Artist Interview: Donna Flowers-Dorning
Donna Flowers-Dorning is an artist and shop owner based in Cumbria. Her work focus' on the collective imagination of places and memory to create nostalgic contemporary art work. She has exhibited in CLK Galley in Lymm and the Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge, with the focus on her now gallery and shop space. We had the pleasure of asking a few questions, delving into the heart of cumbria!
'Through trying my best to represent what I was painting, I found that I love creating vibrant detailed things like text and pattern.'
'Art brings me so much joy, and I use creativity as a way to unwind and relax, during lockdown it was the perfect escape and has evolved to me now painting full time and selling my work.'
Q: Can you tell us about your artistic background?
I studied Art at college and went on to do graphic design and fashion at UCLAN in Preston. Throughout my life I have always painted for pleasure, but in the first lockdown I was given the time and opportunity to sit and paint for 3 months solid. My friend Charlotte Gleave gave me an amazing opportunity to exhibit my work at her flower Barn 'ivy and primrose' in Whitestake during lockdown. That really kick started my artistic career, and led on to an exhibition at CLK Galley in Lymm and now at Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge.
Q: Who or what inspires your artwork?
I have always collected and sold vintage clothing and also do a lot of sewing so I find colour and pattern inspiring. Food and drink are one of my passions so they feature heavily in my paintings and often a memory or photo of food will spark an idea for my next piece. Plants, flowers, books and Famous artwork also inspire me. I love Frida Khalos vibrant colours, and use of pattern and foliage, and I take inspiration from holidays I have been on and destinations I want to visit.
Q: How does a piece of work begin for you? Can you describe your process?
Usually with one object or photograph to begin with. For instance it could be a window view, and from there I will work out a colour pallette to compliment the view, and build up a story using plants, furniture wine and food. I sometimes do a quick sketch on paper to get my composition or other times use my phone to collage different images together until the magic happens. Then it's straight onto canvas with acrylic paint, layering up my composition and gradually getting in more detail until its finished. I then get my husband Chris in to help me decide where my shadows would sit. Because it's a paint collage I find it hard to imagine where they go but he is incredible at making them accurate. He is an incredible artist and has become my 'shadow myster!'. My paintings take between 5hrs and 30 hrs to complete.
Donna's process @donnaflowersdorningartist
Q: What are your essentials when working?
Good lighting, my phone to work from photographs I have found or take an audio book on the borrowbook app (I love a good murder mystery) And a huge selection of acrylic paint, detailed brushes and lots of hot coffee!
Q: How did you find your personal style?
I started painting nostalgic items that where familiar to me and others. Just through trying my best to represent what I was painting, I found that I love creating vibrant detailed things like text and pattern. And because the still life as its painted isn't actually right in front of me it has an inaccurate but charming naive quality that's comes naturally to me and works really well.
Q: What influenced you to open ‘Still Life’?
Chris and I have always painted and created since we met in 2006, and it felt really natural to combine our talents under one roof and open our own gallery. In summer 2021 a unique opportunity came up for us to buy our home and shop in the beautiful market town of Ulverston in Cumbria. We had a small window of time as our 2 sons where transitioning in their education, one from primary school to High school, the other from college to university. So we decided to take the leap from Penwortham Preston, to move to Ulverston. We feel incredibly lucky to now live and work in our beautiful home in the South lakes, painting and making and selling our work.
Still Life, Ulverston @donnaflowersdorningartist
Q: What project are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a new exhibition for Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge. They have given me a wonderful opportunity to exhibition my originals and sell prints in thier Magical Gallery in the town. The exhibition will have a local theme featuring views of the town, food & drink, landmarks and what make Hebden so special.
Q: Could you tell us some fun facts people may not know about you?
Hmmm that is a hard one! I'm a twin (I have a beautiful sister called Jenny). I used to be an Agony Aunt writing my Dear Donna Column for the Evening Post. Lastly I gave birth to my first son Isaac whilst studying Fashion at Uclan and managed a respectable 2:1, a newborn Isaac came with me sometimes in his papoose!
Q: Why art?
My mum has been my biggest influence and I've always known her to be an artist as long as I can remember. She has encouraged me every step of the way and is really proud today. So Art brings me so much joy, and I use creativity as a way to unwind and relax, during lockdown it was the perfect escape and has evolved to me now painting full time and selling my work.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to young and upcoming artists?
To keep practising and find your style. Put yourself out there selling and exhibiting your work on artisan markets and fairs. You will gain valuable feedback and praise that will really propel you forward. And when you sell even just one piece of work it will give you the motivation and belief to keep creating.