By BILLYE TURNER for Cascade AE
Joanne Donaca’s memories involve her art. A native Oregonian, her third grade Ontario, Oregon teacher had her draw a three foot Santa Claus face on the black board for the holidays. The Ontario High School art teacher praised her innate artistic talent yet she found class instruction in color theory boring. She inherently understood the subtleties of hues and values.
Art, not her only expertise, she excelled in sports, particularly tennis with natural eye-hand coordination. Her math teacher mentored her tennis; highly motivated she would hit hundreds of balls against the wall, developing skill.
Academic achievement also belonged to her. The family moved from Ontario to Bend early in her senior high school year, following the untimely death of her mother. The move bolstered her already competitive nature, fueling her determination. She completed Redmond High School as its class salutatorian following one year of enrollment.
Donaca then attended Central Oregon Community College on honors scholarships, majoring in business administration. There she met her future husband, Richard Donaca, and following receipt of her AA degree in business (minor in art), they married. Children followed.
With the youngest of their three children in grade school, she began her life-long community involvement, volunteering for Pole, Pedal, Paddle, in skiing competitions for her children, and on the COCC Community Education Advisory Board, serving as its chair for over ten years. Her art was personal - a hand-drawn card for a friend or black and white sketches of homes, children as gifts.
Her art was realistic, detailed.
Children grown, she achieved another challenging goal - becoming a licensed pilot. Volunteerism continued with board membership at the Kids Center of Bend and prevails with her advisory board membership for COCC’s new culinary school.
Throughout all, she felt compelled to pick up her brushes. Returning focus to art, her noted determination pushed her forward as she taught herself both watercolor and pastel, winning awards from the Oregon Watercolor Society and signature membership and awards in the Oregon Pastel Society, Northwest Pastel Society and the Pastel Society of America. In 1998, Donaca began to teach watercolor and drawing through community education at COCC.
During this period of artistic development, her small drawings gave way to widely admired and collected realistic, full-sheet watercolor landscapes and commissioned portraits. She continues her commissioned work today in both subjects.
Her history illustrates her ability to move readily from right-brain creativity to left-brain structure and logic, uncommon to many artists. The influence of both capacities demonstrates strongly in her life through her art as well as through her community leadership and advisory skills.
In early 2000, she attended a Monet exhibition at the Portland Art Museum and the door to her future flung widely open. Mesmerized by the impressionistic painting style, she returned home to begin serious work with oils on canvas. She remembered the high school instruction in color theory as she laid down parallel impressionistic strokes of varied hues to create the deliberate composition of the paintings.
She studied with nationally recognized masters Kevin Macpherson and Tom Browning and attended one of Delbert Gish’s final workshops in Boise, focusing on still life and landscape. Her excellence won her associate membership in Oil Painters of America and her business acumen led her to paint scenes of Central Oregon, bringing strong client response and purchase.
Painting throughout the 2000s in the impressionistic style, she chose an enhanced, yet realistic palette drawn from nature. Combining defined bold with softer, gestural strokes, she excelled at texture and movement in painting.
An outstanding example of this style is her Mirror Pond (in this article). The painting also depicts another of Donaca’s artistic talents, that of painting water with a clear vision of light on its surface and the qualities of refraction and reflection. Perhaps her paintings of water most strongly evidence her superb grasp of complimentary hues and values, creating a palpable sense of fluidity on the water’s surface.
Throughout all this creative energy, her innately strong determination prevailed, moving her through learning struggles and also attuning her keenly to client’s responses. The realistic images gave way to impressionism.
In some work in the last few years, Donaca returns to realism. She moves easily from a more integrated impressionistic painting style to finely detailed art, demonstrating mastery of both.
She notes: “One of my greatest challenges is to grow in my ability to paint. Over the years, moving from watercolor to pastel and to oil brought me the satisfaction of competency in these mediums. Yet, I measure my true ability by the public’s pleasure in viewing my work and that my clients take in choosing a piece. This reminds me of artist Howard Terpening’s quote ‘an artist builds his credibility piece by piece.’”
The quote speaks well to Donaca’s artistic achievement and her well-deserved recognition and success!
Billye Turner, art consultant, curates exhibitions for Sunriver and Pronghorn Resorts and Franklin Crossing in Bend, 541-382-9398.