Each Painting a Story: The Art of Donna Covey

What is the role of nostalgia in our lives? And how does it shape our memories and our view of the past? For artist Donna Covey, nostalgia plays a crucial role in her paintings, which often feature buildings and landscapes that evoke memories for her and for others.

For Covey, nostalgia is not simply about sentimental longing for the past. Instead, it is a way of understanding and connecting with the world. “I always say the genesis of my art career was painting the Iwama Market, an image of a very memorable childhood place, not only for me, but for anyone who grew up in Suisun Valley, California,” she says.

Iwama Market | Watercolor on Yupo | 20″x12″ | SOLD

The Iwama Market painting was the first painting Covey ever sold. Today the market is an old abandoned building standing alone and faded in a vacant country parking lot. The painting Covey created captures the essence of the market in all its past colorful, chaotic glory.

Covey’s paintings are not simply nostalgic scenes from the past. They are also a way of understanding the present. “Whether I think it is beautiful or plain, when I observe a building I’m not necessarily interested in painting the building in its entirety,” she says. “Instead, I focus on the lines, shapes, and textures of that particular building to create an overall interesting and pleasing composition within the margins of my canvas.”

The attention to detail in Covey’s paintings is part of what makes them so compelling. They are not simply pretty pictures of buildings or landscapes. They are a way of seeing the world differently and connecting with our memories and experiences.

Donna grew up in Napa, California, before it became a popular destination, then moved to Suisun Valley, east of Napa Valley, when she was 10. She had a happy childhood living in both valleys and found inspiration for her art from the historic buildings downtown and the iconic landmarks dotting the landscape. No particular event made her want to be an artist, but many events throughout her life led her to become the artist she is today.

Covey graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in design from San Jose State University. In her first college drawing class, her evolution began as she discovered what buildings and signs could represent. Her explorations led her to what is now her signature style.

She taught junior high and high school art for twelve years before transitioning to school administration and becoming a junior high and high school principal. While she didn’t focus on producing her own art during her years in education, her experiences teaching art reinforced her understanding of how important art can be in bringing joy to life. Likewise, her classroom pedagogy training continues to impact her overall process of creating her paintings.

Salty’s on Alki Beach | Acrylic on Canvas | 16″x20″ | $1200

Covey has been painting since retiring from education in 2008 and has successfully painted different series of local landmarks. After her initial success with “Iwama Market” and her Suisun Valley Series, she was contacted by different Northern California galleries interested in her work. The popularity of her paintings has led to her successful second career as a fine artist.

In addition to gallery showings of her work, Covey keeps busy painting for individual collectors, organizations, and businesses who commission her to paint their special places. One of Covey’s favorite paintings was created for Trish Coveney-Rees, a former layout artist for Disney Feature Animations, who commissioned Covey to paint her special place, Rockville Corner.

Covey has always worked out of her home studio, first in Benicia, California, then in Redmond, Washington. She is very much a process person and approaches her art by incorporating three main elements: bold color, composition, and connection.

Although canvas and Yupo are her preferred media, she sometimes has created her images using alternative formats. For example, in the “We Know Jack” fundraiser, Covey painted a four-foot-high jackrabbit with a montage of images from Solano County, California. Her jackrabbit went to the highest bidder, the Chairman of the Board of the world-famous Jelly Belly Factory, and is now permanently on display at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, California.

Dave’s Giant Hamburger | Acrylic on Canvas | 18″x24″ | SOLD

In the 2015 San Francisco Giants Wives Fundraiser, Donna was asked to create a custom baseball bat that reflected the image and personality of baseball superstar Hunter Pence. The bat was signed by Hunter, auctioned off to the highest bidder (for $2,500), and donated to charity.

Covey has shown her paintings in notable galleries, including the Arata Fine Art Gallery in San Francisco, Variety Children’s Charity in San Francisco, Napa Valley Public Library in Napa, California, Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California, and Parklane Gallery in Kirkland, Washington.

Covey aspires to project whimsy, daring interpretations, and happy memories through her paintings. “I’ve always said that life is too short, so let’s have a good time, smile, and be happy.” Her art reflects this philosophy, and viewers will surely find a smile on their faces as they explore Covey’s inspiring art.

Crest Theatre | Acrylic on Canvas | 24″x20 | $1200

To view more of Donna Covey’s artwork visit www.djcovey.com

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  1. Nice To see some colorful paintings without any pretenses. One thing I wonder about. The Basic unsophisticated approach to the technical side of her craft. I am sure it has admirers, but it is not something to keep my attention for very long. I think we all should strive for more. It is hard not to have the paintings of others we can see in many museums in our memories. Would I hang one of her works on my walls? Probably only if I had huge spaces to fill with painting acting as colorful decorative spots to view from far away. But not in my private intimate space where I would like to enjoy something more for my soul.

  2. I have been a fan of Donna’s work for years. Not only is she an incredible artist, she’s an incredible person. Her work is vibrant and expressive and is very sought after. Any collector would be lucky to have one of her works.

  3. Donna Covey’s art has been enjoyed in our area for many years. Her vivid colors, details she includes through her vision, and unique focus at times on just regular buildings combines to make her paintings a pleasure to see. I also saw her Jack rabbit and Hunter Pence baseball bat which were amazing in their colors and details.

  4. I have several of Donna’s paintings and what I love are the colors and sometimes the funky perspective. Having worked for Disney, it’s such fun to see the freedom that Donna Displays in her art. My art is all exceedingly correct
    in perspective and might I add a bit predictable and ( dare I say) dull.
    Donna’s paintings make me smile and remember all of the places from the past . I grew up in the area and really love her take on all of these old places. She does what I cannot do!!!!

    1. Trish, you are one of the few artists I know who through their incredible talent were able to inspire people AND make a comfortable living creating beautiful works. Thank you for inspiring me.

  5. I just LOVE Donna’ s slightly wacky and purposeful perspective. It’s so full of whimsy and the colors just blow me away. My Disney artwork had to have perfect perspective. Dull and too regimented. Donna’s paintings make me smile and I have one in my living room. It makes me happy and brings back memories of my youth !

  6. Donna has a joyful theme in her paintings, which resides with the bright colors she uses. I so enjoy being reminded of “how things were” reflecting a simpler life. Congratulations Donna on moving forward and thanks for sharing.

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