June 5 will mark the two year anniversary of my blog, and this post will be my 101st post! I thought it would be nice to mark the occasion with an interview with Donna Zagotta. Donna is an accomplished artist & instructor, and she has been one teacher whose class has made a big impact on my work in the past two years. You can view more of her incredible work at her website: http://www.donnazagotta.com/ Also, while you’re there, check out her blog. It’s full of thoughtful observations about art and inspiring questions for the artist. If you ever get a chance to sign up for one of her classes, don’t hesitate!
Many thanks, Donna, for taking the time to answer these interview questions!
1. What is the best thing about being an artist who teaches? The worst thing?
Being an artist who teaches and writes compels me to identify and clarify ideas and issues that I believe are important in creating art. Secondly, having to find clear and concise ways to communicate those ideas and issues to others helps me better understand myself and my work.
On the negative side is traveling – which these days is less fun for me than it used to be, and the time that teaching and writing take away from my painting – which is considerable.
2. Your studio looks amazingly organized and user friendly. Do you have any tips on how to organize one’s studio?
My best advice is to have a home for everything that you bring into the studio. I learned that lesson years ago when I painted in our basement and had no organized system – just piles of stuff everywhere. There were so many times when I would be in the middle of a huge watercolor wash and would need something unexpectedly. The frantic search for it was not a very fun or pleasant experience. My goal these days is to be able to find anything and everything in my studio within a few minutes.
3. Does your environment influence your painting? How?
I am very affected by my environment. I like open spaces and a calm, relaxed, and “pretty” environment. Dust and dirt don’t bother me too much – clutter bothers me a lot!
4. What is the best part of working in your studio?
That it’s adjacent to the rest of the rooms in the main level of our house. I paint in what used to be our living room, which is next to the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and family room. With the kids are gone and with my very supportive husband’s blessings, I now consider the whole main level of our house as “my studio.”
5. You mention your father’s untimely death as one impetus for you to begin taking your art more seriously. Are there other events that have influenced your artwork? How?
- Teaching has greatly influenced my art, for the reasons I mentioned previously. Being invited to teach at a university in the early 1990’s really forced me to get my p’s and q’s together – literally! I always say that I learn more in my classes than anyone else.
- Being juried into and receiving awards in the top national watercolor shows has been a great help in building confidence in myself and in my work.
- Studying art history and connecting my art to the historical art movements that appeal to me have played very important roles in my artistic growth.
- Paying attention to why I’m attracted to certain subjects and finding my connection to them has given me the opportunity to know myself better.
6. If you could summarize one idea or feeling that you hope all your paintings would portray, what would it be?
Life is beautiful!
7. What kinds of support or inspiration do you gather from other artists? How does this influence your work?
I have been influenced by many artists. Learning what ignites another artist’s passion shows me more about what my art can be. I have been able to bring many new ideas to my art that I don’t think would have occurred to me otherwise by studying the work I love done by other artists.
8. When you purchase art, what types of work do you choose?
I really like to look at art that says as much about the artist who created it as it does about the subject that inspired it.
9. What other interests do you have? Do they contribute or take away from your art?
I used to play the piano and the organ, and I used to sew, crochet, and do all sorts of crafts. When I decided to pursue watercolor seriously, I decided to give up most of my other hobby-type of activities. I wanted to focus all my energy and attention on painting. I didn’t want to be a “jack of all trades and master of none” – I wanted to master watercolor. That’s also the reason that I don’t paint in other mediums – oils, acrylics, pastels, etc. I am glad that I made that decision some 25 or so years ago, as the more I learn, the more I see there is to learn. It will take a whole lifetime just to scratch the surface of mastery.
10. Do you foresee any changes in your work in the next few years?
I don’t see any large changes happening. I love the direction of my current work – my hope is to make it more creative and more authentically my own.
11. What does your art mean to you?
My art means everything to me. It has given my life a central focal point, an ever evolving passionate obsession, a place to find and express my personal voice, and new and exciting challenges to meet with every painting I begin. I am very grateful to have a grand, passionate pursuit in my life!
I hope you are all enjoying a relaxing Memorial Day and taking time to remember family, friends and those who serve our country in the Armed Forces.