Category Archives: Art Talk

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

We’re Celebrating!

This time last year, I had the idea of putting together a mother daughter exhibition with my daughter, Tracy. We are both figure painters and paint exclusively from the same model – my granddaughter and Tracy’s niece, Amelia. For the last four summers, we’ve scheduled modeling sessions with Amelia in my back yard and have amassed thousands of photos which provide us both with unlimited inspiration for our figure work.

We have been painting for our mother daughter exhibition all year long. The photo above was taken at my house and it was the first time we actually saw our paintings together. It was amazing how well they played with each other!

At the moment, there has been a flurry of activity going on in both our studios as we’ve been matting, framing and getting everything ready to deliver our work to the gallery today! 

Stay tuned!

       

What’s Been Going on in the Studio Lately

Currently I’m working hard on a new series of paintings that will be shown later this year at Studio West Gallery in Brighton, Michigan. My daughter, Tracy Lyons, and I will be exhibiting our work together for the very first time. We have both been painting the same model – my granddaughter and Tracy’s niece – Amelia, for three years now. Presenting our work together has been an ongoing dream for both of us. We’re very excited! Stay tuned for updates! 

Donna’s chaotic studio earlier this year.

Earlier this year, I started a collage project. My goal was to strengthen my design sense and work more effective with color value and color intensity in my paintings.  I had to put away all of my painting gear, and as you can see in the photo at left, my small studio quickly went from reasonably organized chaos to totally out of control chaos! It was fun though, and I loved being totally absorbed in the process.  

Collage Process Photo

Here is an in-progress photo of one of my 10×10 inch collages. Working with the collage medium for the first time and learning how to paint my own papers with another medium that was new to me – acrylics – was humbling, to say the least. It was also enlightening to find myself struggling with the same obstacles and missing links that I struggle with in my watercolor and gouache paintings. What a “dah” moment that was for me!

Bye for now ….. Donna

Altered Sensibility; Marrying Representational Figures With Abstraction

Avalon, Donna Zagotta 17×17 Opaque Watercolor

A great way to breathe new life into representational figure paintings is to focus on seeing the figures and their environments with the eyes of an abstract artist. With figure painting it’s especially easy to get all caught up in rendering details and descriptive elements, making it easy to loose sight of the big picture and forget that (excluding the genres of portrait and illustration) a fine art painting – even the ones that feature a figure or figures as its subject – is above all a visual art form with its own visual language – and that language is based on the visual elements: shape, value, color, line, texture and pattern along with the visual principles that govern them.

My reference photo for Avalon – my husband snapped this photo of me on our visit to Catalina Island, CA.

I have no interest in being a portrait painter. I am simply a painter trying to discover more and more creative and imaginative ways to express my vision and personal voice in my paintings. The figure is just my current jumping off place to achieve those intentions. Previously, interiors and city scenes were my chosen jumping off places. So, before I ever started working with the figure, I already had an established working process: I use the elements of shape and value to structure my paintings, and I use the elements of color, line, texture and pattern to embellish my paintings. 

A preliminary study for Avalon; distilling the subject down to simple, flat, and stylized shapes.

The key to combining or marrying realistic subject matter with abstraction is to see that subject matter through the lens of abstraction – or as an abstract artist would see it. In their book Encounter with Art, Reid Hastie and Christian Schmidt liken the process of abstraction to the distillation process that takes place in the production of a perfume – saying, “It takes a lot of original material to obtain a product which bears little physical resemblance to the source material. The result is also more intense than the original raw materials. In the process of abstraction in art an abundance of visual experience is compressed into the product. The physical end product has a different look about it from its original sources, giving the observer a more intensified visual experience.”

A preliminary study for Avalon; distilling values down to a pattern of one dark and four light shapes.

The process of abstracting a subject begins with seeing a subject first and foremost as plastic – as  a group of shapes that can be changed, manipulated, distorted, stylized, and embellished in unlimited ways – the only limit is the artist’s imagination. This concept also holds true for the rest of the visual elements as well. Value and color can be totally freed from representational duties as can the elements of line, texture, and pattern. 

A preliminary study for Avalon; experimenting with ideas for embellishing my painting with line, texture and pattern.

 

Crossing that line that separates representation from abstraction presents exciting new ways to see and experience the figure. Paying equal attention to figure and abstract qualities in a painting allows the artist’s imagination to soar, allowing his personal voice to enter the picture – literally!   

 

Bye for now…..Donna

 

 

Many Thanks to You

 

“The soul of autumn is introspection, maturity, and transformation. This is the time of the year when we find ourselves examining the past, discovering our unfolding maturity and realizing that change is the champion of freedom.”   John Ashbrook

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am grateful and thankful to have so many wonderful things in my life that bring me joy; family, friends, home, studio, and my love of art and everything art has to offer. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that after so many years I’m still a curious and enthusiastic artist who loves to learn and experiment with new ways to express myself in my paintings.

I’m also grateful to my students – you inspire me to be a better teacher! And a heartfelt thanks goes out to you, my loyal and encouraging readers who have supported my blogging efforts for the past ten years!

Again – Happy Thanksgiving from my studio to yours! I hope that you’re surrounded by love and joy on this special day. 

Bye for now…..Donna

 

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