Canadian Painter Susan Donati
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photo of Susan Bush Donati London artist, Susan Bush Donati, has painted all of her life. She grew up in a family of artists where brushes and paints were always available to her. Through painting, she expressed the beauty she saw around her and this consequently became a passion. She cultivated and enhanced this love of art by attending the University of Alberta in Fine Arts, Loyola College (Sculpture), the University of New Brunswick (Arts), Concordia University (English) and the University of Western Ontario (In the Footsteps of the Impressionists).

She loved Ontario the minute she moved here sixteen years ago. The beautiful countryside and exciting city streets have been her inspiration to paint landscapes and cityscapes in her favourite medium, oil. Travel in Europe, the Caribbean and particularly, Canada, has expanded her scope and artistic vision. Her focus is on depicting the way light hits surfaces and its effects on colour. A quote which captures this idea is one by 16th century poet, James Thomson, who, when speaking about an artist, wrote, "He looked and Nature sparkled in his eyes. He caught the truth of Nature and her dyes." Her aspiration is to share her appreciation of life through her work. She has won numerous awards, has been President of the Mississauga Art Society and Chairperson of the Gallery committee at Neilson Park Creative Centre. She has taught classes in drawing and painting in Ontario and Montreal. Susan is currently represented in Toronto by Leonardo Galleries in Yorkville, and in London by Rivertown Galleries, and she is a guest artist each summer at the Victoria Park Gallery in Kincardine. She exhibits her work throughout the country and internationally.

Spatial Cues - Balance - Visual Weight - Variation - On Impressionism - On Visual Art


Looking at a landscape, it is important to see if there are clear patterns of light and shade that create a sense of volume. It is also important to see if there are ample value differences to distinguish various shapes from one another. A person's natural depth perception makes everything seen in the natural world appear dimensional. However, as the artist is painting on a flat picture plane, he must convey a sense of depth and differentiate among the forms and include spatial cues to create the illusion of distance. Spatial cues depend on 4 different things: (1) Volume - gives solidity and dimension to forms through patterns of light and shadow on, for example, a tree; (2) Volume + Scale - accomplished by adding a second tree. The change in scale suggests that the new tree is farther back than the first and depth is thus implied; (3) Volume + Scale + Overlap - where trees 1 and 2 overlap, creating a background with the difference in scale and hence, heightening the sense of depth; (4) Volume + Scale + Overlap + Perspective - with the addition of subtle lines of perspective in the forms of cast shadows in the foreground, the eye is led even deeper into the space.


All components of the composition contribute to a general sense of stability and this balance can be achieved through symmetry (the even distribution of the visual elements on either side of the centre); however, there has to be some visual tension, achieved through asymmetry, which is a variable. The unequal distribution of elements creates more visual stimulation, supports movement and rhythm and yet, there's a balance in the overall picture.


A balance in composition is governed by weight. Size, value and positioning are the major determinants of visual weight, but other visual elements can also play a role. For example, a large, dark mass dominating half the picture might have great visual weight, but it can be easily overpowered by a small, bright colour on the other side. Similarly, a small form that has a unique shape or holds symbolic meaning, like a figure, can have greater visual weight than something larger or darker in value. The visual weight assigned to an element helps to determine how much attention it gets.


Variation is one of the most essential considerations as it represents the differences within a composition, i.e. size, value, colour, shape and angles. Visual interest is maintained by the movement of one's eyes through the painting. A composition may be full of movement or static and variation is what regulates these energies. Extremely horizontal subjects should be counteracted with diagonals and perspective. A composition involves not only how groups of elements relate to one another, but how they relate to the edges of the picture window. The space between the elements and the edges can exert forces of connection or resistance that have a deep effect on the overall effect.


A simplistic definition of Romantic Impressionism would be that it is a style of composition which evokes subtle moods and impressions. Further, the term encircles that group of artists, such as Monet, Renoir, Pisarro, Cezanne, Degas and others who broke away from the French Salon with its dull traditions. It was a movement which dealt with the nature of light diffraction and diffusion and enabled the painters to create new, more natural ways of rendering light effects. This was done by making use of natural light as it hit surfaces in an effort to create the illusion of changing light and colour. Palettes became more vivid and quick isolated strokes, blurred outlines and pure pigments were used, ignoring the accepted laws of colour and form.

As colours and emotions are interrelated, i.e. red rage, green with envy and so on, the execution of impressionist painting becomes a highly personal work. Yellow, orange, blue - any colour - can represent something beyond the reach of rationality. While we know that the physical combination of blue and yellow equals green, the impressionist gets the same effect by allowing the eye to make its own mixture of colours, causing them to be more vibrant and luminous.

I try to fuse what I see into statements in my paintings which are, in fact, revelations of me. Colour and warmth are so powerful in my view that looking into some paintings should be an experience like staring into a fire, unfolding the essence of my soul. In my landscapes, my goal is to give a heightened expression of the life around us.

Light in dusk, brownish-red soil, bluish-gray skies aglow with pink, green-orange vegetation - all of it is full of poetry. I like to squeeze colours straight from the tube onto the canvas, mixing and modelling with the brush. This was not something I learned, but something I feel and from such indulgence, the effect I want is born. I use brilliant colour as it speaks more powerfully and directly to the viewer. Colour is a lyrical realism and a personal symbolism. My favorite artists are Van Gogh and Canadian, Emily Carr, as they represent to me all of the above and both used colours and their complements with greater effect than any other artist to date.


As spectators, we stand at a distance from light and revel in the glory of it. But light is really all-encompassing and we should feel we are inside of it and connected to all that falls within its sphere. Land, sky, people - each has a designated ray of light that stitches us all into the fabric of the universe. I believe visual art should enable us to find our places in the light as we yield and relate to its many dimensions. We experience a profound sense of belonging - not only to each other but to history, to the moment and to the possibility of a bright future. To be truly fulfilled, we need to commit to the marriage of light and landscape and people and the earth.

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