Interview With Donna Zagotta


Hi Everyone,

I was recently interviewed by Jim Powers at Creative Catalyst Productions and I’m excited to post it here – I hope you enjoy it!

Artist Update

Donna Zagotta

Jim Powers: A few years back we had the pleasure of hosting and filming Donna Zagotta.

We produced her DVD Workshop called: The You Factor: Powerful, Personal Design in Opaque Watercolor with Donna Zagotta

We just caught up with her again to find out what she’s been doing.

Hi Donna, what have you been doing since filming here at Creative Catalyst?

I’ve been very busy painting, teaching national and international workshops, writing for art magazines, jurying art exhibitions, and entering international juried exhibitions.

Do you remember any highlights about your visit to Creative Catalyst to film your video?

A highlight for me was spending that week with the Creative Catalyst family – Jim, Lynn, Kelly, and Zach. I enjoyed our daily conversations and it was fascinating to see the process and all of tender loving care that goes into producing a quality art instruction DVD.

Did creating a video change your career path in any way?

I don’t think it changed my path per se, as I was already teaching and writing – but I think it definitely gave me more visibility in the art world.

What did other artists or students say about your video?

I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from students, especially those looking for more information on how to paint with opaque watercolor.

Tell us how your art has changed /evolved in the last few years.

I have become more passionate about color and composition. I think that I am getting closer to becoming a “formalist” painter – meaning that I am more interested and excited about color and abstract composition possibilities than I am about my subject matter.

What subjects, styles, materials are catching your interest these days?

I’m still painting the figure exclusively, and my major goal is still to find “my” style – what Georgia O’Keefe called “that thing that is my own.” In terms of medium and materials, I am currently using more gouache colors in addition to the white gouache that I used in conjunction with my watercolors early on. I still really enjoy painting with thick brushstrokes of watercolor and gouache and using techniques that more resemble a pastel or oil painter’s than a traditional watercolorist’s.

What inspires you to keep creating?

I’m almost always inspired to create something – I think I was born that way! What keeps me from spending as much time creating as I would like is the fact that I’m also a reasonably responsible adult with home and family responsibilities.

Have you had some obstacles to overcome to continue art? How did you overcome them?

The obstacles and challenges that I have to contend with come mainly from me. One of the major challenges I’ve had over the years is maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude when things are going poorly in a painting. I often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and my tendency is to become discouraged, frustrated, self-critical and to question my abilities and why I’m even painting at all. Recently I realized that my unconscious expectation was that “someday” I would know how to paint and that painting would become easy and “fun.”  Since I’ve been at it for over 40 years, I had to accept that since it hasn’t happened by now, it probably never will. Not only is it not getting easier – it’s getting harder!

I was able to change my thinking and my expectations by taking a class with Dr. Eric Maisel titled “Your Best Life in the Arts.” Dr. Eric Maisel is a creativity coach who has written many books on creativity and the creative process over the years and he is my “go to” for words of encouragement when I need them. In the class he emphasized the fact that failure, making messes, walking into the unknown, and not knowing are all part of the creative process and that you can’t skip the hard parts or the parts you don’t like, unless you want to settle for a slick surface approach to painting so you don’t have to fail.

What are some of the most common questions your students have?

I think most students want to know how to improve their paintings and make them more personal and creative and less realistic.

Problems they have?

I see many problems that have to do with composition and design and a failure to understand that composition and design is the major key not only to creating solid and strong works of art, it is also the key to developing a personal visual language that allows the artist to express himself in a personal, unique, and creative way.

Do you use your videos (or others) in your teaching?

I don’t, but that’s mainly because of logistics. I don’t carry a computer with me when I travel and the venues where I teach don’t always have the necessary equipment.

Have you learned anything new about art marketing?

I’m not currently marketing paintings, I’m marketing my workshop. My workshop marketing strategy is to get my work and name out there and seen by the people I think are my potential customers. I do that by writing articles for watercolor magazines and my art blog, and also by entering national and international watercolor exhibitions.

Do you have any advice to someone who wants to learn to paint?

I would advise them to become passionately involved with composition and design as early as possible. Learning “how to” paint is a technical skill that will automatically come in through the back door when a student is diligently pursuing a path of putting together paintings that have great compositions and where they are expressing themselves creatively with the elements of design; shape, value, color, line, and texture rather than using those elements to describe what a subject looks like.

How do you know when to quit a painting?

When I love it!

Where do you see your art taking you in the next 5 to 10 years? Hopes and dreams?

I’m still looking for “that thing that is my own.” I think I’m getting closer and my dream is to feel that I have finally found it.

Thank you Donna for sharing this with us.

