleveland, Ohio 44102


Photo credit goes to John O’Brien JR for the first two photos.