Artist Feature: Donna Coburn

An Interview With An ArtRage Artist


Donna Coburn is a self-taught artist from Canada who creates highly imaginative art covering a wide range of styles.

Part of 'Swept Away' by Donna Coburn
Part of ‘Swept Away’

ArtRage Editions: ArtRage for iPad

Platforms: iPad Pro

Background: Digital Art

Website: www.flickr.com/photos/donna_coburn1

Who are you? What do you want the internet to know about you?

Hi! I’m Donna Coburn, Canadian and LOVE creating original content.

As a child, I enjoyed writing stories, drawing, playing guitar, singing and writing songs. Upon graduating high school, I worked as a professional singer and songwriter then entered the corporate world in Toronto where I’ve worked for many years in various admin roles, learning technology and other skills while fitting in creative projects when I could.

Presently, outside of working full-time at a law firm, I learn new apps, create and experiment often! My latest passion is digital art!

Just Another Monet Monday by Donna Coburn
Just Another Monet Monday (iPad Air, ArtRage, ArtSet Pro, Glaze, Snapseed, Adonit Jot Touch)

What kind of artist are you?

Experimental. Fluid. Loose. Quirky. Obscure.

I prefer using the descriptive words of others who view and comment on my art on several sites:

“What I love most about your work, Donna, is it’s so magical I have no idea how you made it!”

“Wonderful use of colour, intriguing, exquisite, imaginative, unusual textures, fantastical, looks 3Dish, wow, Edvard Munch, I see Monet, phantasmagorical, it looks post impressionistic, very Van Gogh, ghostly, ethereal, stunning, reminds me of Yves Tanguy…”

What kind of subjects do you draw?

My subjects are mostly created from imagination. There are all kinds of original characters, faceless, ethereal women, spirits, landscapes, cats, dogs, roosters, birds, people … places I’ve never seen or been to. You name it. Only a few are references.

After much contemplation, Gertrude knew it was time to release her pet to the sea by Donna Coburn
After much contemplation, Gertrude knew it was time to release her pet to the sea (iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ArtRage, iPhone photo of garden flowers for dress)
The East Side of Wonky Town by Donna Coburn
The East Side of Wonky Town (iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ArtRage) (based on lunchtime doodle inspired by Jellybean Row in St. John’s)

How would you describe your style and/or theme?

Silly doodles, surrealism, expressionism to fantasy, impressionism, abstract — basically, all kinds of experiments.

Do you come from a digital art background?

No. It would certainly help polish and convey more accurately what I envision at times. I’m looking forward to having more time to dive in and study more when I retire one day, but in the meantime, staycations are a perfect time for that as well! Having said that, a while back, I learned Adobe Flash for creating websites with animation, videos and online games for kids using the mouse as a stylus. In 2011, I bought my first Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet and have since purchased an iPad Air 2, then upgraded to an iPad Pro.

Flower Stream by Donna Coburn
Flower Stream (iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ArtRage, Leonardo, Glaze)

Do you use other programs or traditional media?

Yes. I have many apps on my iPad/iPhone and a few on my MacBook Pro, i.e. Adobe Creative Suite, Photoshop, Perfect Resize for finalizing/sizing digital art print requests, but primarily use ArtRage, Procreate, Sketch Club, SketchBook Pro, Pen & Ink, Snapseed, Leonardo, Afterlight and a few others on my mobile devices.

Symphony After Six by Donna Coburn
Symphony After Six (iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ArtRage)
3rd Movement by Donna Coburn
3rd Movement (iPad Pro , Apple Pencil, ArtRage, Leonardo)
Painted during a long commute home on the train.

How long have you been using ArtRage?

Since 2013. I bought it immediately after purchasing my first iPad. I also tried the desktop version to explore more goodies. See: “Above the Clouds.”

How did you come across the program?

Friends and artists were using it on social media. I’m very curious, observant and belong to many online groups. I also read a lot of comments and reviews.

Above The Clouds by Donna Coburn
Above the Clouds (MacBook Pro OSX 10.9.5 / desktop version ArtRage 4 v. 4.5.9)

What ArtRage works or projects are you most proud of?

First, I want to thank you for the invitation for an interview on your ArtRage Featured Artists page. Quite often, ArtRage shares my work on Twitter and Facebook and I’m grateful for the exposure and support given the talented followers and users of the app.

Secondly, for three consecutive years, I’ve had a piece of digital art selected by extremely talented jurors, for display at the Mobile Digital Art & Creativity Summit in Palo Alto, California. It’s a privilege being surrounded by so many diversely talented artists from around the world! Also in 2014, a piece of my digital art was chosen for display at the Eurogamer Expo in London.

Finally, the most meaningful moments are when I give artworks to a good cause or when someone requests a calendar or piece of my art to display in their home or office because it touched them some way.

Last Call At The Bar by Donna Coburn
Last Call at the Bar (iPad, ArtRage, Adonit Jot Touch)
A typical doodle while on the train.
Plight of the Bumblebee by Donna Coburn
Plight of the Bumblebee (iPad, ArtRage, Glaze)
Inspired by many articles I read, for example: Plight of the Bumble Bee: Conserving Imperiled Native Pollinators.

How do you choose what to draw?

Unless there’s an art challenge of some sort with a theme, it’s very spontaneous via a thought, something I observed (i.e. movie, news, documentary, tutorial, while gardening) or read, experienced, felt, heard or simply made up. Often, I visualize the entire piece in my mind’s eye. I also view and admire a lot of art and photos daily, so subconsciously, that could be a trigger. My instinct almost always leads the way. Every day and night there’s abundant stimuli, even in my dreams!

