Artist Spotlight: Dawson Lion balances graphic design, animation passions

Category:  The Arts
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 at 4:14 PM
Artist Spotlight: Dawson Lion balances graphic design, animation passions by Zeila Hobson
A Squires Surprise by Dawson Lion

Dawson Lion is a traditional animation major at Edinboro who also dabbles in graphic design. “I take as many graphic design classes as possible, and I try to relate a lot of my work to that because there are many opportunities to combine animation with graphic design,” he said.  

A few credits shy of earning a minor in graphic design, Lion graduates in May. 

Lion began his collegiate career undeclared, barring him from participating in certain art classes. As a result, Lion’s advice to incoming students interested in art is to “declare an art major as soon as possible.” Earlier entry into the art programs might have allowed Lion to earn a graphic design bachelor’s — still, his work often integrates graphic design and animation and speaks for itself without the second degree. 

Upon arriving to EUP, Lion was unsure of his academic path, but knew his creativity would be a factor. “I knew I wanted to do something art related,” Lion said. “I went with animation and it just kind of stuck.” He affirmed that, in hindsight, his love for cartoons growing up influenced his decision to pursue animation. 

Lion’s first memory of creating art was replicating cartoon characters. His favorite cartoon, then and now, is Scooby Doo; Lion is hyped about the upcoming, 3-D animated Scooby Doo movie, “Scoob!” 

He described his current process as beginning with sketches, then transferring the sketched concepts to digital drawings to flesh the pieces out. “A lot of my work is whimsical in nature and somewhat dark in a charming way. The friendly, colorful palettes have dark undertones,” he explained. 

Earning his animation degree has proved no easy task for Lion, who says practice and dedication are key to producing artwork. Since declaring his major, Lion stated that he can’t estimate the “all-nighters” he’s spent at ‘Boro 

To Lion, animation as a medium is unique due to its temporal element. “Animation has the element of 4-D. It’s time-based,” he said. The fact that animations generally have a beginning and an end lends them more to storytelling than other mediums, regardless of whether that story is realistic or more abstract.  

Applications of animation are multitudinous, according to Lion. “In retrospect, traditional animation is seen as cartoons or movies and that’s how I thought about it. But when I took some graphic design courses, I learned about some different odd-ball jobs and uses for my animation degree,” he said.  

He is currently enrolled in the graphic design practicum course, which further exposed him to the variety of ways he can use his degree that he had not previously considered. Of the class, Lion said, “We have two clients that we work with, and this semester I’m on two projects that are motion-based. I’m creating animated gifs for the art department and working on an animated motion graphic for Bayfront Glass discussing the different glass recycling processes.” Both of these projects are examples of the “odd-ball jobs” that Lion mentioned.  

Lion comes from a family supportive of his decision to make art a career; he doesn’t see his fine arts degree as a crutch in any fashion. “Art is an awesome way to express yourself. People can always put artists down, saying, ‘how are you ever going to find a job?’ But if you think about it, there are so many job opportunities for it. Anything you look at, an artist has put their time into designing [it],” Lion said. Art seeps into every facet of life without most people even noticing; from architecture to logos to the clothes we buy, the results of artists’ passion and dedication surround us.   

Regarding his quickly concluding time at EUP, the artist said: “The art department has a really nice community. Since I declared my major, I've lived in the Living Learning art community in Highlands 4. I’ve been an RA for two years in that same building, so I get to interact with artists from all different majors and mediums.”  

His face split into a wide smile as he spoke of his experiences as an RA and as a student. “A standout professor for me is definitely Cass Reese. She’s my motion professor and the advisor for the graphic design practicum. She’s given me a lot of guidance and helped me a lot with merging graphic design and animation in my work.” 

Lion’s plans after May are tentative yet hopeful. “Post-graduation, I would like to do more motion graphics, maybe in a graphic design firm.” Lion wants to animate infographics and use After Effects to bring flat-art advertisements to life, on top of his own creative projects.  

To see more of Lion’s work and/or submit a commission, visit his website,, or his Instagram: @daws.draws. 

Lion was recently named a candidate for the Michael V. Gmitter Memorial Scholarship.

Additional Photos:

A Squires Surprise by Dawson LionElementalsSelf PortraitTreasure Storyboards

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