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Washington Voices

Art helps Preston face shadows, find freedom

Thu., May 30, 2013

Donna Preston started thinking about becoming an artist when she was 4, after her father told her she was good at coloring.

Preston hung on to her father’s every word, clinging to him, until the day her mother left him. Preston’s mother married four more times, and Preston was only allowed a visit with her father two weeks out of every year.

All she knew was that she was good at coloring because her father said so.

Art became a constant in her life and she began to see it as an escape. She designed monthly sketches for the Spokane Lilac publication, created posters for local events, and won first place in the all-city art competition in her senior year at Shadle Park High School. Still, the accolades didn’t mean much to her. “Without parental recognition, it all seemed unimportant,” she said.

Her college studies had to be artistic to some extent, and she decided on interior design. She graduated from Spokane Falls Community College with an associate degree in interior design, and she has worked in residential interior design for the past 20 years in furniture stores, flooring stores and design firms. Currently, she is working independently through her own design company called Red Raven Interior Design.

After spending her childhood living with fear and uncertainty, those feelings have also remained constant and the time finally came to face those feelings. A few years ago, she started painting, instigated by the death of a beloved dog.

“I can’t say any emotional pain from my dog dying triggered the need as much as the overall time in my life,” she said. “It was just time to face the demons, face the shadows that I run from, acknowledge myself, and give myself what I didn’t get from my parents.”

She began painting intuitively. “I don’t think about it. I just go with it,” she said. “It’s how I ‘check out.’ ” Beginning with circles, she lets it flow – around and around, pulling out colors to form into more circles that bump into one another and fit like a puzzle that is a galaxy. Using brushes or her fingers dipped in oils, acrylics and charcoal, she paints otherworldly sky and landscapes that exude a sort of energy. “I am painting what we all are, like if you use a microscope and look at atoms or look at the nebula of space,” she said. “Our true essence is energy.”

She has shown her work sparingly, but had a long-running exhibit at Echo Boutique. Although she admits to being a bit afraid, she plans on showing more in the near future.

“I have to face my fear of showing my art and understand the vulnerability it shows of me,” she said, “It’s about finding freedom from constraints that bind me. Freedom is my steering wheel now and when I am ‘arting’ I am free.”

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