Donna Bernstein is a contemporary artist, born in NYC she dreamed of horses, studying their movement, spirit and committing to memory their every detail. She would spend hours simply watching her neighbour’s horse, but would never begin drawing it until she got home. Without using pictures or any sort of physical reference Donna began drawing, yet didn’t consider herself an artist for the longest of times. Over time she came to realise that it was not in fact just any horse she was drawing but simply the horse she never had. Since moving to Idaho Donna’s work has gone from strength to strength and her pieces are exhibited in prestigious galleries. Alanna Clarke gets to know the woman behind the paintings.
You’ve said that you paint the way a horse makes you feel. Can you paint us a picture in words of how horses make you feel?
Horses have always been for me a source of healing, energy and life. I feel closely aligned with the ancient cave paintings; minimalist, primal, intimate. I experience that connection when I am with or paint horses. That pure and intuitive bliss is what I hope to share in my work.
On your website, you say that you take commissions. How does that work? How do you balance the clients wants and your vision? Do they ever clash?
Commission work is deeply satisfying for me, and can involve in a variety of directions. For example, I have had requests wherein a client loves a particular painting, but the original may be sold, so I make another one in similar feeling, style and form. Or a client may want that same painting in a smaller version or different colour palette. Recently I had a request from an architect who loved a very simple, clear rendering I had one in acrylic and charcoal; he wanted that horse in a larger size, in oil and in two specific colours only!
I am highly challenged and deeply grateful for the commissions and bespoke requests I receive and enjoy working very closely with my client. My input is just as important to them and so it becomes quite a collaborative effort.
What do you do when you take a break? Are you still looking for inspiration even as you are meant to be relaxing?
Always. Everything is inspiration. Watching horses move and feeling the deep personalities they express is always enticing to me. Horses have a way of communicating on every level, and this evocative nature forms a personal basis for my work.
You do live paintings at high profile events, fundraisers, and galas, does it intimidate you that a potential wrong move is essentially publicly displayed?
I have had that experience; however, over time I have realised that the best way to meet that challenge is to be very prepared; know what I am going to paint, and the process of completing that painting. I will have practiced it in the studio, and will have my specific supplies with me. Keep it simple. And confident. If a ‘mistake” occurs my style of painting allows me to work with it – often that mistake becomes an essential part of the piece.
Art has a way of working with you, when you work with it. What I’ve learned:
“It isn’t the amount of paint in your art; it’s the amount of art in your paint”
What is the most challenging piece you’ve worked on so far?
Hard to say … probably the one in oil with two colours only!
You’ve said previously that you don’t like your work being rejected in on any level. How do you deal with that rejection and how does that impact on into your next piece of work?
I think it’s never comfortable to be ‘rejected’, but you move on. You feel supported in the work you do and you realize that there are many pathways to progress and continued success. You just keep finding your audience, your fans and clientele, and focus on that process.
Your first fine jewellery collection was the Equilibre Collection. What inspired you move into jewellery?
I am a lover of horses – and a lover of jewellery – so there you are! Although I have to say that often comments by collectors would spur me on, and there were a few who mentioned that my work might look good as jewellery. I see my art as able to transcend the flat surfaces as art, and be able to be brought to horse lovers in a larger way – as the Donna B Brand – of Equestrian Art and Style. This includes the jewellery and fashion scarves as wearable art. The style of my work lends itself to a designer look, and it is a new and exciting development.
Other than equestrian jewellery and painting, you’re a sculptor, you produce wall art and fashion accessories, a very diverse selection. What next for the Donna B collection?
Continuing to build on the same, expanding the market and scope of the products. There are four new scarf designs available now with more to come!
See more of Donna’s stunning art, jewellery and fashion collection at: donnabernstein.com