I’m Donald.


I am a contemporary American fine arts painter, a background animation illustrator, and an art director.

Anything that captures my imagination—especially in nature—becomes the subject of my art. Beauty is all around when you’re willing to explore, but what inspires me most is the way light interacts in nature and brings out color. I start in a traditional method by hand painting with oils or acrylics on canvas, and then I photograph my painting so I can digitally paint, color correct for print, and even re-imagine it. My style is influenced by American landscape artists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, and I strive to emulate their dramatic lighting, striking composition and luminescent color. My experience in the motion picture industry has lingered on in my fine art paintings, giving them the sense of an animated movie still, as if the paintings have their own stories to tell.

Born in Atlanta, GA in a time when it was difficult for a young black man to push forward towards success, I pursued a simple dream that happened to defy the expectations of my background and environment, a dream that seemingly no one in my community considered to be a legitimate one: to express myself as an artist, and to do so beyond the sole category of ethnic art that might be expected.

As a child I was passionate about drawing, however, we could not afford to buy supplies, so I would doodle on the end pages of books. Throughout high school I drew constantly, and signed up for classes in industrial and architectural drafting as an outlet for my interest. The instructor happened to be an artist who brought his easel to class. The moment I first saw painting on canvas is indelibly impressed in my mind. It motivated me to save up enough to buy my first paints and canvas.

PC: Claire&Co.

While working along with others as portrait artists one summer, two friends introduced me to the American Academy of Art and urged me to consider enrolling in art school as my next move. I am very grateful they encouraged me to continue pursuing what had only been a dream. I was able to develop real skills in the business of art and form lasting friendships with fellow artists whose work continues to inspire me today.

Exposure to the wider world of arts came by way of the Chicago Defender fine arts critic, Earl Calloway, who graciously assumed the role of mentor in my life. Calloway’s backstage interviews gave me a unique opportunity to meet world renowned performers who were also living their dreams. A young Michael Jackson showed great interest in art when I met him and the Jackson 5 backstage to sketch Janet Jackson’s portrait.

After college, I moved to California to find a job in my field. My lucky break came when my roommate and fellow artist Thomas Blackshear arranged an interview for himself at Disney, and convinced me to let him take my portfolio with him. Through an amazing twist, Disney was impressed by my portfolio and offered me a position.

With my wife Karen, outside my home studio in Tehachapi, California. PC: Claire&Co.

I started a family within walking distance to my job at Walt Disney Animation Studio, in Burbank, CA. Between films I was assigned various side projects like Walt Disney World showcases: the opening of Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland. For the China Pavilion at Epcot I received an authentic Chinese seal of my signature that can be seen in all my paintings. As a background illustrator and art director I was involved in the making of Disney’s award-winning films, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid, as well as the groundbreaking TRON (first computer-generated imagery in a live-action film). I was subsequently interviewed in the TV movie documentaries The Making of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and The Art of Disney Animation.

When former Disney director Richard Rich formed Rich-Crest Animation, I joined him to work on the feature film The Swan Princess. We went on to create a series of character-building movies for kids, including the Animated Hero Classics, Kid’s Ten Commandments, and Nest Family Entertainment’s popular animated stories of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

The motion picture industry was revolutionized by CGI, Computer Generated Imagery, yet the technology added digital painting to my skills. I freelanced for several companies, and was privileged to work under the late Thomas Kinkade as a digital concept artist for the Thomas Kinkade Company, and in a recent project as Matte Painting Supervisor at the startup Martoos Animation Studio.

Surrounded by pastoral views in the small mountain town of Tehachapi, California, where I live with my wife Karen, I hope to share my passion for art through the paintings I create.

Art Directors Know Art.

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