Born in Pwllheli, North Wales, in 1960. He studied at the Chelsea School of Art (1984-87) and at the Royal College of Art, London (1987-89). Shortly after graduating, he became Lucian Freud’s studio assistant, staying with the painter until his death in 2011, during which time he took on the role of confidante, adviser, and often also the painter’s subject and muse. Dawson would be the model for seven paintings by Freud, including his last unfinished canvas. In 2000 Dawson started to take photographs in snatched moments of Freud at work in the studio and these formed the subject of an exhibition and publication at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 2004. While working for Freud, Dawson continued to paint in left-over hours, and since 2011 he has been able to return to painting full-time.