Artist Update - Donna Zagotta

Posted February 17 2016

A few years back we had the pleasure of hosting and filming Donna Zagotta.  

We produced her DVD Workshop called: The You Factor: Powerful, Personal Design in Opaque Watercolor with Donna Zagotta    

 We just caught up with her again to find out what she's been doing.

 Hi Donna, what have you been doing since filming here at Creative Catalyst?

I’ve been very busy painting, teaching national and international workshops, writing for art magazines, jurying art exhibitions, and entering international juried exhibitions.


Do you remember any highlights about your visit to Creative Catalyst to film your video?

A highlight for me was spending that week with the Creative Catalyst family – Jim, Lynn, Kelly, and Zach. I enjoyed our daily conversations and it was fascinating to see the process and all of tender loving care that goes into producing a quality art instruction DVD.   

 April Showers - by Donna Zagotta

April Showers - by Donna Zagotta


Did creating a video change your career path in any way?

I don’t think it changed my path per se, as I was already teaching and writing - but I think it definitely gave me more visibility in the art world.   


What did other artists or students say about your video?

I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from students, especially those looking for more information on how to paint with opaque watercolor.

 Girl With the Pink Umbrella 19x19 - by Donna Zagotta

Girl With the Pink Umbrella 19x19 - by Donna Zagotta


Tell us how your art has changed /evolved in the last few years.

I have become more passionate about color and composition. I think that I am getting closer to becoming a “formalist” painter – meaning that I am more interested and excited about color and abstract composition possibilities than I am about my subject matter.


What subjects, styles, materials are catching your interest these days?

I’m still painting the figure exclusively, and my major goal is still to find “my” style – what Georgia O’Keefe called “that thing that is my own.” In terms of medium and materials, I am currently using more gouache colors in addition to the white gouache that I used in conjunction with my watercolors early on. I still really enjoy painting with thick brushstrokes of watercolor and gouache and using techniques that more resemble a pastel or oil painter’s than a traditional watercolorist’s.

 Look Both Ways - by Donna Zagotta

Look Both Ways - by Donna Zagotta


What inspires you to keep creating?

I’m almost always inspired to create something – I think I was born that way! What keeps me from spending as much time creating as I would like is the fact that I’m also a reasonably responsible adult with home and family responsibilities.

 The Orange Umbrella 22x30 - by Donna Zagotta

The Orange Umbrella 22x30 - by Donna Zagotta


Have you had some obstacles to overcome to continue art? How did you overcome them?

The obstacles and challenges that I have to contend with come mainly from me. One of the major challenges I’ve had over the years is maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude when things are going poorly in a painting. I often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and my tendency is to become discouraged, frustrated, self-critical and to question my abilities and why I’m even painting at all. Recently I realized that my unconscious expectation was that “someday” I would know how to paint and that painting would become easy and “fun.”  Since I’ve been at it for over 40 years, I had to accept that since it hasn’t happened by now, it probably never will. Not only is it not getting easier - it’s getting harder!


I was able to change my thinking and my expectations by taking a class with Dr. Eric Maisel titled “Your Best Life in the Arts.” Dr. Eric Maisel is a creativity coach who has written many books on creativity and the creative process over the years and he is my “go to” for words of encouragement when I need them. In the class he emphasized the fact that failure, making messes, walking into the unknown, and not knowing are all part of the creative process and that you can’t skip the hard parts or the parts you don’t like, unless you want to settle for a slick surface approach to painting so you don’t have to fail.


What are some of the most common questions your students have?

I think most students want to know how to improve their paintings and make them more personal and creative and less realistic.  


Problems they have?

I see many problems that have to do with composition and design and a failure to understand that composition and design is the major key not only to creating solid and strong works of art, it is also the key to developing a personal visual language that allows the artist to express himself in a personal, unique, and creative way.  


Do you use your videos (or others) in your teaching?

I don’t, but that’s mainly because of logistics. I don’t carry a computer with me when I travel and the venues where I teach don’t always have the necessary equipment.


Have you learned anything new about art marketing?

I’m not currently marketing paintings, I’m marketing my workshop. My workshop marketing strategy is to get my work and name out there and seen by the people I think are my potential customers. I do that by writing articles for watercolor magazines and my art blog, and also by entering national and international watercolor exhibitions.  


Do you have any advice to someone who wants to learn to paint?

I would advise them to become passionately involved with composition and design as early as possible. Learning “how to” paint is a technical skill that will automatically come in through the back door when a student is diligently pursuing a path of putting together paintings that have great compositions and where they are expressing themselves creatively with the elements of design; shape, value, color, line, and texture rather than using those elements to describe what a subject looks like.  


How do you know when to quit a painting?

When I love it!


Where do you see your art taking you in the next 5 to 10 years? Hopes and dreams?

I’m still looking for “that thing that is my own.” I think I’m getting closer and my dream is to feel that I have finally found it. 


Thank you Donna for sharing this with us.