Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist

How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life



Creativity begins with the heart and mind….however there is so much more to making a painting than hopes and wishes…..

Here is the first in my series of “sharing my painting secrets” blog posts.  Back in the day I created and taught a very popular workshop called “The Craft of Painting”.  Artists and newbies came to Santa fe from all over the US – even Canada and Mexico!  They were introduced to nuts and bolts methods of how to make a painting.  This continued off and on for seventeen years.  The premise of these workshops was to lay the foundation of a good painting. The spiritual drive to create is only a wish your heart makes unless decide what to paint – prepare canvas, mix paints, clean your brushes.  I’ve had three good teachers – Mr. Dodge, freshman year in high school, Jan Herring’s Workshop in Cloudcroft, N.M. and most influential all the artists who ever lived to create work that touched my heart and soul.

One painting in particular was “A Donor and Five Saints” by the Italian Renaissance master Mantegna.  Have searched far and wide but have been unsuccessful in finding a photo anywhere now.  Back then when I worked in the Prudential Building and would make weekly ritual visits to that painting.  I  visually took it apart to understand why it was so strong and powerful.  I didn’t know it then, but Renaissance painters worked with transparent colors called “glazes”.  I didn’t even know the word, much less that dark transparent colors created the “light” in these masterpieces.  It was my fervent desire to be an artist.  That painting spoke to me and I understood there was a lifetime of learning ahead! It has been a long and winding road from the late 1950’s til now.  All I can tell you is that I am still learning at the ripe old age of 81.  

Where to start? Whatever or however you choose to paint on any given day, make it simple. Dedicate a space in your life conducive to creativity.   A comfortable working area –  a place to paint anywhere at anytime. The permanent set up is the goal. My first “studio” was a large bathroom in a small summer cabin on Holbrook Road in Homewood, Illinois. There was a cabinet under the window and that is where I “worked”. I was 20 years old – newly married with a full-time job in Chicago’s Loop. I became a “Sunday painter”. Persistence pays. Painting has been my life for over sixty years now. Where there is a will, there is a WAY!

Your space does not have to be large – room for an easel, a moveable painting cart – with your palette on the top.North light if possible. If not, a good painting light will work. There are special light bulbs – do some research. I am a studio painter – a comfortable chair set at the right height to easily access the palette is essential. A sturdy easel – a palette full of fresh oil paint and your imagination – does life get any better?!

Stay tuned, stay healthy – there is more to come!  DC