Donna Bernstein's large scale paintings and textured bronze cast sculptures embody her fascination with horses. Her work could be described as a blur between reality and imagination. Upon observing the movement, anatomy and character of horses in real life, Donna retreats to her studio to depict what she's seen by using the flare of her creative imagination.
Donna was born in New York but now splits her time between the mountains of McCall, Idaho and the desert of Scottsdale, Arizona. We caught up with Donna at the beginning of what is going to be a very exciting and busy year for her!
Where does your fascination of horses come from?
Donna: As a child I was fascinated with horses, however we were not in a position to own one. I studied them from books and learnt everything about conformation, skeletal structure, movement, ailments and cures. I also very carefully watched whatever horses came my way in real life.
My neighbour bought a horse and I sat on the fence for hours watching and studying it, but did not draw it until I got home.
Have you continued to paint from your memory and imagination?
Donna: Yes, my horses are created from my imagination, memory and dreams. I don’t paint or sculpt from pictures. I constantly draw horses and use this as a way to perfect my knowledge of them.
As I never had a horse, I had to create my own. I now understand that I am painting the horses I never had. I never really thought of myself as an artist, I just wanted to be around horses!
Would you now describe yourself as an artist?
Donna: Yes, I have learnt that I am an artist by nature. I'm an artist in the way that I see the world, the depth of my imagination and how I express my vision. I do believe a true artist is someone that creates something new, for example this can be a new way of seeing.
I worked in the business of advertising and real estate for many years, these areas served me well as an artist. I am an artist at heart and always have been.
Where do you create?
Donna: Physically I create in my studio but also in a way I create in both in my heart and head. I often see what I want to paint and then let it happen. Some of my works are highly developed internally before they ever hit the canvas.
In the studio, I sometimes work on canvases that are on the floor to create works by dripping paint onto canvas. When I use this method, I find that it is very important to have a clear image in my mind of what I am doing and the placement of the horse in all its aspects. There is no starting again!
When I see a horse in my heart this is where those hours and years of watching and observing horses come into play. In my heart I know how my horse looks and how it moves.
I accurately know their anatomy and to that I add my own imaginative flair and signature style. Having said that, things happen in the process that can change my original vision of an image, so as an artist I move with that new information.
What is it about horses that specifically inspires you?
Donna: I really can’t say why horses inspire me, I was just born that way! They exemplify all the qualities I admire - beauty, joyfulness, passion, athleticism, kindness, curiosity, sensuality, companionship, intimacy, heart. What’s not to love?
Their bodies are round, soft and full of movement and emotion. Their form offers so much to look at, horses for me are visually stimulating from both a architectural and spatial standpoint.
You paint as well as sculpt, what is it that you enjoy about each medium?
Donna: I often paint on a large scale and fill the canvas with lots of motion and emotion, in a way creating a large painting is an athletic endeavour for me!
Contrastingly, when sculpting I spend time on the finer details and use clay to play with texture in 3D. I love the patina process that is used when an object is cast in the foundry. You see the wok come alive.
When it comes to challenges many artists speak of creative blocks, is this something you experience?
Donna: For me, it is a case of needing to give yourself room to grow. If you need a break from work it can often be the most creative thing you can do. I have learnt that you need to work with yourself and not critique yourself. Heavily critiquing yourself is not what art is about for me.
The horse is a popular subject for many artists both on Artfinder and throughout art history. Do you have a favourite artist who also depicts horses?
Donna: One of my favourite artists is Rosa Bonheur, a classic from the 19th century. She painted horses during the time in which women were not allowed to study anatomy. She painted large works with love. She created a huge piece named 'The House Fair', this has inspired my entire career.
Is there anyone else who you particularly admire or would describe as a role model?
Do you live by any particular philosophy?
Donna: My philosophy comes from a sense of spiritualism, and an intuitive sense of knowing. I have learned that it is not horses that I paint, I simply paint the way that horses make me feel. Having this awareness of my process guides me in both creating my art and relaying what I do to clients and collectors.
How would you describe your experience of Artfinder, since joining in September 2014?
Donna: What I love about Artfinder is that it allows me to present my work and vision to the world. It allows me to show my work to a broader audience whilst being supported on a global platform.
I have been on Artfinder for about 2 years and the personal support from the staff is hugely important to me. I believe that selling art online is the gallery of the future and with Artfinder I feel I am on the cutting edge of that transition.
What do you have planned for the future?
Donna: I see my future as being very busy! An artist for me is a true 21st Century CEO, I see myself as being an arts entrepreneur. A role that fulfills both aspects of my personality and skill set. I am not only an artist, but also a business woman.
I am currently planning my exhibits for 2017 and look forward to events both in New York and LA.
I have also started designing both jewellery and scarves from my art, I have recently having launched the Donna B Collection - and look forward to expanding the Donna B Brand of equestrian lifestyle art and design.
What would your advice be aspiring artists?
Donna: Be brave in your vision, be kind to yourself, enjoy the process, especially when challenging, learn what you can and do what your heart prompts you.