The paintings of Amy Donaldson are hypnotic; they are saturated with thick, bold strokes of oil paint that dance like reflections of light on the canvas. She infuses the influential style of the Impressionists with the inspiration she finds in graffiti—two seemingly polar opposite ends of the art spectrum that she marries together beautifully in her signature style. Although her work is largely abstract, there are hints of nature found in the details such as falling leaves or reflections in water. Her looping strokes and gestural marks create intricately layered compositions that are at the same time full of complexity and peace.
As a full-time artist living in Northern California, several different galleries represent Donaldson, including Gallery 1871 in Chicago. Savvy in the art of business, the artist regularly works on commission, and has original works permanently on display in hotels and hospitals, as the tranquil nature of her paintings creates a peaceful atmosphere ideal for rest and healing. Join me as Donaldson tells us about the connection she feels with painting and offers advice on pricing artwork.
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist? What initially drew you to painting?
As far back as I can remember, I have been painting, drawing, and creating. As a child, my mother would give me blank paper instead of coloring books. I started painting at University and knew it would be my life's work because I felt a connection to color. In my twenties I painted many murals in homes and businesses, which helped with income, but I desired to create on canvas full time without worrying about scaffolding. I have always loved working with my hands and bringing things from my imagination to life. As my career continues to grow, I am grateful each day for the opportunity to create works of art that help others feel loved. This is one of the greatest rewards of my life.
Your paintings have always reminded me of the work of the Impressionists, particularly the work of Monet. Does the work of these artists influence your paintings?
I had a wonderful professor named Paul Ladnier that taught me how to paint with an impressionistic style. From my travels in Paris and throughout Europe I loved seeing the work of Impressionist in person, the texture and color was magnificent. Seeing the graffiti on the walls as I traveled through towns also inspired me to fuse the two styles together.
There is a tranquil, meditative quality to your work. Can you speak a bit about this? Is your artist process meditative for you?
Painting brings me joy as a way to escape this world and connect with love. It’s my intimate time of connection with God. When I’m painting I feel connected to the spirit and I’m overwhelmed with peace. As I create on the canvas, I like to think of my paintings as visual love letters.
Painting is an expression of love that is beyond what can be spoken with words, and I hope that my work speaks to your heart with a greater love today.
The scale of your work is incredibly wide in range. What is the size of the largest painting you’ve created and what was your process like creating piece of that size?
I was honored to create “Everlasting Hope” a painting that was 20 x 9 feet long, which was installed in the Hilton Hotel lobby in Rochester, Minnesota. This hotel is connected to the Mayo Clinic where loved ones stay to be with their families that are having health challenges. My wish is that patients and families will feel the divine love and have hope knowing they are protected and not alone.
Many of your paintings have a lush, floral quality to them. Do you find inspiration in flowers, plant life, or nature?
Nature is a huge part of my inspiration. We live in the rolling hills of Northern California and I’m always taking in the atmospheric colors around me. In addition to nature, music is a huge part of my inspiration. As I listen, the paint flows out of me in a melodic way onto the canvas.
What would you say is the most important aspect of your creative process?
Being rested and painting from a place of joy and not stress. My mood can appear on the canvas so it’s important for me to have my heart in a good place to create. If I’m tired, it isn’t worth pushing myself to create. Art cannot be forced.
What suggestions would you give to artists trying to sell their work through their website? Is there a specific online selling platform that you prefer?
There are many sites for selling online. Squarespace is very user friendly with an ability to add a shopping cart. Artwork Archive is a good platform to help keep track of your inventory which is very important! As a beginner, it’s good to start modest with your pricing and go from there with a gradual increase as your work progresses. If you increase too much at one time it could hurt you. It’s helpful to find artist within your painting level and see what price range they are in. You don’t want to over or under price your work. Consider all your expenses when being a full time artist, including insurance and housing and KNOW YOUR WORTH!
If for some reason you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be?
This is a fun question. I absolutely love interior design and cooking! I would love to be able to have time to do it all. Design and food can be so innovative and I admire other creative professionals that are pursuing that.
Do you have anything coming up that you would like to share?
I have a lot of wheels in motion! For artist of all ages and skill levels, I’m working on filming painting classes that will be available online! I am also painting works for my solo show at Gallery 1871 this summer in Chicago. In June, I have an exhibit in Brussels, Belgium, which would be fun to attend, but I’m not sure that will be possible with Covid restrictions. I’m truly excited about this year; it’s going to be a beautiful one with lots of growth!