Somewhere by Donna Coburn
Somewhere (iPad, ArtRage, Glaze, Adonit Jot Touch)
Ranger by Donna Coburn
Ranger (partial reference of friends dog, iPad, ArtRage, Adonit Jot Touch)

Are you trying to tell a particular story/convey a certain meaning, or just basing it on what looks good? What response do you try and get from people?

Sometimes, they are stories, thoughts, a situation/topical social issue or merely an experiment. I like to mix it up and toss surprises out there. And they don’t always look good (!) due to impatience, lack of training or creating too quickly during my commute because I was “in the moment” expressing myself. Plus, I enjoy making people laugh.

Seriously though, first reactions are the best. I rarely share a work in progress. My favourite response is when the viewer becomes amused, intrigued or touched in a meaningful way and they ponder for a moment versus just passing it over. I’m going to continue creating whether anyone responds to it or not because it’s such a personal experience for growth and self-expression besides, I’m still finding my way and have so much to learn!

Grounded by Donna Coburn
Grounded (iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ArtRage, Leonardo, Snapseed)
Greentasia by Donna Coburn
Greentasia (iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ArtRage)

Why do you use ArtRage?

Why not? It’s fun, intuitive, has traditional drawing and painting tools and piqued my interest to try traditional painting with acrylics, watercolour and pen & ink soon after trying the app. I recommend the app to many first time iPad users, especially if they have a traditional art background. In addition, while app mashing with ArtRage i.e. with Glaze, Leonardo, Snapseed, etc., I make all kinds of old worldly painting effects, chunky textures and distorted images to make interesting, unique results. Personally, I really enjoy the portability and convenience while creating with ArtRage on the iPad during my daily work commute plus walking from room to room or going outside without worrying about paint splashes or clean-up!

Swept Away by Donna Coburn
Swept Away (iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, ArtRage, Leonardo, Snapseed)

Where does ArtRage fit into your workflow?

It varies. Sometimes, I start and finish with ArtRage or I import parts/layers of another piece I started in another app, because I want to manipulate it specifically using the ArtRage tools/brushes. And music really influences my brush strokes while using ArtRage, especially classical i.e. Mozart the brush literally dances and twirls across the canvas. See: “Blue.”

Blue by Donna Coburn
Blue (iPad Air, ArtRage)
The brush strokes were very much influenced by listening to Mozart!

How would you normally paint a picture? What is your process?

Each creation is different. Sometimes, there’s consideration to composition and light source, but mostly I experiment. From ArtRage, I may export a layer of colours, textures or image(s) I created into another app to play with, then import it back and start transforming, smearing the paint, manipulating it, change layer modes with lots of colour and texture experimentation, until I feel a spark or something really interesting transpires. Other times, a few strokes on the canvas lead me to a very interesting, unplanned direction. I also enjoy repurposing or recycling earlier drawings or parts of them.

Then, there are instances, when I have an idea in my head so I will either doodle it on paper, take a picture of it, import it on a layer as a guide or I may rough sketch it on a layer then start refining it and building it on many more layers. I may copy and transform the image(s) on one or many layers. I continually play like a curious child. I’m all over the map. If I get stumped on something technical, I either check the Help, look up a resource/tutorial or ask an expert from a group I belong to.

Finally, there are instances when I post as-is or I like to export my completed piece into other photo apps to experiment with them a bit more with various filters for mood, lighting or textures. Usually I’m very happy with the colours I’ve blended. My iPad and backups have many versions of pieces because before I share, I almost always say: ”Maybe I’ll just try this and see what happens!”

Woman Wading in Water by Donna Coburn
Woman Wading in Water (iPad Air, FRAX HD, ArtRage)

What are your favourite ArtRage features?

The canvas choices give interesting/realistic results i.e. watercolour canvas, marbled, pillowed and lighting. In some cases, the canvas choice inspires the art. I seem to use the watercolour brush, paint tube, glitter/sprinkles, eraser, pastel pencil, roller, oil brush, transform, simultaneously as I rarely use the tool as-is, but like to customize and manipulate it many times over to personalize the appearance and feel. And by customizing, I usually go back and forth with the eraser, several brushes, layering, blending, duplicating layers and cutting, smearing away or building textures with the glitter combined with dollops of paint to give it a certain unique look versus an “out of the box” look.

Least used?

I’m still exploring!

Garden Retreat by Donna Coburn
Garden Retreat (iPad, ArtRage, Glaze)

Do you have any tips for other artists who might want to do the same thing as you?

I’m not qualified to give any artistic advice at this juncture, but am happy to share parts of the process when asked specifically about how I achieved a result and/or texture. I prefer encouraging others or beginners. Be yourself, experiment, play, be a kid and spontaneous (!!), draw, paint, study, create every day or as often as possible. If you only follow the pack, you may miss out on stumbling upon something very unique. And … most importantly, let loose and have fun!

Just so you know, I read all of your artist interviews (so impressive!) and each artist is doing their own remarkable tweaking and pushing the limits of ArtRage to compliment or enhance their own mark or personality within their pieces. I’m all for that!

Is ArtRage suited to professional artwork?


Movers & Shakers by Donna Coburn
Movers & Shakers (iPad, ArtRage, Leonardo, Adonit Jot Touch, Abstract)
Painting the Hard Way by Donna Coburn
Painting the Hard Way (iPad, ArtRage, Adonit Jot Touch)

You can view more of Donna Coburn’s work and purchase it from Society6, and follow her on Flickr and Twitter.

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