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

10 thoughts on “Interview With Donna Zagotta

  1. Dixie Sampier

    “That thing that is yours” — I believe you have found but you just don’t know it! When I see your painting here and there, like in a magazine, I know it’s you before I even read any text. No one paints like you and I love the way you do paint. I can always tell your work, or spot it from across a room. The spirit of art is like, we as artist are always wanting to do the next painting, thinking it will be better than what we have been doing. I’m better with paint than I am with words, but at least I have said this much. Thank you for doing what you do, I love it!

    1. Donna Post author

      Hi Dixie,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. “That thing that is your own” has been my talisman for so many years. It was very cool to hear someone say – “you know girl – I think you’ve found it!” Thanks so much for saying that Dixie.

  2. Hazel Stone

    I enjoyed your interview so much. That you gave yourself the title of RRA (reasonably responsible adult), made me chuckle and realize that even people like you have to deal with real life tasks.
    As to your comments about painting, I so agree with your emphasis on composition and design. I have been moving toward what I believe may be my “sweet spot” in my work, concentrating on contemporary abstraction with a hint of realism. I don’t use masking agents, preferring to leave the white of the paper on my own. Dynamic color play is thoughtfully considered at first, but when painting, I move into the instinctive process leaving all previous decisions aside. So sometimes, I’m surprised by what my “sweet spot zone” approach has produced!
    I haven’t developed a love for gouache yet, but have used it for fixing problems. Acrylics call every now and then and want me to experiment and stretch spontaneously and quickly. Again, I am surprised by what the “hurry up and finish before all the paint dries up” idea produces. In Arizona, the life of acrylic paint is often problematic.
    I paint until a painting tells me it is done. I wonder sometimes how I did some of my work, so it is fun to be surprised even by myself!
    ~Hazel Stone

    1. Donna Post author

      HI Hazel,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I love your term “sweet spot” and isn’t it wonderful to be surprised and delighted by your work! It sounds like your improvisational approach to painting is allowing you to access and express your true self in your work. I say Bravo!

  3. Suzanne Scheer

    Hi Donna. Great interview. I too am loving painting with lots of color and gouache. Love the forgiving nature of watercolours used in a thick way and how layering results in such wonderful surprises. You are such an inspiration to me and I often ask myself “what would Donna think of this?” Keep up with the great articles.

    1. Donna Post author

      Hey Suzanne – Great to hear from you! Yes! – you are definitely the “lots of color and gouache girl.” I’m so glad to hear your still working that way. Your paintings in PV were awesome. And THAT’S what Donna thinks!

  4. Marylou Ackerman

    Donna, Once again l have remembered how good your words of advice are! You have a way of leading me and others to remain true to themselves. Thank you! Hope to see you soon. Love Marylou

Comments are closed.