Born in Marshalltown, he discovered his passion for painting in a photo competition | News, Sports, Jobs


CONTRIBUTING PHOTO — Dennis DuBois is originally from Marshalltown but now resides in Manassas, Virginia. While receiving an honorable mention in the Washington Post photo contest, DuBois emphasizes that photography is only the first step in creating his paintings. He sees himself as a painter, not as a photographer.

For some, art is a lifelong pursuit. For others, like Dennis DuBois, it’s a later-born passion.

Originally from Marshalltown and graduating from MHS in 1966, DuBois has done many different things in his life, from teaching to serving as a US Navy captain to working as an armaments contractor, but somehow he never envisioned himself as an artist . That is, until he began planning his retirement in 2014. DuBois, who now resides in Manassas, Virginia, realized he wasn’t sure what to do with his free time.

“As my retirement approached, I realized that I didn’t have any hobbies. So I went to our local art center and just on a whim, I took some introductory art classes and happened to meet a lady who taught painting,” DuBois said.

After about five years of painting lessons, DuBois went into business for himself and says oil painting has become his obsession ever since. Dubois said he had about four or five paintings in the works at any given time, and his work had been featured in many local and regional competitions. He has also hung them in collections in eight different states.

As DuBois learned to paint, he also acquired other artistic skills, such as photography. DuBois often captures scenes with a camera so that he can later use these photos as references for paintings. He sees photography as a tool, a first step in completing an oil painting.

PHOTO INVOLVED — Marshalltown resident Dennis DuBois took this photo this summer in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal. He submitted it to the Washington Post 2022 Travel Photo Contest and was one of the 10 honorable mentions. There were three winners and nearly 1,100 artists submitted photos.

“When I use a camera to photograph a scene, a person, a character or whatever, I try to compose that in the viewfinder the way I want to paint it. So when you compose an image in a viewfinder and you compose a painting on canvas, one just flows from the other,” DuBois said.

Though he considers himself primarily a painter, after snapping a photo in the Alfama district of Lisbon, Portugal last summer, DuBois decided to try his luck at the Washington Post 2022 Travel Photo Contest.

The photo, taken with a Nikon Coolpix camera, shows a worn blue door against a rock face and this photo received an honorable mention in the photo competition. Nearly 1,100 artists submitted photos for consideration, and these artists resulted in three winners and 10 honorable mentions.

“I had this beautiful photo and I saw in the mail that they were running this competition, so I was like, ‘Well, there’s nothing to lose,’ so I submitted it. I surprised myself,” DuBois said. “To be in 10 out of 1,100 honorable mentions is pretty exciting.”

Although photography gets the ball rolling, DuBois’ favorite part of the creative process is the painting itself and being able to apply the techniques learned to create a work of art.

He particularly enjoys painting people and figures that people walk past without a second glance. A troubadour in a café, a lonely fisherman, a silent beggar, and many others are all featured in his paintings, and the emotions they evoke are what make these subjects so special to DuBois.

“It’s emotions. I stop and try to talk to these people. I don’t just take a picture of them and walk away. So I talk to them. Sometimes that’s really what they want. They just want someone to talk to, someone to take notice of them,” he said.

DuBois said he never thought he’d pursue art in his retirement, having served in the Navy and then worked as a defense contractor since 2000, but it was a welcome change.

“Part of what made this decision easy for me is that I wanted to do something different from what I’ve been doing for 40 years and, you know, color and art is very different than Secret Service or Secret Services work to do for the Navy,” DuBois said.

Although art is his personal passion, DuBois also does commissions and see for examples of his work.


Contact Susanna Meyerat 641-753-6611 ext

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