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The Light in Acrylics with Donna Fratesi

Back Alley Afternoon

"Back Alley-Afternoon" Acrylic on Canvas 30" x 40"

Much of Donna Fratesi’s aesthetics with acrylics derive from her foundational exploration and mastering of watercolours. At a young age she explored this medium again and again, but watercolours can offer some restrictions in the artistic practice that Fratesi now explores in acrylics. Taking what she learned about light and composition, Fratesi took up acrylics to open herself up to large paintings with swooping brush strokes. With most large paintings, the imagery can be visually demanding and disruptive to a space. Fratesi captures rough back alleyways with so much light that the large paintings offer a moment of reflection and as she hopes a feeling of peace.

Fratesi has the ability to give light volume as it dances across her subject matters. Some of Fratesi’s favourite images to depict are florals from her garden, the forgotten back alleys, and the relationship between nature and architecture, but they all have the same ingredient of ever presence light. Her ability to capture light on her subjects assist in transcending the viewer to a meditative moment.

Her large-scale paintings illustrate her love for her community, her garden and even the forgotten corners of our streets. Fratesi is constantly finding the spaces in which Light has been all the time. Fratesi seems to agree with Light, as if it is an allegorical figure that says, “this too is beautiful and must be shown to the world.”

--Andrea Jackman, Curator


When did you First Become interested in art?

When I was a small child, I always painted. On Christmas and birthdays I was given watercolours.  I thought everyone painted and it was just a past time and too enjoyable to be a serious occupation.  Apparently, I was wrong; something so enjoyable can last a lifetime.  I come from an Irish family that thought idle hands did the devil's work.  So, I kept busy!

What are you working on right now?

Presently, I am working on a laneway/back garden series.  I find the alley ways and laneways seem to be unaffected by the tear down and build mcmansions mindset. There is something about seeing the backs of homes and the old garages that is so appealing.  I find the light in these places intriguing and lovely. 



What media do you work with?

I am working with acrylics these days.  I painted in watercolour for so many years and found it exciting and fulfilling but time moves on and I had to try a new medium. I would love to work in oils but unfortunately I seem to be allergic to them so acrylics seem to be the next best thing.

What Inspires your work?

Inspiration comes from many things for example old homes, a wonderful street view,   an alley way shrouded in shadows and mystery and of course, my garden in May and June with its peonies, iris and roses. Visiting museums, art galleries and openings can turn me on and make me see things with different eyes. I'm always trying to find another way of seeing.

"Top Shelf" Acrylic on Canvas 30" x 24"

What drives you to work large?

I do like working large as it allows my brush to make free and wondrous marks that are impossible on a smaller canvas.  I think my imagination runs wild when it has the room. That said, small paintings can be exquisite and jewel like and I enjoy these also.

Which artists/s have influenced your work the most throughout your career?

Many artists have come into and out of my life that have made lasting impressions on me and my work.  Charles Reid and his amazing watercolours made me gasp as I sat behind him and watched him put brush to paper. He was magic and informed many of my watercolour paintings. Charles passed away recently and is sorely missed. Brian Atyeo with his large brushes and sweeping marks and brave use of colour is the main reason I switched to acrylics, a great teacher and an inspiration to me. I took a workshop with Burton Silverman of the Art Students League in New York City. A genius in so many ways. It was a privilege to paint with him and to listen to his opinions on the art world today. Teachers have come into my life when least expect it. I am still learning from them today.

If you were not an artist, what would you be and why?

I cannot imagine what I would be if I didn't paint. I do think about it. I wrote short stories when I was younger, so perhaps I could do that, but it is painting that keeps me sane and makes me feel alive.  I would be lost without it. 

"Almost there" Acrylic on Canvas16" x 12"


"Daddy's Home" Acrylic on Canvas 16" x 12"

How has your artistic practice changed over time?

Over the years, I have spent more and more time in the studio.  As I got older some things that seemed necessary to my life just dropped away. Perhaps it is my sense of time passing and wanting to make the most of it with my art before it is too late. Or perhaps it is just that eventually we see what is important in our lives and what is not. Whatever it is, my time in the studio is growing and I give thanks that my life is full because of it.

What is your dream project?

I don't know if I have a “dream project.” It would be nice to think one day I could have a solo show of huge florals. Also, I would like to be able to once again go to Europe and paint my heart out. Otherwise, just hoping for time and good health to keep me with brush in hand and a part of the art world I know and love.

What would you like others to know about your art that you think is unique?

I put so much of myself into my work that I hope that people can feel it. I love what I paint and I want that feeling to show. Warmth, peace and I guess love is what I feel is unique about my work. I have been told it would be good art therapy for some.

"Lane way Hamilton" Acrylic on Canvas 30" x 40"

If you could give a younger artist some advice what would it be?

I would tell a younger artist to embrace their own vision and to keep persevering no matter what anyone says.  Quoting Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up!”

What kind of experience do you want the viewer to walk away with?

Nothing is a sacrifice if you love what you are doing. Looking back, I can see difficult times and times when I wanted to give up, but kept going. Now, it fills my life, has brought me a lifetime of friends and gives me a reason to get up in the morning with a smile on my lips as I go to the studio to see what is waiting on the easel.


"Shady Lane Off Locke Street" Acrylic on Canvas 30" x 40"

“I want people to feel good when they look at my art.  I don't want to shock them or make them uneasy. The world is full of things that do that. I sing when I paint so perhaps I want people to go away with a song in their hearts hoping for a better day.”

 Visit Donna Fratesi's Artist Page



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  • CAllie Archer on

    Beautiful and inspirational. You are a great role model . Callie

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