The world of art

Drouin artist, Donna Mitchell, with her horse painting ''Penny to sell is her name''.

By Jessica Anstice

For as long as Donna Mitchell can remember, she has always felt a burning desire to be creative.

Ms Mitchell has been creating art most of her life and as any true artist, her choice of medium and more specifically, her subject matter, as changed drastically over time.

For the Drouin talent, it all started with a drawing of her dad for Father’s Day while she was in kindergarten.

“I don’t recall when I fell in love with creating art. My parents tell me probably somewhere around the time I went to kinder, always painting at the art easels whenever I had the opportunity.

“I even drew my first memorable picture at kinder.

“It was a Father’s Day card for my dad. I drew my dad… a stick figure… naked and he had all the correct appendages! My parents were so proud they kept it specifically to present to me at my 21st birthday.”

In the beginning Ms Mitchell thought art was cute and funny, which it was, and she liked the attention she would gain from it so through her childhood years her desire for creating never stopped.

Growing up on a family farm in the rolling hills of Jindivick meant there was plenty of idle time to hone her skills as an artist.

“At every chance I would take out my paper, grey leads, and eraser to trace, draw and sketch any picture I could find in the quaint library of books, or glossy magazines we had in our cupboards,” she said.

“I hated reading but loved flicking through the pages to find an image and try to replicate it exactly.

“I remember thinking to myself that I needed to re-create the images I found on to a piece of paper perfectly. And born, was my passion to draw.”

Ms Mitchell studied all through secondary college, where she was given the opportunity to try different mediums such as graphite, pastel and oils.

She says her art teacher, Mr Wills as he was fondly known, was very encouraging of her passion.

“Quietly, I think he paid extra attention to assist in developing my skills,” she added.

“We even attended out of school art classes together where he would help further develop my skills.”

Life got in the way as it often does, and Ms Mitchell decided not to follow on with her art studies after secondary school.

However she did continue dabbling for a few years into her mid-20s until just after her first daughter was born.

“I quickly realised I couldn’t, or didn’t, want to do both and devoted myself to raising, spending time and help support my family,” she explained.

“Some 15 years went by before I even considered testing my artistic abilities again.”

Her partner, Adrian, remembered how Ms Mitchell used to draw and paint as a child and one day asked: “Why don’t you paint anymore?” – suggesting she gives it a go.

“By this time the thought of it made me so completely anxious and apprehensive, but a little voice inside was also telling me ‘why don’t you see if you still can?’,” she said

“I decided to check out what was happening in the creative world on social media and come across acrylic pouring and decided that it looked interesting enough to try.

“So, I purchased a bunch of acrylic paint and some canvas’s and started playing.”

For the first time in such a long time, Ms Mitchell felt her inner spark flare.

She was noticing colours and shapes, light, shade and form and all the little details of the world she lives in almost everywhere she looked.

With loads of encouragement from Adrian and her family, Ms Mitchell started experimenting with other mediums that she had never used before.

She signed up for a few online tutorials and found herself painting again.

Within 18 months or so, her partner figured it was about time she started entering her work in local competitions, getting the recognition she deserves.

“With not so gently coercion, Adrian gave me an ultimatum: ‘If you don’t enter your work, I will enter it for you”,” she laughed.

“With the realisation that I want to follow and develop this passion of mine, that had been suppressed for such a long time, and take a step out of my comfort zone, I took a deep breath and entered a competition at the Baw Baw Station Gallery in Yarragon.

“I cannot begin to describe the nerves I felt. Every step I took closer to the door of the gallery on delivery day of entries the more my heart raced.”

Once Ms Mitchell dropped off her entry she felt relieved, walking away with a little inner smile of excitement that she had taken a step closer to becoming an ‘artist’.

On the last day of the competition, Ms Mitchell said she was “genuinely surprised” to be awarded the People’s Choice Award with an alcohol ink piece she called ‘Embellished Essence’.

More recently, at the Drouin Focifolia Festival held early this year, she was awarded Best Small Piece for her work titled ‘A Dry Spell’ with a second piece, ‘Penny to Sell is Her Name’, awarded an honourable mention.

“My current works vary in a couple of distinct styles of realism and abstract, predominately painted in acrylic and mixed media,” she said.

“I don’t feel I have found my ‘niche’ yet like so many other artists I follow on social media have.

“Maybe I won’t, or maybe I’m lucky and I have more than one. What I am becoming more aware of, is that both styles represent who I am.”

Ms Mitchell says her realism represents how “particular and perfectionist” she can be.

While her abstract pieces show a side of her that is spontaneous, experimental, and explorative.

“With abstract my current focus, I am looking to create interest with colour, shape, movement and texture,” she explained.

“I’m looking to make pieces aesthetically pleasing while trying to draw the onlooker closer to discover little details, like a scratch, or line or pattern not noticed from afar.

“As I work through and develop each piece, I have come to realise that subconsciously I’m capturing, or emanating, my internal emotions and how my current environment makes me feel. They are reflecting where I am emotionally with my life.

“The under layers of my pieces are very active, reflecting joy and happiness, movement, surprise and exploration and somewhat disorderly but externally I’m trying to emit peacefulness, calm and harmony.”

In June, Ms Mitchell will be holding her first exhibition through the Baw Baw Arts Alliance Gallery at Yarragon.

Though, with the Covid-19 restrictions currently in place, it looks to be an online exhibition rather than in the Station Gallery itself.

“Holding my first exhibition was always going to be daunting enough, a huge step out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“With so much to learn about exhibiting my work, I get to hold my first one online.

“This was always going to be an exciting, educational occasion for me.”

Ms Mitchell’s exhibition can be viewed online via the Baw Baw Arts Alliance website here: https://www.bawbawartsalliance.org.au/cms/Exhibitions

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