Artist Spotlight: Donne Bitner September 26 2020

Donne Bitner in her studio.

Describe your early experience with art and what led to your interest in painting?

I grew up in an artistic family.  Everything my grandmother did, from decorating to gardening, was done with an eye for design. My mother went to The Art Center College in California and my Aunt made woodcuts and paintings.

By the time I was in high school, I excelled in art, so my path was clear. My father was concerned, however, about how I was going to get a job with a BFA.  We ended up compromising and I went to Penn State University to get my BA. This way I could major in art while taking additional liberal arts classes.

As good as my college education was, I learned even more afterward. By attending workshops, art festivals, and museum shows I “educated my eyes” by looking at a lot of art.  

For 20 years, I participated in outdoor festivals with my husband and it broadened my understanding and appreciation of the many different approaches to art as well.

Who are some of your influences in the art world? 

Looking back, I thank my college drawing professor, Mr. Vickers, for introducing me to abstraction and showing how it underlies all art. Some of my greatest influences are Mark Rothko and Susan Rothenberg, but I am influenced by many traditional painters as well.

Donne Bitner, Days of Summer, acrylic, 30 x 40 inches 

What mediums, techniques, and subject matter have you explored in your paintings and how has your work changed over time?

After working with watercolors for years, painting mainly realistic subjects, I switched to acrylics, using them in an aqueous manner.  I like the freedom acrylics give me to work on canvas, wood, illustration board, and paper. I also love the textures that can be created with this medium. I use joint compound and gesso to build up a surface and I like to embellish with mark-making tools like charcoal and oil pastels. I also utilize stencils and stamps.

Before I moved to Orlando, I had the opportunity to use a large etching press to do monotypes with oil inks.  This was fun and I enjoyed exploring this new direction.  I have also created work with encaustics and oil pastels. My primary focus now is on painting abstractions and landscapes.

Where do you find inspiration when you begin a new piece? Do you have an idea in mind when you begin or do you work more intuitively, figuring it out as you go?

I don’t use a reference so the content in my paintings is an imagined, abstracted reality. I let the painting evolve as I go.

Pick one of your favorite pieces available at Arts on Douglas (.net). Will you tell us what you like about this piece and provide additional insight?

I am proud of my small acrylic painting titled The White Question because it checks all the boxes for me: design, impact, mystery.  “Is it done?” is one of the hardest questions an artist has to answer and I have no doubts about this one!  

Donne Bitner, The White Question, acrylic on panel, 15 x 15 inches

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

I recommend all aspiring artists seek out workshops with admired teachers and learn from them. Over the years, I attended week-long workshops at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN on at least 20 occasions.  Sharing and learning from different professional artists is quite an experience and I gained a lot of insight from these opportunities.