Get ready art aficionados, here comes Dakota Neumon.
She's a young person with big talent who, by all appearances, seems poised to take the fast track to notoriety.
In less than a year, this 20-year-old Milford woman has created and shown several award-winning pieces locally. Next month, she'll exhibit some of her most compelling pastel creations in a Chester, Connecticut art show. And she's working on her first commissioned piece, a challenging double portrait of a long-married couple.
She approaches it all with uncommon humility.
Neumon tempers a deep well of artistic talent with a touch of youthful quirkiness. She is self-assured about the place art has in her life. And she is deeply grateful to the people who are helping her follow her dreams.
The upcoming Chester exhibit, entitled “Hats, Hats, Hats!”, will showcase two of those important people: A portrait of “My Poppy” where the subject, Mark Gabriel, is so lifelike that he seems ready to speak, and “Inspiration,” a portrait of the artist's beloved grandmother, Lynne Neumon.

“Words can't express how much I appreciate my grandmother for everything she has done for me, and for everyone around me,” Neumon said.
“She's been my role model throughout my whole life, in every area of my life. My grandma also has supported my artwork to the fullest. So I wanted to express how much she means to me by doing a portrait of her.”
When Lynne Neumon saw Dakota's “Inspiration” portrait, she said it left her breathless. When “Poppy” saw his likeness, he cried.
“I knew Dakota had talent,” grandmother Lynne Neumon said, “but I didn't know it would come out so quickly and that it was so awesome.”

Neumon credits her grandmother for brokering an introduction to renowned artist Claudia Post, with whom Neumon now studies in an intense atelier art class. There, the young artist trains directly with the established mentor in a workshop setting. It is a far cry, proponents say, from the less personal environment of a commercial art school.
“Life really started for me when I walked into Claudia's studio last August,” Neumon said. Until then, she said art was simply a hobby.
“Up to that point, art was kind of in the background of things,” Neumon explained. “But after I went through a lot in my life, I found out that art was what I had.”
Not only has Post worked closely with Neumon on the realistic art that she, the mentor, favors, but she also has schooled Neumon on everything from the proper use of pastels to the business end of being a self-supporting artist.
For example, Post guided Neumon in setting up Dakota Art, the young woman's professional Facebook page.
“Young people like Dakota have to understand that art is not a job, it's a way of living, a way of looking at the world,” Post said. “It was very clear, very early that this is who Dakota is. She's an artist.”
Post said she wasn't immediately sure if Neumon had the raw talent to match her openness and ability to follow through. “Lots of well-meaning grandparents think their loved ones have talent,” Post said, adding that Neumon quickly demonstrated a substantial portion.

Neumon won her first award as a 19-year-old when she garnered the People's Choice award for “Complimentary” in a non-themed exhibit last year at the Firehouse Gallery in Milford. It was the young artist's first exhibit. She subsequently picked up a second People's Choice award for “Cool Mr. Planes.”
Neumon also has taken her first major foray into the abstract world, with a piece entitled “Shannon Abstracted” which was on display at the Firehouse Gallery. It was created from a photograph of a good friend who was bathed in light slices coming through nearby blinds. The sharp contrasting colors are far different from the smooth, lifelike pastels that soften some of Neumon's other pieces.
“This is part of why I love my art,” said Neumon. “It can go in so many different ways. And creating art helps me to become mindful, always focusing on the piece and how to make it the best I can.”
This summer, Neumon is expanding her horizons again — not only to her first exhibit outside of Milford, but also into her first class in oil painting.
Not surprisingly, all of Neumon's plans and dreams for the next five to 10 years involve art.
“I see myself growing as an artist. I'd like my life as an artist to be one that also supports me as a career. In five or 10 years I would hope to have consistent commissions, and I'd hope to have taken on some students of my own,” she said.
And, she added, “I want to do everything I can to make my grandparents proud of me.”