contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Interview with Guest Artist Donna Watson!

Imprint mixed media collage by Donna Watson

Donna Watson

It is my pleasure to bring you an interview with one of my favorite artists, Donna Watson. I have had the opportunity to study with Donna on two occasions. I took a work shop with Donna several years ago. It was a brief version of her week long workshop. So when she taught again in this area about a year and a half ago, I took that one too! Donna spends a lot of time helping her students clarify their own unique style. I benefited from getting clear that I am a value painter; an artist who uses neutral colors. Donna encourages her students to attach personal meaning to the content of their work, to work in a series, and think about the statement their work is making. Donna kindly agreed to answer some questions about her art and source of her inspiration for Textures Shapes and Color.

You have been an artist most of your adult life. What has being an artist given back to you?

I have been an artist for 30 years. I began painting in watercolor, after completing a Master’s degree in deaf education and teaching deaf children for 4 years. But I do have early memories, as a child, of drawing and painting whatever was in front of me. So, I have always been drawn to artistic activities, whether it was making a wreath, or my own jewelry, or clothing. Whenever I saw something I liked, my first thought was always, “I can make that.” I tried many different mediums in my search for an outlet for my creative urges. I have read that first borns are driven to be high achievers, to strive for perfection. That sums me up pretty well.

What is the source of your creative inspiration?

Over the years, my studio has become a place of refuge---a sanctuary where my creative activities sustain and rejuvenate me. My goal is to evolve, grow and become a better painter (to my eyes and own judgment). One source of creative inspiration for me is when I find an exciting artist or new body of work. I love to go to galleries and look at art books--- and all sorts of artwork can turn me on--- pottery, quilts, assemblage--- can all be quite creative and inspiring. Our creative selves need plenty of sensory stimulation to feel inspired, and keeping an open mind can lead to new creative ways. I have been through a number of transitions, moving from painting transparent watercolor landscapes to my current work which includes acrylic, collage, and assemblage. I have figured out what I like and don’t like in my search for my own personal expression. I combine found papers, hand painted textured papers, fabric, or digital imagery with acrylic paint. I may also attach rusty metal, weathered wood and bones.

What one book would you recommend to fellow artists and why?

A book I would like to recommend is ART AND FEAR by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
On the back cover there are 3 questions: What is your art really about?
Where is it going? What stands in the way of getting there? These questions occur at each stage of artistic development and this little book is very helpful at answering them.

One of the strong elements of your work is color. Can you tell us about your color choices?

I love texture and subdued colors. Black and white is a huge turn-on for me. I also strive for balance and unity in my work. Content is very important. Currently, I am interested in the passage of time, and what remains. This may be the physical effects in nature or the psychological effects on memory or identity. With the passage of time there is a transience depicted with traces, layers and recollections. I try to take what is personal to me and make a more universal connection.

If you were to walk in an antique/junk store, what kind of find would be exciting for you?

I love textures, text, circles, dots, numbers, and letters. I take my own digital images of some of my favorite collections of bird nests, fossils, seed pods, rocks. I have an obsession with collecting things. I even love to collect unusual boxes to keep my collections in. There are so many things in an antique or junk store that would excite me--- old chart maps, old tool handles, rusty hinges, yellowed book pages. Because I am half Japanese, anything Asian would really excite me.

You have recently opened an Etsy store. What kind of work will you feature there?

My recently opened Etsy store is called Watson Studios. I have some very small collages on wood or canvas featured there. I also have a website at

My thanks to Donna for her sage guidance to her students (me!) and for taking the time to be interviewed.


  1. Fabulous interview Leslie!
    I took the tour of Donna's Etsy and her webite,,,,what stunning work!
    You are very fortunate to be able to study with her,,,,thanks for introducing us to Donna and her work!

  2. omg! I thought that collage was yours - your styles are strikingly similar - wonderful interview.

  3. Quite a masterclass in how to interview. I was interested throughout.

  4. I've come across Donna's work in my internet travels and in magazines. I am attracted to her techniques, texture, neutral colour schemes and content.

    When I read her artist statement on her website,my attraction is further defined; our work focuses on the same themes, but how we go about expressing this focus is different. I always find it so amazing that there are so many ways of expressing the same ideas. I attended a workshop once about developing artist statements. One of the activities was to read an artist statement and try to match it to artwork presented. You might think this an easy task, but it was quite difficult. It was because there can be so many takes on one theme.

    Thanks for the interview Leslie. I always enjoy learning where an artist's work comes from.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview thanks Leslie. You asked all the questions I would have liked to ask. Took a stroll over to Donna's site which was the cherry on the top. I have ART AND FEAR but have never finished reading it. Perhaps I will give it another try. Sometimes you have to be in the right mood for a particular book.

  6. Yes, I also thought this one one of your collages, Leslie! Very similar style. Beautiful. I'm intrigued by Donnna's work with the deaf, since I used to be a licensed sign language interpreter.

  7. Donna is one of my favorite artists, too. She's inspiring me (as are you) to explore those neutral colors that you use to such great effect. You are indeed fortunate to have taken her classes.

  8. I really like the textural/fiber qualities of the collage pictured. Thanks for spotlighting Donna - and I'll be looking at more of her work, too.

  9. Interesting interview - a person after my own heart in many respects. By the way, since visiting your blog I have just completed three collages which have been a great deal of fun to produce. I ahven't done this kind of thing since I was teenager so it was kind of a nostalgic trip too. Learnt a lot also!

  10. Thank you for a very entertaining and informative blog. Don't know how I got to you through blogging land, but glad I touched on yours. I love your collages and writings, I was never very successful with these and went down the painting route. I will come back and look at your past posts soon. Best wishes.

  11. I agree about the similar work and found the interview very interesting, I learn so much from your blog everytime I visit, Lesley. Thank you for your generosity!

  12. Interesting interview Leslie. How wonderful to have taken workshops from her as you both agree on texture and color. I will visit her website and I think I have the book Art and Fear. Again, great interview!

  13. Wonderful interview Leslie...must admit I thought that collage was one of yours too. It's wonderful. Will check out Donna's website.

  14. I can also see the influences in your work Leslie - great interview thanks!

  15. A wonderful interview and a wonderful inspiration...

  16. Leslie
    I am new to your blog and I throughly enjoyed the interview!I am a lover of collage and becoming engaged in giving it a try...I know the nuances or creating this art form are not yet mine....but I love the experimentation.
    Please stop by Psyche Connections when you are in the neighborhood.
    Tea is always on.

  17. Hi Leslie,

    I tried leaving you a comment last week but it obviously didn't "take"!

    This idea of having guest bloggers seems to be spreading. It's a good one!

    I looked at Donna's website and really liked the pieces that had a little more colour.

  18. I'm so glad you interviewed Donna. She told more about herself than has appeared in some of the art magazines which is always fun. She's at the top of my list of favorite collage artists, right up there with Joan Schulze and Kathrine Ching Lui... and you! Say hi to her for me; it's been a long time since I last saw her... at Art in the Pearl in Portland.

  19. Thank you for the interview! Donna's work is great!


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