The featured artist at Cow Art and More for October 2010 was Donna Greenstein. Donna's "photorealism" watercolor painting techniques allow her to capture her horse and cattle subjects in a realistic fashion. She enjoys painting from her ranch in Canada and finds her subjects simply by walking out her back door.
Why do you paint?
My favorite pastime is photographing animals, planning a painting then executing the project. I love to paint in the evening when the business of farm life has calmed down. I put on music, usually classical, and paint away. Bliss!
How did you get started?
Like most artists, I drew and painted from the time I was a young girl. I lived in a small town, Walnut, Illinois, south of Chicago. My dad was a large animal vet there and he took me around with him on calls. I drew and drew and drew. After retiring as a high school Computer Science and Math teacher in the country north of Toronto, Ontario, I took up watercolors starting with botanical art, painting my garden’s flowers, fruit, vegetables, etc in a highly realistic way. I then concentrated on birds and now I have painted farm animals for a few years.
What is your technique?
I love realism. The more realistic the better. Abstract I don’t get.
I start with a great photo, build my composition, draw on tracing paper, transfer to Fabriano 300 lb watercolor paper. I then do a test sheet to figure out the colors I will use making sure to use the minimum number of colors to maximize color consistency then paint until I am satisfied the painting is finished.
Where did you learn your technique?
I have taken scores of courses and workshops over the years. I love learning new methods. I also belong to a painting group called Kaleidoscope. We meet regularly and give each other advice.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My husband and I have owned an organic cow-calf operation selling sides and quarters for 35 years. My present inspiration comes from the cattle and horses around me.
How do you decide what to paint?
I take my camera everywhere, leaving it in the car. Our farm is ten minutes away from the local towns. If the lighting is good and I pass animal herds I stop to photograph them. If a photo grabs my fancy and inspires me, I will paint it.
How long does it take you to get an average creation?
From concept to finish I take about 30 hours as there is so much detail in each painting. The trick is knowing when to stop. I like much more detail than most artists. Photorealism is my goal.
How did you get interested in creating art of farm animals?
I grew up in Illinois in farm country and now live on a farm for the past 35 years. The animals are all around me. What better to paint than that which surrounds me.
Do you ever have goof ups or work you don’t like?
Of course. I have stacks of paintings I no longer like. I just don’t frame them.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Take courses at first as the learning curve is steep for starting art then draw, draw, draw and paint, paint, paint. Start or join a group of like minded artists and meet regularly to paint and discuss. I have painted with five friends for about four years. We call our group Kaleidoscope. We have presented a few group shows and meet every other week. We have gone to each other’s lake cottages for 3, 4 or 5 day extended holidays to paint. Joy!
What else do you do besides your art?
I am an avid gardener in the summer. I am the Treasurer of the Schomberg Horticultural Society and go to their monthly meetings. My husband runs a dog and cat boarding kennel and I help him by walking the dogs in the morning. I tutor local high school students in Math. I have been in a local book club for 30 years and am a passionate reader.
What would you like to do more of in the future?
I plan a series of barn paintings. I have many books about barn buildings and took a tour this summer of local barns with an expert Dr. John Carter. He explained that many of the old barns are not being used anymore and are falling down. Our own barn was built in the 1800s by pioneers who knew how to build a barn to last. When we first moved here in 1975 the bank barn was falling down from disuse. We recemented the floors and back wall and restored it to its past glory. Beautiful !