Donna’s DVD, is currently on sale for $29.95 (regular $39.95) Click here for  more information:  THE YOU FACTOR:  Powerful Personal Design in Opaque Watercolor with Donna Zagotta

The Orange Umbrella 22x30 - by Donna Zagotta  The Orange Umbrella

Plan a Creative Escape in Myrtle Beach

                                               Springmaid Beach Brochure


A creative escape is a little time-out-of-time that you carve from your schedule to devote to running away TO your art!     Eric Maisel

I have always loved Julia Cameron’s idea of scheduling “Artist Dates” as a way of nurturing your creativity and inner artist. Scheduling a “Creative Escape” is another excellent way to nurture the artist within. Taking a workshop at Springmaid Beach Resort & Conference Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a fabulous place to enjoy your creative escape because you won’t have to think of anything else except painting for five glorious days! Three meals a day, a private room, instruction, and unlimited access to the teaching studio are all covered in the cost the workshop.  Plus -the resort is spread across 30 ocean front acres!

This year I am returning for the third time to Springmaid Beach Resort to teach my workshop, “Adding the You Factor to Paintings.” The dates are March 5-11, 2016. Please join me in Myrtle Beach for an excellent creative escape!

On another note – I have cut back quite a bit on my workshop schedule because I want to spend more time in my studio painting. At this point I have only three workshops scheduled in the future, so if you’ve been thinking about taking one of my workshops, you might consider taking one this year.

Live well and paint a lot!

Setting Art Goals for 2016

zzzzzmagesIZBU01MKI want to wish all of you a joyful, amazing, vibrant, and art filled 2016!

I love this time of year and the accompanying feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts. One of my favorite things to do at this time of year is to perform an annual art check-up where I re-examine my painting goals and set new ones for the upcoming year. I begin by taking a look at my current body of work and determining what’s working and what needs improvement. Then I sit down with my art journal and write down my findings. I also list ideas for improvement, ideas I want to try from books and magazines I’ve read, ideas gleaned from artists I admire and from looking at paintings that I love, content ideas, series ideas, and plans, plans, and more plans.

If you would like to perform your own annual art check-up, here are 12 prompts to help you get started, excerpted from my article, Watercolor Chronicles, originally published in the October, 2009 issue of Watercolor Artist magazine.

Image 3

Live well and paint a lot!

Turning Points


  • Turning point: a point at which a significant change occurs (Webster’s Dcitionary)
  • “In every life there is a turning point. A moment so tremendous, so sharp and clear that one feels as if one’s been hit in the chest, all the breath knocked out, and one knows, absolutely knows without the merest hint of a shadow of a doubt that one’s life will never be the same.”  Julia Quinn

Forty five years ago, I was a full time mom with a two year old toddler and a three month old baby girl. I was happy as a lark. I loved my husband, my family, and my beautiful life.  But one day, browsing through the day’s mail, I came upon a catalog from a book store that contained books on how to paint. I didn’t know that you could actually teach yourself to paint by reading books! And I thought, “when Tom and I retire, that’s what I’m going to do – teach myself how to paint!” And then the next thought that entered my mind was, “why wait until retirement – if you begin now, you’ll have a really good head start.”

Fast forward to today……………Tom’s last day at work – he is retiring today!  It feels as if those forty-five years flew by in an instant!  And I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t decided to follow my heart so many years ago and pursue my dream of becoming an artist. That one decision was a major turning point for me.   

When I first began my journey, I decided that I would educate myself by creating a curriculum that one might pursue in getting an art degree.  My goal was, and always has been, to learn everything I could possibly learn about how to put together a fabulous painting. And I discovered that I’m as passionate about researching and learning about art and art history as I am about creating it. I’ve explored many paths over the years and my art journey has lead me to places I never could never have even imagined when I began. It has provided me a place to get to know, grow, honor, and express myself every single day of my life, and an opportunity to share my passion and my discoveries through my teaching and writing. Seeing and experiencing life through the eyes of artist has given my life grounding, meaning and purpose. I am so very grateful to have this very precious gift in my life.    

So, today a new chapter begins for Tom and me - and I wanted to mark it because have a feeling it will end up being another turning point in my life!

Happy Painting!

Current News

Small Res

I have two happy announcements to make! First of all, I am honored to be the June 2015 Artist of the Month on I hope you’ll enjoy visiting the website and reading the article.

Secondly, I am honored to have a painting juried into the 2015 China/National Watercolor Society Small Image Exchange Exhibition. The images submitted by National Watercolor Society artists were juried by Zhou Tianya, and Linda Doll was the juror for the Chinese artists’ paintings. The paintings will be exhibited in the Shenzhen Art Museum in December, 2015. In 2016, the paintings from both countries will travel from China to San Pedro, California and will be shown in the National Watercolor Society Gallery from July 30 to August 28, 2016. The painting in today’s post is my entry. The title is In the Garden, and the size is 6.5 x 8.5 inches. 

Happy Painting!


I am a watermedia painter and I teach painting workshops all around the country. As anyone who knows me or has taken one of my workshops can attest to, I love talking about art, thinking about art, reading about art, writing about art, looking at art, and practicing art - so grab a cup of coffee, join me in the studio and let's talk art!

NEW! Donna's DVD



March 7-11, 2016
Springmaid Beach Watermedia Workshops
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Phone: (800) 770-7198

May 3-6, 2016
New Mexico Watercolor Society
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Phone: (505) 235-1375

October 3-7, 2016
Hawaii Watercolor Society
Honolulu, Hawaii
Contact: Rochelle Weidner,
Phone: (808) 349-4179

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