Leander-based artist talks inspiration, healing power of art


Grace Bent / Hilltop Views

Donna Dugone, showing off a painting in her studio. Dugone is a local artist that works mostly with paint.

The smell of paint and wood fills up the art studio of Donna Dugone, an Austin-based artist who works out of her at-home studio in Leander, Texas. Paint covers the walls, floors and ceilinga portrait of a woman adorns the wall a record player leans against. Works in progress scatter every countertop, finished pieces lean against the wall, baskets filled with brushes and stamps fill every corner.

Dugone fits right into her space, adorned with a Johnny Cash t-shirt and cowgirl boots to match. Her dog, a small black terrier named Bella, darts between her legs as she moves around her space. Dugone picks up a thick piece of white paper and uses a blue, paint-splattered clothespin to hang it on an easel. She begins her piece by showing off her favorite technique: spraying dry erase markers with a mix of water and frankincense.

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

She then adds ink to the paper, of different colors. Dugone typically uses Distress Inks or Bombay Inks. The colors on the page begin to drip and run into each other;but before they reach the edge, Dugone flips the page so it now lays horizontally, and the colors drip a new way, creating a colorful piece filled with texture. Without the use of a brush, the colors blend togetherand purple appears; despite no purple ink being used.

Dugone uses different tools in her 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, meaningful piece.

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

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

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

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

She began with art journaling, a cathartic way Dugone found to release emotions without the fear someone would read what she wrote later. She is selective with what covers up her words; gesso and paints being some of her favorite things to use, their colors matching her emotions: blues indicative of sadnesses.

“What art journaling is, you write anything on the page that you’re feeling,” 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 / Hilltop Views)

Dugone co-owns a boutique with close friend and business partner, Jeanie Synder. Wildfire Artisans is a converted vintage airstream located in the historic district of Old Town, Leander and Dugone sells much of her art there.

“I like [my art] being in other people’s homes because I think that if they’re drawn to them then everyday when they look at them it does something for their heart,” Dugone said. “It’s healing for them.”