I’ve never worked for a living. But I’ve always painted, no matter what. To clarify that shocking statement, I’ve had three careers that I have been deeply involved in and committed to. I chose work that was in the wake of my true passion —creating art. My first career was as a City Planner and Urban Designer making beautiful and livable places for people. My second career was teaching art and design as a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning. My third career I owned an ecological restoration nursery and design business with my husband, restoring rivers and wetlands throughout the western United States. I loved my three careers. So while I’ve always worked, I chose work that fed my soul. Sure the money was important, but even more important, I was passionate about what I did, and it provided me the financial freedom I needed to develop my creative process as an artist. Throughout this time, I’ve shown my paintings consistently in galleries, national, and international exhibitions. These days, I’m painting full time, which is the best! My informal art education started when I was a child, living in France. Our home was in the Fontainebleau Forest, outside of Paris. My father would take me to the Louvre and Jeu de Pomme every weekend. Living and traveling in Europe for three years as a child left an indelible impression on me. The art, architecture, culture and learning new languages inspired me. It made me want to be an artist. At twenty years old, I moved back to to Aix-en-Provence, France to attend art school. It felt like going home. After returning to the United States, I studied art and architecture. I earned a Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning. I’ve continued my artistic studies in painting with Kevin Macpherson, Scott Christensen, Ray Roberts and Jill Carver. I live in New Mexico. My husband and I have raised three children. Parenting is its own art form and spiritual practice. Our kids are adults now, and are all equally successful and fascinating in their own right. There is a long-standing belief in our culture that in order to be a “real artist”, you should forego family life. However, in my experience, being a mother and married to my soul mate have enriched my painting in ways I never imagined. I took up drawing and painting when I was a teenager, after the early death of my father. One morning, I was moping around and I headed outside to sit in the shade by the roses. Then it happened. I saw Beauty. I capitalize Beauty because as I was looking at this tired old rose, my perception subtly shifted and my grey world transformed into sparkling, shimmering, vibrating color. Instead of just an old flower, I saw light filtering through the petals, turning them luminescent and brilliant. I was captivated by the pattern of shadows. I felt no sense of separation between the rose, and me. It was miraculous. The ordinary had transformed into the extraordinary because something in me had changed. I paint so that I can see and experience Beauty. Painting is an expressive, emotional and (paradoxically) nonverbal language. Painting is the language of relationships—the interplay of light and shadow, color, movement. It commands the painter to look beyond objects and see that nothing can be viewed in isolation, but rather in constant relationship to its environment. To see, for example, how a muted blue can appear intense relative to the grays around it or a cool red can appear warm relative to the blues around it. In painting, a cup is not a “cup,” it’s a shape, with curvature and reflected light. Something as simple as a cup has its own truth, and my role as an artist is to render that truth so others can commune with Beauty, too.
- Donna Heinley