Leander-based artist talks about inspiration and the healing power of art

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The smell of paint and wood fills the art studio of Donna Dugone, an Austin-based artist who works out of her home studio in Leander, Texas. Paint covers walls, floors and ceilinga portrait of a woman adorns the wall against which a record player is leaned. Work in progress scatters every countertop, finished pieces lean against the wall, baskets full of brushes and stamps fill every nook and cranny.

Dugone fits right into her space, decked out in a Johnny Cash t-shirt and matching cowgirl boots. Her dog, a small black terrier named Bella, rushes between her legs as she moves through her space. Dugone takes a thick piece of white paper and uses a paint-splattered blue clothespin to hang it on an easel. She begins her piece by showing her favorite technique: spraying dry erase markers with a mixture of water and incense.

“It’s one of the most spiritual oils you can use,” Dugone said of her use of frankincense. “I want every painting I do, if a person looks at it, it moves them.”

She then adds ink to the paper, in different colors. Dugone generally uses Distress Inks Where Bombay inks. The colors on the page start to drip and come together, but before they reach the edge, Dugone flips the page so it’s now horizontal, and the colors flow in a new way, creating a colorful piece filled with texture. Without the use of a brush, the colors blend togetherand violet appears; although no purple ink is used.

Dugone uses different tools in his paintings to create something unique every time. From forks, pottery tools, tea bags to vintage Indian stamps, Dugone has no shortage of tools to create a textured and meaningful piece.

“Texture is what makes a painting,” Dugone said. “Otherwise it’s just flat!”

A mural inside Donna Dugone’s studio. Dugone creates much of her art, located in her home in Leander, Texas. (Grace Bent / Hill Views)

Dugone has always been a musician and earned a music degree from Northwest University in Seattle, but painting only came into her life after a dark year of divorce and chemotherapy for breast cancer.

“One of the cool things about my art is that I’m really a musician, that’s my career,” Dugone said. “But 16 years ago, I was in the middle of chemotherapy. So I was sitting in my loft 16 years ago and I heard this calm voice of God and it was like, ‘you’re supposed to make art.’

She started with art journaling, a cathartic way Dugone found to release emotions without fearing someone would later read what she wrote. She is selective with what covers her words; Gesso and paint are among his favorite things to use, their colors corresponding to his emotions: blues revealing sadness.

“What is art journaling, you write whatever you feel on the page,” Dugone said. “And then you go back and you paint over it and it’s like you bury those words and those feelings. It’s very healing.

Wildfire Artisans, a converted airstream that is co-owned by Dugone where she sells much of her art. (Grace Bent / Hill Views)

Dugone co-owns a boutique with close friend and business partner, Jeanie Synder. Forest Fire Makers is a converted vintage airstream located in the historic Old Town area, Leander and Dugone sells much of his art the.

“I appreciate [my art] to be in other people’s homes because I think if they’re attracted to them, then every day when they look at them, it does something for their hearts,” Dugone said. “It’s healing for them.”

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