Donna McGhie from Art and Murals
I met Donna McGhie as a Powertex tutor but she has many strings to her creative bow and runs a wonderful social enterprise in Hampshire, UK. Donna is the heart, mind and soul of Art and Murals and Art 4 A Heart and I want to find out what makes her tick, or Powertex!
We all come to art with a story to tell about what brought us here and we all learn different things along the way. So, what path brought Donna to her art and what motivates her to keep it in her life? Does she have any creative secrets to share?
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your creative life. I’m looking forward to knowing more about you and your art. Here we go…
Many artists and crafters start young but not all of us. When did you start creating and what is your earliest memory of making art or being creative?
I have messed about with art for as long as I can remember. When I was very young I had my own language that was unique to me – I understood what I was saying but no-one else had a clue. My parents were concerned about me starting school and not being able to be understood. The head teacher who was very strict but had a heart of gold asked them if I could draw. They said yes, I drew very well and she said not to worry, if ever they didn’t understand me I could let them know through pictures. I don’t recall ever having to use this, but I do remember the comfort of knowing I could do that if I needed to.
Wow. The head teacher sounds like a wonderful person. So did these experiences shape how you put art and creativity into your life as an adult?
I was a very shy child but other children used to like my drawings so in a way art was my way of making friends. I think this links in strongly with how as an adult working with young people in inclusion I would often offer art as a means of communicating feelings, if someone feels more comfortable using this medium. Art can be so powerful in this way, but also often feels a lot less threatening at the same time.
When you create, do you plan first or go with the flow? How do you make time to create?
I am definitely a go with the flow person. Sometimes I will try and plan as I think that is what I should be doing but I am never as happy with the end result. Somehow it looks more stilted than if I have just gone with instinct and gut feeling.
Do you have a favourite product or medium to work with and why?
Before I discovered Powertex I would say my favourite medium was pastel. I love getting my fingers messy and getting really tactile with big bold pastel portraits. I am hoping to get back into using pastel in the near future – possibly mixing the two mediums of pastel and Powertex in some way.
Oh that sounds like an exciting combination! I know you as a Powertex tutor and artist. Do you have other creative interests that you enjoy or something you would like to pursue?
I also love to write. I belong to a writing group but don’t get along as much as I would like due to other commitments. When my husband was very ill a few years ago, I found writing poetry very therapeutic and cathartic. I would sometimes get up at around 3 am and scribble down the thoughts in my head, which would then almost organically work themselves into a poem. With poetry and prose, as with other types of art, for me it is much more about the process and how that feels for me, rather than having an amazing end result.
I think this leads brilliantly to my next question! What are the benefits of having a creative practice in your life? For you or for others?
It is for me the best form of therapy. I would never suggest art as a substitute for medication in any way but I think the two can work really well holistically together. I love it when people make a point of letting me know how therapeutic they have found coming along to one of my workshops. It feels a real honour that someone trusts me enough to let me know that.
So while making art and crafting can have positive benefits it can also come with some challenges. Do you have any advice for coping with loss of creative mojo or feeling self doubt when making art?
I think social media is an amazing thing for artists, so much inspiration is out there. However, it is also really easy to fall into the trap of compare and despair. Whenever I feel my mojo fading or self doubt creeping in, I make a point of staying off the social media art sites. I am quite lucky in a way in that I never expect perfection from my work – as I said previously, for me, it is much more about the process but obviously if the end result is good, then that is a bonus. But for me good enough is good enough. I sometimes think maybe that means I’m not a ‘proper artist’. But I am who I am and I have learned finally to stop trying to be someone I think everyone else thinks I should be.
Tell us about Art 4 A Heart. What challenges does an enterprise like this bring and what is the greatest reward?
I am passionate about my Art 4 A Heart Workshops. Originally when I started running Powertex Workshops I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneur Scheme, with the idea of aiming my workshops as a means of promoting mental health wellbeing. However, half way through the programme, my husband was rushed into Papworth Hospital and placed on the urgent heart transplant waiting list. Thankfully for us, he was lucky enough to be the recipient of a new heart.
Once the enormity of what happened sank in, I felt very strongly that I needed to be able to give something back, both as a way of saying thank you to Papworth Hospital, but also as a way of honoring the donor and their family. So Art 4 A Heart was born. Basically, this means that I donate £5 from every ticket sold for an Art 4 A Heart Workshop to the Papworth Hospital Charity. It is not a huge amount but I do get to send off regular amounts and it is just my small way of giving something back.
This is such an inspiring story, Donna. There’s so much room for providing service to others with our art and Art 4 A Heart is so personal to you. So, who is your biggest cheerleader in your artistic life and do you think it’s important to find a creative community?
I think my biggest cheerleader is my husband. He has supported me continually both financially when I made the decision to leave my paid regular job and also emotionally when I have had the doubts that we all have about my work being good enough to sell, my workshops being up to scratch etc. I think it is important to find a creative community and the Powertex community are amazing for that. What I don’t have any time for is artistic elitism. For me art is about expressing feelings both positive and just as importantly darker feelings. I don’t think you need to have an art degree to do that.
Share one thing about you or your work that we would not guess!
I should not be allowed anywhere near superglue when doing mixed media work. I am forever sticking my fingers to my work 🙂
Thank you Donna so much for your heartfelt sharing. I think many of us come to art with a story to tell and a desire to give back. It’s great to acknowledge the wonderful work you are doing in your corner of the art world!
If you would like to know more about Donna’s Art 4 A Heart Powertex workshops you can check out Art and Murals. Look out for more interviews with Powertex tutors in the future. If you are a Powertex tutor or artist and you would like to be interviewed about your creative life then please get in touch!