The college graduation season is upon us, ushering thousands of newly minted professionals into the marketplace from accountants to doctors, engineers to artists. Twenty-one years ago I walked such a path with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University into the freelance marketplace. I was young, motivated, passionate and…nearly clueless about what shape this new career would take.
I remember that first year like it was yesterday – the excitement and dream of breaking in with a new book publisher, being considered for a commission from a comic book editor, or being offered my first gallery show. The potentials were enormous and fueled my desire to produce as much high quality work as possible in the last days at college.
Luckily the teachers and faculty at Syracuse had provided a heads up as what to expect through their training, visiting professional artists, business lectures, and studio trips to New York City. Although I was not completely blindsided, it was a real eye opener on how the business of freelancing really did work. No one was waiting to hire young inexperienced talent when there were thousands of seasoned professionals already in the mix, this was the real wake up call.
I loved to draw and paint, but did not have a singular focus on any particular content or style. Craft focused, I approached every work of art with a high degree of precision and care, from delicate line work in my inks to detailed renderings in my oils. I didn’t have a ‘style’ nor was I interested in attempting to create one. All I knew was that I wanted to create art as a living, the only questions were for who? And what kind of art?
Dracologist oil on panel 1990 Donato
I share with you here a broad sample of what was in my graduating portfolio in May of 1992. Looking at the range of what I loved to make as art, you may find three categories into which the work may fit well – surreal gallery paintings, pen and ink comic pages, and narrative fantasy/science fiction art. All three of these options were in play for me at that time and I could have walked down any one of those career paths as easily as another, for each offered artistic development and passions which could sustain me as an artist. Looking back, if I had to pick which one I was best at, it would have been the comics penciler!
It is fascinating to think about what kind of artist I would have become if a different door opened to me just a few weeks after graduation… In the next post I will share with you my portfolio one year later and the amazing turn of events in that years time.
For all those graduates out there, CONGRATULATIONS!! May your passions, excitement and work lead you to a successful career in the arts!
Knights of the Pawn acrylic on panel 1991 Donato
Omega Corps Page 2 pen and ink on paper 1991 Donato (figures by Steve Ellis)
Omega Corps Page 3 1991 Donato (figures by Steve Ellis)
Omega Corps ink on paper 1990 Donato
Surreal Landscape oil on panel 1990 Donato
Annunciation oil on canvas 1992 Donato
Charlie Chaplin graphite on paper 1990 Donato
Various graphite drawings 1988-91 Donato
Crucifixion oil on canvas 1992 Donato
Diplomacy ink on paper 1990 Donato
Omega Corps – bridge oil on panel 1990 Donato
St. George and the Dragon ink on paper 1991 Donato
Born in 1967 and raised in Colchester, Vermont, USA, art was always a hobby for Donato as a young man, he would steal away into the basement of his parents' home to work on drawings, create his own maps for the game Dungeons & Dragons, paint figurines, read comics, and construct model tanks and dinosaurs. His love of imaginative play dominated his childhood, both indoors and out. At the age of twenty Donato enrolled in his first formal art class, the beginning of his professional training. Immediately after graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University in 1992, Donato moved to New York City to immerse himself in the inspired and varied art scene. Formative years in the early nineties were spent as the studio assistant to the preeminent figure painter Vincent Desiderio, and long days of study in the museums of New York. It was then that his love and appreciation of classical figurative art took hold. He continues his training even now, visiting museums regularly, learning from and sometimes copying original paintings by Rembrandt or Rubens, attending life drawing sessions with illustrator friends and constantly challenges himself within each new project. Pilgrimages to major museums are his preferred reason to travel.Over this past year Donato has released the revised hard cover compilation of his works on the theme of J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle-Earth: Journeys in Myth and Legend from Dark Horse Comics.