Mixed media artist Donna Watson speaks to Fibre Arts Take Two about her evolution from working with landscapes to creating art with meaning.
Donna’s Friday Feature Art Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
Donna Watson is a mixed-media collage artist. Her process incorporates layers of paint by mixing cold wax with oil paints. She then layers, lifts, scratches, and rubs the surface, leaving a residue of marks, much like the lost and found aspects of memory. She adds collages, bundles of papers – sometimes wrapped and bound bundles of papers – and scrolls to help tell the story. Donna also incorporates nature into her works, adding sticks or rocks.
Based in the USA, Donna is an award-winning artist and workshop teacher who is set to bring a signature workshop on conscious creativity and personal expression to the world through a beautifully filmed masterclass.
Donna believes everyone has a story to tell, and she joined Fibre Arts Take Two to share some of hers.
These days, “We have all the challenges and obstacles to overcome,” says Donna from her home in Seattle. “And trying to keep going on some days is harder than other days. I came across a quote from John F. Kennedy that said, “We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”
Making art personal
Donna tries to reflect on things she feels strongly about in her work. “I don’t ever want to fall back into my early years as a painter where I just painted pretty paintings with no thought as to why I was painting them,” she says.
“I believe very strongly in doing your own work for yourself. And the personal connection is actually what will connect with the people out there who see your work. So this is how I approach everything I do.”
As a teacher, one of Donna’s strengths is helping artists figure out their strengths and their direction and showing them how to achieve the goals they want to achieve. “I like to help artists figure out that stuff for themselves and not try to figure out what I’m about so much.”
Donna’s advice to her past self is to “Be open to changes and remember through the ups and downs that the downs come back up. Eventually, you can pull yourself out of the dark and find the light again. And actually, the light was there all the time, just waiting for you.
To encourage other artists, Donna reminds them to “Stick to your core self as an artist and don’t let outside external influences change your direction or interfere in your own personal journey.”
“In the end, she became more than she expected. She became the journey. And like all journeys, she did not end. She simply changed direction and kept going.” R.M Drake
About the artist
Donna’s art journey began as a young child.
“I grew up in Hawaii with a Japanese mother. I was always drawing and painting, even though we didn’t have much money. I decided to major in art at college, but when I got there, I found myself getting bored with the repetitious assignments and being told what to do. So I changed my major with a master’s degree in Deaf Education and taught deaf children for four years.”
“After I had my three sons, I was staying home, but I was looking for something that would stimulate my mind. I remember drawing and painting and majoring in art in college. I tried quilting, weaving and pottery of all kinds. I mainly just bought all the stuff and never made anything! Eventually, I took the weekend watercolour workshop, and that turned out to be what worked for me. I painted watercolour landscapes for about 15 years.”
From there, Donna began to sell paintings, work on commission, and display them in galleries. “I was good at figuring out what would sell,” she explains, “But I was repeating a lot of paintings just for the sales. After 15 years, it dawned on me that I wasn’t growing as an artist. I was painting what other people wanted me to paint, so I decided to quit.”
After this, Donna found herself feeling lost. “I didn’t realise I was in a depression,” she explains. “Eventually, I pulled myself out of the dark hole and started exploring more about myself and who I was about.”
Through journaling and reading books on creativity as well as about her native country of Japan, Donna found herself working again, changing from watercolour landscapes to painting more about her personal heritage as well as what she cares about.
Donna’s more recent works explore her half-Japanese, half caucasian culture. “When I changed from the watercolours. I actually went into some deep, thoughtful paintings dealing with my childhood and my identity, examining where I fit in,” she says.
A trip to Japan resulted in Donna including collages in her paintings. This evolved to become something she is now recognised for.
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