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Wendy Donahoe talks Daydreams

Daydreams, graphite, by Wendy Donahoe (click for larger image)
Daydreams, graphite, by Wendy Donahoe (click for larger image)

The subject of the portrait above is nameless, but the artist is anything but: Wendy Donahoe’s skillful drawings always catch the attention of gallery visitors. This latest piece in graphite, Daydreams, won the Eleanor Boudreau Jordan Award for Best in Show in “Small Works,” an exhibit that had 428 pieces submitted and 153 accepted.

Donahoe’s last best-in-show award was in 2012, and you can read that Q&A here. We asked the artist to tell us more about this piece and the appeal of drawing media like graphite and charcoal. Here’s what she had to say:

When I get to the stage in the process when I’m able to envision the finished drawing, I begin to think about what to call it. Once the drawing is completed, choosing the right frame and assigning a thoughtful title will enhance and endow the overall work of art. With that said, I decided against “Daydreamer,” because I didn’t want to assign the figure an identity, but rather maintain her anonymity so that the viewer might consider their own “Daydreams.”

Daydreams by Wendy Donahoe (detail)
Daydreams by Wendy Donahoe (detail)

Although I didn’t put in as many hours as usual to complete this drawing, it was challenging nonetheless to produce a compelling image and work within the small works guidelines. My goal with “Daydreams” was to present an uncomplicated composition that would draw the viewer in. The dark tones of the pullover give weight and balance as the faceless figure leans into the light.

Graphite, which is my favorite medium to work with, enabled me to achieve the fine detail of the loosely tied back hair, and the soft transition of light glimpsed along the edge of the face. For this drawing I used pencils in varying degrees of hardness from 5H to 6B. Additionally, I used a kneaded eraser to pull out the graphite where it was applied too dark, and as a tool to manage highlights. As I use only the pencil to blend the tones, they are always kept to a sharp point.

"Olivia" by Wendy Donahoe won the Shayna Heisman Simkin Award in the 2010 September All-Media Show at The Art League.
“Olivia,” a colored pencil drawing by Wendy Donahoe won the Shayna Heisman Simkin Award in the 2010 September All-Media Show at The Art League.

I enjoy the ease at which I can work with graphite, charcoal, and carbon pencil, particularly with the ability to put a cover sheet over a work in progress, and pick back up right where I’d left off. Although currently under cover sheets, I have a large landscape drawing underway of a beach inlet in Maine, which I hope to finish in early 2015. My work can be viewed on my website, wendydonahoeart.com.

“Small Works” is on view through December 1.

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