Category Archives: Art Talk

Donna Zagotta, award-winning watermedia artist, writes about being an artist and suggests ways to improve your art

Donna Zagotta Painting Workshops 2019

Donna Zagotta Workshop, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I’m excited to announce that registration is now open for the two workshops I will be teaching in 2019! Both workshops are titled “Adding the You Factor to Paintings 2.”

If you want to increase your confidence in expressing your personal voice in your paintings, this workshop is for you. Each day we will look at concepts, tools, and techniques that will encourage students to create and rely on a personal rather than rule-based approach to composition, color, and the formal elements. Our workshop goal is to use subject matter as a jumping off place to create imaginative and personally expressive paintings.    

Here is the registration information:

March 27-29, 2019
Adding the You Factor to Paintings 2
Ann Arbor, Michigan
http://artensity.org/donnazagotta
Contact: Debra Zamperla 

July18-20, 2019
Adding the You Factor to Paintings 2
Lowell, Michigan
Franciscan Life Process Center
Contact: http://lifeprocesscenter.org/services/art-program/

Bye for now…..Donna

Knowing the Dancer From the Dance

“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, how can we know the dancer from the dance?”    William Butler Yeats

Claude Monet, Water Lilies

Over lunch recently, a dear friend and art buddy and I reminisced about some of our early workshop experiences. We chuckled as we remembered one of the very first workshops we attended taught by a watercolor instructor who was V E R Y popular. In preparation for the workshop, I worked and worked for weeks to understand and learn as many of the artist’s ideas and techniques as I could, reading everything I could find documented about the artist in books and magazines. During the workshop I took pages and pages of notes and I took step-by-step photos of every one of her demonstrations. This fabulous artist had figured out a fabulous way to paint her fabulous subject matter and that was exactly what I/we all wanted. I was so enamored by this artist’s techniques that I remember saying to myself, “If I could learn how to paint like her, I would feel like I had died and gone to heaven.” I was sure that if I could master her ideas and techniques I would become the artist I so passionately wanted to become. I came home from the workshop and worked for months on mastering her fabulous subject matter and her fabulous techniques for painting them. And, finally I achieved my goal! I had painted a fabulous painting that looked exactly like hers. In fact, it so closely resembled hers that I remember thinking that if I put her name on the painting everyone in the world would totally believe she had painted it. And that’s when it began to dawn on me that while I had achieved my goal of painting exactly like my favorite artist, I hadn’t really achieved anything that had anything to do with the artist inside of me.

I had reached the destination I set out for, but I was on the wrong path! And, I had to travel down a few more wrong paths over the years until I finally got it. And when I did, I realized that I had to begin a new journey, and I had to begin this new journey at the beginning – at the place of my not knowing. Beginning at the beginning, I set out on path to discover my own fabulous subject matter, my own fabulous ideas, thoughts and opinions about art, and and my own fabulous techniques for painting them.

My conversation with my friend began with my questioning how and why we teachers teach art. As a workshop instructor, I have a dilemma. I have formed my own ideas, thoughts, and opinions about art, and I have developed some techniques for painting the subjects I love to paint. Many students in my workshops are there to learn about those ideas, thoughts, opinions, and techniques. That is what I have to share – my own journey as an artist. But how do I TEACH that the creative journey begins not with secondhand ideas, thoughts, opinions, and techniques, but with honest feelings and authentic responses?

In his book, No More Secondhand Art, Peter London addresses this idea and my conundrum very effectively:
“Of course technique is important; so are principles of design. But you already know this. You also know what it takes to acquire these traits; long, hard work. Do you want to draw like Rembrandt or Degas? Simple! Just draw ten hours a day, six days a week for forty years. That’s how they did it. Ready for that? How did Monet paint those densely woven symphonies of strokes of light, weaving that luminescent Japanese bridge over the swarming lily pond? First he excavated a huge hole, then diverted a river to fill the hole, planted it with lily pads, then built a Japanese bridge over the whole thing, all at vast expense. Then he bought a boat, made a floating studio out of it and for twelve hours a day, for over twenty years, he paddled around that pond, and painted and painted until his eyes glazed over. If you want to make stuff that has Monet’s charm….have Monet’s passion, devotion, largess, sacrifice.

The techniques of Monet or Degas can be copied; their principles of design are not obscure, they can be learned. If you want them for yourself, you can have them – for a price. And the price is dearer than you may think. Not only will you have to put in at least as much time as they did in developing these same skills, all your living days, but the real price you will have paid is that you will have succeeded in becoming them, and will have missed becoming you.

Monet’s technique and principles of design are Monet. They were created by him so that he could portray what he alone was seeing and thinking and feeling. These are not simply techniques or principles of design. They are conceptions of the world. Monet had to create his own repertoire of techniques and principles of design because he could not portray through the prevailing means what he alone was seeing and feeling. You can’t have his technique or apply his principles of design without becoming him. Better to raise the questions Monet did than to mimic his responses. What are his questions, the task he set himself? They are remarkably similar to the questions any artist, any creative person, any awake person asks. “What is that damn thing out there? What does an idea look like? How can I give form to a feeling? How does this whole mess fit together? How can I speak about the thing no longer there? The thing not here yet? Why am I moved like this by mere daylight, by nightfall? Is there a truth here, or merely beauty? Does this line have integrity, or is it guile? What have I made up, what have I observed? Of all the things I can do, what shall I do, what should I do? Will I ever get it right?”

Your particular techniques and your principles of design will be derived from your struggle with these questions. Monet did it. Rembrandt did it. So did Bellini, Breughel, Bosch, Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Byron, Bartok, Berlioz, Bernstein, Brubeck, Basie, Balanchine, Beckett, Bergman, Beckmann, Berryman, Borges, Bellows, Baldwin. You get the picture.

All creative journeys begin with a challenge to introspection, to fathom not only “what’s out there”, but “what’s in here.” They are invitations to original response.”

They are also invitations to dance your own dance, sing your own songs, write your own stories, and paint your own paintings. And through them the world will know who you are.

Bye for now…..Donna

Current News

I want to share some happy news with you! I have been invited to join the C2C Gallery, a beautiful gallery featuring unique handmade art including ceramics, handblown glass, jewelry, painting, photography, sculpture, and textiles.

Inspired by her love of art and motivated by her desire to encourage others to make art a part of their everyday life, Cyndi Casemier opened the warm, welcoming gallery in downtown Grand Haven, Michigan in 2011.

C2C Gallery Cyndi Casemier

If you’re in the area, this gallery is definitely a must see! You can view my paintings currently at the C2C Gallery here: http://c2cgallery.com/portfolio/donna-zagotta/

Bye for now……….Donna

Turning Points

 

  • Turning point: a point at which a significant change occurs (Webster’s Dictionary)
  •  “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!