For my interview with our first Canadian artist, I do not have to travel far. In the community of Redwood Meadows, AB, just down the road from Try it ART’s offices, I find Donna Winn. I know her as an artist; a talented painter. Then one evening, I heard her sing. What a voice! Deep, full, and jazzy; she could have easily had a very successful career as a performing artist instead of the visual artist she became. Although a painter at heart, music and painting are unequivocally connected in this woman’s life. She tells me: “I paint. That’s just what I do. And I hope you like it.”
Donna’s love for painting
With her adult son and daughters off to a life of their own, her husband’s passing after a long fight with cancer, Donna ended up alone in their large family home close to the hamlet of Bragg Creek, AB. Winn: “Painting became my life, you know. No more “I have to make dinner”, or I have to be there for one or the other. It’s just me now, and I can do whatever I want. Even if that means going into my studio at 2:30 AM. Turning on the music and paint. I love it. I love my life.”
It started in Quebec
It started back in school, in Hemmingford, QC. Donna wasn’t a very strong student, she tells me. But during one art class, grade 6, her work was displayed, as an example for the other kids. The teacher said: this is Donna’s work. It is a piece of art. Donna: “It did something with me right that moment, an I grew.” Later on, in grade 10 or 11, she took art and again, got noticed by the teachers. “I think, going back, that’s really when it started. I have always been working with line, even back then, subconsciously.” Later on, at 25, Donna came to Alberta and started taking private classes from Betty MacDonald, a well-known Canadian artist at the time. She taught Donna the basics of drawing and the use of shapes and colours. There was no looking back.
“Painting is my life-line.”
Donna: “Painting is my life-line. I need it as much as I need food and water. For example, when I have company over for a few days, I cannot paint. It’s just too busy. Then I almost get a little anxious. I have to paint. Painting is a big part of who I am and it allows me to express myself. Let go, and be ok with being different. Being free! Painting is my life.”
Stories with each painting
When talking to Donna about her inspirations and her work, you soon realize that she has stories to tell about each of her paintings. How they came to be, and how they evolved. Each work representing a small part of her personal journey, her inner world.
That magical moment
Inspiration is all around her, and ideas typically just come. Painting en plain air, in the beautiful surroundings of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Or by looking at shapes and lines representing themselves to her while she goes through her daily life. An artwork coming to fruition is often related to either what she observes or how/what she feels emotionally. Textures, values, lines, and shapes are chosen depending on what the painting is about; communicating a specific (cultural) message or a certain feeling in need of being expressed. Finding a balance between art with a straight-forward message, and art based on the more intense feelings, Donna often works on two paintings simultaneously. Line and a specific medium; push and pull. Trying to stay true to her feelings and how they translate into her art. Sometimes coming out full blast, fully free. “Then when it’s all done, I can be surprised. Where did that all come from? That’s that magical moment. When it all just flows.”
“My favourite work? That is most definitely “City by the Water”, depicting Copenhagen. This painting started out more realistic until I challenged myself to make it abstract. While continuing to follow the lines, I allowed myself to be free. Translating my observations into line and colour. It made me happy and was a breakthrough at the time.”
Not afraid of being different from most, Donna’s aspirations lay with wanting to be at the base of something new. A new approach. “I like to inspire people to open themselves to something different.” A big sigh follows. “Wouldn’t that be amazing? One of my paintings to have that effect on someone.”
Let’s keep it real
A very authentic and strong woman, Donna prefers to keep things simple. “I don’t like bs. Fewer words are better. I like to keep it real.”
Interested in Donna Winn’s art on your wall?
Interested in Donna Winn’s work on your wall? You can browse her artwork on her profile page or follow her on Artsy. Not finding what you had in mind, but like her style? Feel free to contact us with your special wishes. We are happy to help you find what you are looking for.
Alternatively, in case you are local to the Calgary/Bragg Creek Area, you have the opportunity to meet Donna Winn in person, at our gallery. Feel free to contact us to make an appointment.