January 21, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Planning a Year’s Worth of Artwork with Dawn Williams Boyd

Taking charge of your art business isn’t only about bookkeeping, inventorying the work, and promoting your art effectively.

Taking charge of your art business is about assuming 100% responsibility for your actions—all of your actions, especially in your studio.

We all want to increase our productivity and creativity, and Dawn Williams Boyd has mastered doing exactly that by planning ahead.

© 2017 Dawn Williams Boyd, All Through the Night: America's Homeless. Assorted fabrics, cotton embroidery floss, antique quilt, lace, buttons, child's socks, 39 x 61.5 inches. Ron Witherspoon Photography
©2017 Dawn Williams Boyd, All Through the Night: America's Homeless. Assorted fabrics, cotton embroidery floss, antique quilt, lace, buttons, child's socks, 39 x 61.5 inches. Ron Witherspoon Photography.

Dawn makes figurative textile paintings that reveal stories—not always pretty ones—about life in America. Dawn’s work has an unapologetic social activist message that addresses the Black experience, feminine sexuality, social issues, and this country’s politics.

In today’s social and political climate, there aren’t enough hours in the day for Dawn to convey all of the messages she wants to share in her art. She has to carefully plan the body of work she is going to make throughout the year. She takes charge of her production for the entire year.

In our conversation for the Art Biz Podcast, Dawn and I discuss her process for plotting out which pieces she will make each year. We also talk about why now is not the time to make art that matches the couch, what kinds of conversations she wants people to have around her work, and how she makes the valuable connections that are helping her reach her most ambitious goals.


Music by Wildermiss

Cloth painting by Dawn Williams Boyd
©Dawn Williams Boyd, Human Rights in the New Millennium: Freedom of Speech. Assorted fabrics, cotton floss, acrylic paints, inkjet printed fabrics. Appliquéd by machine. Embroidered, embellished and quilted by hand, 49.5 x 49.5 inches.


  • Dawn Williams Boyd responds to her daughter’s statement that she is a righteous badass. (3:45)
  • Art that represents the effect of the history of the United States on the African American community, created by an African American woman. (6:14)
  • What interested Dawn most in her Art History class is featured in her own work. (9:30)
  • Dawn reflects on the big plans that she had for exhibiting her work in 2020. (12:47)
  • The good things that can happen when you have nowhere to go and no one to see your work. (16:06)
  • “The List” and how it influences Dawn’s productivity and creativity every year. (18:02)
  • Now is not the time to make art that matches the couch. Dawn explains the opportunity artists have to use their voice to influence others. (21:32)
  • A look inside Dawn’s notebook, including the details, fabrics, facts, and titles that drive her work. (26:15)
  • Questions that Dawn asks herself in the planning stage of each new piece. (31:10)
  • The criteria that guides Dawn’s ability to set goals and plan her work out a year in advance. (34:10)
  • Dawn reflects on her 2020 goals, the pieces that she actually created and how she is constantly preparing for what is coming next. (36:50)
  • The conversations Dawn wants people to have around her work. (43:50)
  • Understanding the worldwide problems that are depicted in the imagery in Dawn’s piece, All Through the Night: America’s Homeless (shown above). (48:03)
  • The overarching business and career goals that guide Dawn’s work every single day. (53:10)
  • How an ambitious artist can ensure that their art is being viewed by the right people. (57:08)
  • A peek into all that is in store for Dawn in 2021. (59:00)

Artist Dawn Williams Boyd teaching lecture
Dawn Williams Boyd teaching at Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC, in 2019. Photo by Irvin Wheeler.


Dawn Williams Boyd Quotes

“That art history book that I fell asleep on? I want to be in that book. That’s my goal.”

“It is possible in fact, it’s preferable to determine how you want to show yourself in the world.”

“Now is not the time to make art that matches the couch. You could be influencing someone, or educating someone.”

“I like to have a goal to work toward, because that pushes me to work every day.”

“More black visual artists need to appear in art history books, and why not me?”

About My Guest

Artist Dawn Williams Boyd

Artist Dawn Williams Boyd makes figurative textile paintings that reveal stories—not always pretty ones—about the American experience. Her latest series, The Trump Era, specifically focuses on xenophobia and immigration, but her work has also explored feminine sexuality, the Black American experience, as well as forgotten moments from American history.

Dawn is represented by Fort Gansevoort gallery in New York City. She is a member of the Women of Color Quilters Network, which was recently highlighted in this New York Times article that includes mention of Dawn along with an image of her work. She helped found and run two influential Black artists collectives in Denver before returning to her native Atlanta in 2010.

Related Episodes

Elevating Women and People of Color with Adri Norris

Making Work That Matters with Suzanne Gibbs

Multi-State Multi-Year Multi-Artist Art Project with Marilyn Artus


Music by Wildermiss

11 comments add a comment
  • Wow.
    This is the first time I’ve felt compelled to comment on any of the Art Biz Success blogs, as I’ve been touched by hearing Ms. Boyd’s story. Very inspiring.
    Appreciative of having been introduced to her work, and I plan to share it with my art appreciation students from now on!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Susan: Indeed! Yes, Dawn’s work is inspirational, as is she. I hope to provide more episodes in the future that compel you to respond and share with your students.

  • WOW! I found Dawn and her process to be fascinating to listen to and glean information from. Her work is both powerful and awakening. While listening to this podcast I got a new series in my head. Showing up in the world and stirring emotions and making people think is so much more important than matching a sofa. By the way that is seriously one of my least favorite things to hear from anyone as a reason to buy a work of art. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • This was one of the best art podcasts I’ve heard…I laughed and got totally inspired by her message and work…she’s an amazing person, activist and artist!! Thanks Allyson!!!

  • Loved hearing Dawn Williams Boyd talk about her process and what drives her work. She is an awesome artist that creates very well thought out art pieces. I think the world is better because of artist like Dawn who not only have something to say but actually take the time to say it.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      You are right, Aisha. We are better off because of Dawn and artists like her. And for your contribution as well. Thanks for listening.

  • Eve Jacobs-Carnahan

    What a great interview. Dawn Williams Boyd gave me so much inspiration. I loved hearing how she plans, researches, and takes notes on each idea for her artwork. Her disciplined follow-through is exemplary. I can’t wait to see the art history book that features her!

  • What an inspirational podcast. I admire Dawn’s incisiveness and deciding what her art (and personal life) goals were… then doing the research and making a plan. And what a plan! Hoping she gets into the history books.
    Thank you Alyson and Dawn.

  • What an interesting and inspiring podcast in every aspect! I love how Dawn owns her process and her subject matter. Buy the sofa to match the artwork, I say ;)

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