Donna Marie Mckno was born in 1970 in a small village called Whalley in Lancashire, England. She grew up on council estates in Accrington in Lancashire along with an older sister and two younger brothers. After an extremely strict and disciplined upbringing that has no pleasant memories for her, she found herself in and out of work, mainly sewing factories, until she became pregnant at 20 with her first son, Ben. Around this time she discovered a creative streak, and hasn’t looked back since!
Donna first hand-made some material balloon wall hangings for Ben’s room, as the ones she saw in a shop window were too expensive to buy at the time. She then designed more hangings in different shapes and patterns, which became gifts for children. She knew at this point that this could be a real business, but without the business knowledge, connections, or funding she was unable to make anything ‘stick’.
After the breakdown of her marriage, she started black felt tip doodles – very simple patterns and designs that were entertaining to the eye. After about a year her work became more about repeating the same shape until the entire surface area of the paper was covered. Few people have the patience and the skill to achieve beautiful artwork in this way, and Donna realised this was a talent that she could sell. Donna again tried to turn this idea into a business by selling prints to shops, but without being well known, she was unable to sell at a high enough price to cover the printing costs.
She had a second child, Chad, in 1994, and around this time started to experiment with repetitive images using different materials and mediums, including some very large collages of nightclub fliers that she had collected over the years.
During a family holiday in Devon, England, Donna saw inspiration for a new venture in boxed pictures. These were completely hand made wooden boxes and frames, filled with items such as shells, wooden fish, dolphins, seahorses and pebbles, held in place by the glass in the frame, making impressive seascape box pictures with a 3D feel. She tried hard to market the pictures and sold quite a few, but box pictures at the time became popular and very quickly the cheap mass-produced items were widely available.
Donna has always had the desire to create something completely unique, and this urge to prove herself to the world kept her going throughout these failures until, within a short period, she had a daughter, lost her best friend, and lost Mica’s father. She had lost her inspiration.
Then, around seven years ago, Dotty Art was born out of experiments with gouache paint. This was a new and exciting technique, and Donna produced some new paintings. She then decided that everything she painted was going to be reproduced, and started building up a portfolio of images, creating designs she thought relevant. Donna first had a few of the designs printed onto greetings cards. All of the earliest designs and images had no text on them, until around two years ago when Donna introduced names and other messages onto her original cards.
Dotty Art has been established as a business since 2006. Donna became quite obsessed with painting images purely for reproduction, and after creating a range of animal and sea-life images, she had the images printed on key rings and fridge magnets, and tried to market the product to zoos, sea-life centers and safari parks up and down the country, but having just started out and knowing nothing about marketing, this came to a dead end. Donna went through setback after setback, working up to seventy hours per week on the business she loves. This only served to make her more determined, to keep working and build up her portfolio.
She started producing ever-larger paintings, in various styles – contemporary, abstract, retro and more. Soon Donna started experimenting with 3-D objects, first pebbles, shells, and other objects left over from the earlier box pictures. Then a milk bottle, a jam jar and other glass containers. The reaction from everybody was fantastic, and with this encouragement Donna painted a sink plunger, a hard hat, eggs in eggcups, a wine bottle and glasses, a wooden coat-hanger and a table top easel. These items could not be sold so Donna decided to hand paint wooden clothes pegs. Donna painted dolly pegs as cats, people and with various patterns. Soon, Donna started making hand painted magnets from glass nuggets, a simple but effective idea. More recently, Donna has painted images and designs onto wax candles, glass candle holders and notebooks. After exhibiting at the Spring Fair at the N.E.C. in Birmingham in February 2009, a commission was ordered, which was a new challenge for Donna for two reasons; it was her first real commission, and was to be an image of a celebrity. On its completion, Donna knew this was another path she had to follow. The fine art side of Dotty Art surfaced and Donna was hungry for further personal challenges. She began networking and making new contacts. The new work drew new attention, which helped inspire Donna further.
The next challenge? Only to win the Turner Prize!
All Donna’s paintings are made up from hundreds to thousands of tiny, individual dots of acrylic paint that are applied with a size two spotter brush, in a simple but unique way which gives every dot a peak, like tiny upside down cones. As the dots vary in size, the final image has a very tactile and has a 3-D feel. It has been described in many ways with “extreme pointillism” being Donna’s favourite. Donna’s repetitive approach has been compared to Esher and to some aboriginal art. This technique can be painted and reproduced in flat print on almost any surface.
Donna has exhibited works in various galleries around East Lancashire from 2005 onwards, including the Colne Municipal Hall and several times at the Howarth Art Gallery. She has also regularly sold paintings and objects at craft fairs and shows including two weekends at Oswaldtwistle Mills in Lancashire, the Festival Arts Shop in Hebden Bridge, North Yorkshire, and has even on market stalls in Accrington, Lancashire. Donna exhibited at the Spring Fair at the NEC Birmingham in 2009.
In the past few years Donna expanded into educational workshops, and has provided workshops for local communities and school children on behalf of various local councils, in local towns such as Blackburn and Nelson, and teaching pupils at St. Paul’s Primary School in Oswaldwistle, Lancashire. Several fine art paintings by Donna are hanging in the reception and meeting rooms at Haworths Chartered Accountants in Accrington, Lancashire, who were impressed enough to send out a press release for Donna which produced an article in a local newspaper. The paintings are available for the public to view during office hours, and you may contact Donna to arrange for an escorted viewing.
Over the past few years Donna has worked one to one with children and adults with autism, asbergous and adhd. This has proved very successful and the students gain from it.Donna also donated lots of handmade magnets to a local group called Vics in Accrington where blind and partially sighted children have fun!