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Winter 2016 Competition:

Mad, Mad World


3rd Place Winner

acrylic and ink on canvas
30 x 28 in

artist statement

I used to drink a bit.

When I decided that I’d be better off if I put down the stemware, I needed something to fill a big empty space. I knew I liked art. I actually studied painting back in the 80’s. So armed with a 50% off coupon I hit the craft store. Like a bird I’m a sucker for shiny things and the silver Liquitex tubes called my name. At home with a few small canvas boards I began at the beginning. The memories I have left from childhood. Me sitting in the grass with a daisy, me sitting in the grass alone, me sitting in the grass while happy children played around me. It spiraled down from there. Turns out most of my childhood memories were pretty awful and I realized I was primed for exorcising a few demons.

My paintings are meant to be whimsical and kind of quirky despite the sometimes-desperate cry for help they really were. I needed to twist up my dark world into something colorful, comfortable and safe. Work I could laugh at and ultimately make peace with. My characters, the birds, cats, fish – whatever, are typically self-portraits or family members. They help tell the stories.


I believe my style of painting stems from a wish for a bit of control over an out of control life. Layers of brush strokes build upon each other like mesmerizing little geometric color studies. I use a nearly dry brush technique in order to have the most control over the paint. You can often see the lines of the Sharpie marker used to draw out the canvas. A little bit is added – or left behind if I feel it enhances the work.


artist bio

I was born into the Witness Protection Program so the details of my childhood have been kept from me for my own safety. I was released when it was discovered that I was never in any real danger at all. I was turned out into the street with a written apology, a pat on the head and a detailed invoice payable to the FBI for all that protection I never even needed. Talk about being behind before you even begin.

Actually, I was recently paroled from a 15 year sentence in an office cube. It was a fortunate occurrence if you consider all the time I wasted wishing the window directly behind me could open. I grieved for about 5 seconds before going to my attic to find the paint brushes I remember being so fond of  in college. They were a tad dusty and a little more than "slightly miffed" due to my neglect.  It seems they forgave me after I introduced them to the shiny new tubes of paint I had purchased just for them. Now our days are spent in joyful anticipation of the challenges each new blank canvas presents.

Except for the part about having a sketchy childhood, the first bit was a complete fabrication. sorry, I couldn't resist.


Donna Howard

donna howard
Woburn, MA [USA]





art scene today Q & A

Q: Where do you see yourself in the art scene today?
A: I'm pleased at the path my art has taken. I feel like I'm in the thick of things in "my" Artist community in Lowell Massachusetts. My work is recognized and it absolutely amazes me every time it happens. I started painting in 2010 and I jumped in with both feet. I've been in a solo or group show, either in a bricks and mortar gallery or an online gallery almost every month since early 2011. Granted I enter Artist Calls at least 3 times a month. I felt that it was necessary to get my art out in the world.
Q: What is in your inspiration?
A: Memories inspire me. My first memory of art appreciation was when the family took a trip to the deCordova museum in Lincoln, MA. Quiet, quiet, hysterical laughter – my 3-year old brother stumbled upon a wall-sized nude and just lost his mind. He laughed so hard and with such joy there wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t join in. That might be where I decided to create art that makes me laugh. 
Q: What are your challenges?
A: Each blank canvas I face is a challenge. A challenge to tell my story. Every show I'm in is a challenge. A challenge to get in, a challenge to make an impression.  I love a challenge.
Q: How did you/do you choose your medium?
A:  Acrylic paint and a sharpie marker are my tools of choice. The bright colors of acrylic attracted me and the quick drying time allowed me to build up the paint at a nice pace.
Q: Which artist has influenced you the most?
A:  I can relate to artist Edward Gorey. Somewhat of a recluse himself, I adore his beautiful illustrations with their own stories. His dark humor always makes me chuckle. 

Mad, Mad World Exhibition