Trying Something New


I started 2016 with a goal of experimenting with different painting surfaces and different painting techniques because I wanted to shake things up, try something new, and break away from habitual painting methods for awhile. I wanted to just play with watercolor and see what showed up. 

Yupo paper turned out to be the perfect surface for experimenting and playing with the watercolor pigments on my palette because it requires a totally opposite painting approach than my regular Cresecnt #115 Hot Press surface, where I use watercolor and gouache in a heavily painted, multi-layered technique. Yupo is a synthetic paper with a glossy, slick surface. Because it has no tooth, I decided to use traditional transparent watercolor techniques. In my opaque watercolors I use lots of wiping off and repainting in order to create a rich picture surface. On Yupo, paint is much more easily removed and can be wiped down to reveal the original white paper. Very cool!

Because Yupo has no tooth, I couldn’t really control much of what was happening as I moved paint and water around with brushes, spray bottle, and roller. It was an experience of being totally present and engaged in the moment. I watched what was happening and responded quickly and improvisationally. It was both fun and scary and I found that moving paint and water around on Yupo in a variety of ways created beautiful textures that would be impossible to get on my regular painting surface. I added additional texture and mark making with brushes, stamps, Kleenex, paper towels, fabrics, sticks, crayons and anything else I could find in my studio that would alter the surface.  

It was fun to experiment with new ideas and new techniques and I definitely see more Yupo paintings for me in the future.

My painting above, Walk With You, is one of my Yupo paintings, which I’m happy to say was juried into this year’s Rocky Mountain National Watermedia exhibition in Colorado. 

Happy Painting!  


Fall Musings and Discovering Continuity

“I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time.”  Robert Browning

“Go to your studio and make stuff.”  Fred Babb

I love this time of year! Autumn, the season that Irish poet William Allingham called “the mellow time,” when everything slows down and we transition from summer to winter and move from the outside world to an inside world and make preparations for the cold months ahead. A long-standing autumn tradition of mine has been to look back over the year and to ask myself what I’ve accomplished, what worked and what didn’t, what I’ve learned, and what I want to accomplish in the coming year.

This time last year I was totally inspired by something I read about artist Alex Kanevsky. He talked about how winning a grant that allowed him to do nothing but paint every day for almost two years was a breakthrough experience for him because it allowed him to discover both continuity and his personal modus operandi.

Reading what he said got me in touch with how often it happens that when I look back over a year, I notice that while I can usually tally up a list of personal achievements, I’m often disappointed with what I accomplished in the studio. In unraveling that thought, I got in touch with the fact that when my personal life gets super busy and time becomes an issue, my painting life suffers because I feel like I don’t have time to spend in the studio. I began to recognize that when I stop painting for long stretches of time, I often forget where I was when last I painted. When I finally find my way back into the studio again, it usually feels like I’m back to square one again, with no idea of what square two even looks like. It’s like having to reinvent the wheel over and over again.

I’ve totally fallen in love with the idea of continuity! Merriam-Webster defines continuity as uninterrupted connection, succession, or union. My one and only art intention for 2016 was to discover continuity (OK –  maybe I also wanted to discover a little more about my own personal MO as an artist – but of course that can only be found through continuous connection to one’s art; continuity). 2016 was as busy as ever, but I held the idea of continuity throughout the year. I still wasn’t in the studio as much as I would have liked, but I made a conscious effort this year to always have something percolating in the studio – something delicious to chew on that’s trying to lure me back into the studio. In looking back over 2016, I can say that the assignment I gave myself to consciously seek continuity not only made a difference in my art, it made the whole year a little more delicious as well.

Happy Painting!

Watercolor Magic in Hawaii

2016 Hawaii Watercolor Society Workshop 2I’ve just returned from teaching my last workshop of the year and it couldn’t have been held in a more perfect place –  Hawaii!  I had the honor and privilege of jurying the Hawaii Watercolor Society’s fall exhibition and teaching a 5-day workshop in Honolulu. This was my first trip to Hawaii and it exceeded all my expectations! The students were enthusiastic about the workshop content and the class was small, which gave me the opportunity to get to know each student on a personal basis. A special Mahalo goes out to Rochelle, Holly, Susan, and Carky for making my stay so comfortable, memorable, and magical.

Happy Painting!




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!


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 6-10 2017
Springmaid Beach Watermedia Workshops
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Phone: (800) 770-7198

March 27-29, 2017
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Contact: Debra Zamperla
Phone: (505) 235-1375

Subscribe to Donna's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.