What You See is What You Get

Serge Hollerbach Shadow on Sidewalk
Serge Hollerbach, Shadow on Sidewalk

I have always felt that one of the most important objectives of a teacher is to show you new ways of seeing, rather than how to paint.    Alfred Chadbourn

When searching for subject matter for a painting, it helps to be able to see your environment in new and fresh ways – to forget what you think things look like, and really experience colors, shapes, textures, and pattern. Observe things around you in a sensitive and direct way. Look carefully to increase your visual sensitivity – the necessary ingredient for effective creation, evaluation and aesthetic appreciation of art.

Look, really look, as if for the first time, at things you may have passed by or never even noticed before. Look at everyday, simple things like a pattern of cracks on a wall or chipped paint on a door. With your eye, trace the linear shadows cast on snow or a house by brittle tree branches. Look closely at a flower petal with a drop of water on it. Examine an old, decayed tree stump. Notice a row of steps and a painted door in a busy downtown area.   Gerald Brommer

Whenever I walk or drive in the city or countryside, I make it a habit to “paint” with my eyes, to memorize the different relationships in a landscape. Then at home I put all this visual information down on paper or canvas in color.   Serge Hollerbach

Last Year I saw a painting in the American Watercolor Society exhibition by one of my favorite artists, Serge Hollerbach. I absolutely loved the image – it said so much yet it was so minimally stated. I was further delighted when I read the painting’s title, “Shadow on Sidewalk”.  My husband and I spent a few more days in New York  – a working vacation for me because I was out and about with my camera in search of new subject matter for my paintings. But I was slightly distracted – all I could see were “shadows on sidewalks”! 

Donna & Hubby in NYC, Shadow on Sidewalk

Donna & Hubby in NYC, Shadow on Sidewalk






I remember the first time I “saw” light and shadow patterns. Way back when I was a novice artist, the instructor in a class I was in showed a slide of a painting that absolutely took my breath away! The painting depicted a sunlit interior and it touched me so deeply that in an instant I knew what I wanted to paint: sunlight and interiors. I came home from class that day and saw the rooms in my house as if for the very first time. I saw, felt, and was transported by the way sunlight transforms even the most mundane corner of a room into something spectacular. The day I saw that painting in that class was the day I discovered my passion for sunlight and interiors. That was over 25 years ago and that passion still reigns!    

Blog photo

Reference Photo: My Dining Room

Zagotta, Chair Series Red and Green 8 x 10

Donna Zagotta, Dining Room Series:Green Chairs











A few years ago I discovered another passion: BODY LANGUAGE……………………..!

Reference Photo for Cruisin'

Reference Photo


Donna Zagotta, Cruisin'









Happy Painting!                  

3 thoughts on “What You See is What You Get

  1. Donna Watson

    as one who ‘dances in the shadows’ with my subdued colors and trying to get more minimal– I also love Serge’s painting– love the concept– good idea for a series.
    love your work

  2. Cynthia Rush

    I have just returned home from a workshop with Donna, where her teaching helped me understand how to de-personalize certain elements of a highly personal picture I want to paint. Her discussion of how to see shapes instead of the details of a face was transforming. Obviously her work is good, but also, as a teacher, she comes to “where I’m at” and helps me shift just a little way toward something different, toward becoming an artist who creates art instead of being a walking photocopy machine. Her class really opened up new thoughts for me.

    1. Donna Post author

      Hi Cynthia – great to hear from you! I love your comment about being “a walking photocopy machine rather than an artist who creates art” – been there done that! Once you cross over that line – there is no turning back – so congrats! Keep up the good work. Hugs – D


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