Empowering artists to take creative risks and realize their creative potential.
In the Studio with Donna Downey
Donna is an artist, mentor and teacher. She lives in North Carolina where her life and art are continuously evolving. From flowers to faces, muted to vibrant, abstract to literal, and all sorts of mediums,
Donna explores it all with contagious wonderment. She teaches online and in person and all over the world. She has recently simplified her lifestyle after living in her home that also served as a retreat space for artists and guests to gather together.
"Art has been the thread that has connected my life with my imagination. It feels like somewhere along the way, art and life merged and have given me a means of expression that I am so grateful for."
Tell us what you do and what you love to do the most.
If people ask me what I do, I say I am a painter. It truly is my passion. However, I do not ever see myself stopping there. Discovery is exciting to me! Some days I am sculpting with clay, breaking out the sewing machine to stitch over collage and I switch from abstract to florals to figurative all the time. I think I would get bored honing in on only one thing and each thing seems to always inform the next. My favorite thing is to teach. The teacher came before the artist, it's honestly the most rewarding thing I do. I have not always been an artist. I double majored in elementary education and English with a minor in Shakespeare of all things. I worked as a 5th grade teacher until my first child was born and then fell hard into scrapbooking. From there my passion for creating led me to where I am today. Art has been the thread that has connected my life with my imagination. It feels like somewhere along the way art and life merged and have given me a means of expression that I am so grateful for today.
What are some of your favorite colors or palettes right now?
This is an exciting question! I feel like the lights have just been turned on and I am seeing colors for the first time! I decided to dedicate this year to color studies: color mixing, introducing new colors into my palette and really understanding color harmonies. This practice has been incredible! I don't know if I could commit to favorites, but I have discovered colors that I never used before. Quinacridone Burnt Orange is life changing, lol.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Honestly, all art inspires me. Recently, I have been realizing Just how powerful connections to artists from all genres, all practices and all levels inform my awareness and my creative decisions. I used to create art in a vacuum, alone in my studio, but now I appreciate the community that art brings into my life.
You have combined art and business together so beautifully. What is or has that process been like for you?
It is nice to hear that. It is always a challenge and a blessing when you do what you love as your income. It can be scary as self-employed artist to maintain a balance. As I get older (wiser, lol) I realize that if you make your business about building relationships instead of sales it is so much easier and more rewarding.
How has you art changed over the years?
So much! As I change, so does my art. I figure that it is what keeps me continually learning and pushing myself to seek more of my work. As my work evolves, I have become more willing to leave more of my own vulnerabilities on the canvas.
How has your life's circumstances shaped your business?
Wow this one is a loaded question, but the truth is, I am my own boss now. And I am so much happier about the direction I am headed. When I divorced, my ex husband did all of the business. I had to put my big girl panties on and wear both the creative hat and the business hat. I feel like today, my brand is no longer about transactions and business models, but more about community and growth. How have those changes impacted your life? These changes have given me a voice and empowered me to trust my decisions.
What has your mentoring experience been like?
In the past year I have taken on several incredible artist mentees. I think life puts the right people in your path at the right time. Mentoring has been a beautiful way to help other artists find their way through some of the hurdles and by sharing my years of experiences to help them fast track past the detours that could slow them down.
What are other ways that you stay connected with students and other artists?
Patreon has been one of the most amazing gifts in
my life. Our community keeps growing and have really dedicated my time to furthering the continued learning and projects I provide each month.
I'd like to keep building my Patreon family and keep
providing fresh innovative ideas. I am excited about
scheduling more travel/teaching for the next few years.
Due to the pandemic I took learning LIVE to zoom.
This has been incredible and getting to see everyone
and interact live has been so awesome! https://www.donnadowney.com/pages/live-events
I am also pretty active on social media. Instagram
And when you are not painting?
I am learning to live in the moment! I take days off now to spend time with my family and friends. Sometimes I do nothing at all but binge watch tv! It's awesome!
Lately I have been writing and dreaming up ideas for potential project. Spending an afternoon at HomeGoods or Target gets my creative juices flowing.
Any day spent with my family, laughing and enjoying time together is perfect!