meet art wall artist: donna mckenzie of corella design

May 12, 2010

Donna McKenzie is a self-taught artist whose inspirations make for the most endearing illustrations. I'm in love with the little Boston terrier above and her matter-of-fact drawings, all with just the right amount of mischief mixed in. Today she'll share some thoughts on the creative process behind Corella Design.

(AW) How would you describe your aesthetic?

(DM) I usually begin with a realistic image somewhere in my head, and somehow it turns out to have a little something whimsical about it in the end. So, realistic whimsy, or whimsical realism?

(AW) Which makes for the perfect juxtaposition, I'd say. Where do your characters and animals come from?

From nature, books, magazines, fabulous photos, people - anywhere really. I will see something that I like at that point in time and begin drawing. I do get inspiration from most anything. The images are not thought out characters in my head. They evolve into those personalities as I work. Most of the time the drawing or sketch goes where it wants. The idea takes me where it wants to go.

(AW) Where do you like to create?

(DM) The smallest bedroom in our house is my studio. It used to be the nursery, when our children were small of course. I have a fabulous work table, drawing table, wonderful shelves that my husband built for me. It is a great place to paint and draw and ponder. All of that said, I have a tendency to spread my work all over the house. Sometimes I will draw in the kitchen. The dining room table has the sewing machine and cutting board, paper, envelopes, and many other things. The other large room - with the computer, gets great sunlight in the early morning, and I do like to work in there until the sun moves. I guess you could say that I move around the house with the sunlight. In the evenings I like to be with my family in the den/family room, so I have a chair with a table next to it, with stuff piled high where I draw at night. All over my house is the honest answer!

(AW) So it seems you swapped fields in 2006 from a corporate job to illustration. Could you talk a bit about the transition from corporate life to self-employed creativity?

(DM) I worked in a corporate office in an information systems group at a fairly large insurance company. So obviously my work was computer-based and technical. I began my college career in psychology and dance. Being a dance therapist was my goal at that time. Being a little apprehensive after my degree, I decided, with a little or a lot of encouragement from my father, to get a degree in something that would make me more employable, so: computer science. I got a job and there you go. He was an artist/graphic designer, and I believe he wanted me to have a more stable work life.

Much later, after marriage and children, my job became very hectic with two young children, and my husband was traveling somewhat - and I would as well once in a while. We decided that I would stay home for a while with the kids to de-stress our lives somewhat. After awhile I began painting furniture, painting glass, painting pretty much whatever. I was also knitting in there somewhere. I did some custom pieces for friends, and friends of friends. After some time I started drawing, which is the thing I have found I love the most. Right now, anyway. I started doing portraits, mostly of pets. A friend suggested that I take a look at Etsy, and things have been rolling along from there. Etsy got my work out there, so to speak.

When I was younger I did draw and make jewelry and macramé, etc. My dad always had some project he was working on. So, of course, some of my talent comes from him. Although, most of my free time was spent in the dance studio - that was my focus when I was young.

(AW) What's a little something that makes you happy?

I would say coffee in the morning. Having some red wine while making dinner. The warm sun. The sound of birds. Color - with a little bit of black and white. New art supplies. The ocean, especially at dusk. The total quiet of snow falling. Dancing makes me very happy. Friends! I know, way too many things.

(AW) All good things! Thanks so much for sharing today, Donna. It's been great to see more of your work and to hear your thoughts.

Donna has two pieces in the Nursery on Art Wall - a custom-made print ("Amanda" in the collage above) and "Waiting Spring." Stop by the Corella Design Etsy shop for more prints and whimsy. Donna also keeps lovely blog, Flickr, and Twitter accounts.


snoweflake farm said...

Wonderful work!!!

donna mckenzie said...


Thanks so much, Katie & Brittany!
Love it!


brittany said...

thank YOU Donna!

Anonymous said...

awesome interview. these illustrations are so beautiful + creative. thanks for sharing!

xo Alison

Amy / Handmade Evolution said...

each one of these illustrations is just so fun! so much personality in each one. i'm a big fan.

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