Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist


Need to start this post with a huge confession.  Although my resume states that I studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, my night school studies there lasted only one half of the first semester.  Started out with high expectations of learning the basics.  Although I won prizes all through my grade and high school, I wanted to learn HOW TO PAINT!!!  Read many books on technique, but I really didn’t know what that meant or where to look to find it.

This attempt to learn how to paint was in the early sixties – beatniks, coffee houses and marijuana.  Perhaps I was too straight-laced to understand what our professor meant as he roamed around the basement classroom telling us to “BE FREE”!!   From his reaction to my work (some rolling of the eyes and a sneer or two) it was clear I didn’t “get the picture”.  My only conclusion was that I was too “square” to understand what he meant.  One evening I looked at this fellow and realized that he would never be able to teach me what I needed to learn.  I picked up my big newsprint pad and portfolio and left.  If I really wanted to make art – good art – I would need to look elsewhere.  It was clear to me that freedom comes when you relinquish past habits and old ideas.  As far as technique was concerned, I was fresh off the farm.  I didn’t even know what I didn’t know, but I was determined to

Looking back now from many many years of painting, what I have learned is that technique develops gradually and is always subject to change.  At first I was completely impressed by Jan Herring’s workshop and painted what she taught me for quite a long time.  Then I tried working in the styles of artists whose paintings I admired – not always a good idea if you want to remain friends.  TECHNIQUE IS A LIFELONG PROCESS!  It unfolds gradually…..and, if an artist is a little rebellious and of an independent mind, they trust themselves enough to allow their work to change!   One thing leads to another.  Painting is heart work.  Once galleries start to market an artist’s work and they start to sell it becomes much more difficult to BE FREE!

Back to Cloudcroft….Here I was in this strange place, missing my babies.  Honestly I had no idea how I got into this “workshop” situation.  This was as exciting as every first day of school!  I had a big newsprint pad, some vine charcoal, fresh beautiful tubes of paint and blank canvases.  The studio room at the Lodge was huge.  I marked out my space and spread all my supplies around me.  (A tear in my eye to remember this)   I took out my note pad and pencil, prepared to learn everything Jan Herring could teach me!

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