While Johnson was born in Toronto, her family’s roots in the shield country of North Frontenac – specifically Bon Echo, Mazinaw Lake -- continue to serve as one of her prime sources of inspiration. Bon Echo is a stunning 100 meter pre-Cambrian cliff a mile long the rises straight from the dark waters of one of the deepest lakes in Ontario. This is a location that has drawn artists for centuries – from Algonquin artists who created pictographs along the meeting of rock and water, to the group of seven members who painted at this location during the heyday of the “Bon Echo Inn”. It is a magical Canadian landscape that Johnson sees as a powerful reminder of nature's spirit and poetry and a potent muse for ongoing painterly enquiries.
During her years at OCAD, she was particularly influenced by painting studies with Tom Dean. An inspirational line can also be drawn from Joyce Wieland, for whom she worked while Joyce was preparing for her AGO retrospective. Studies in Italy and Berlin have also influenced her work.
Johnson's painting plays with the techniques of the old and new masters, from de Kooning and Soutine to Tom Thompson and Susanna Heller. While her gestural approach shows an affinity for action painting, she also draws on elements of a Baroque aesthetic to add drama and emotion. Johnson creates theatrical worlds of wilderness landscape -- passionate dramas expressed with the visceral physicality of paint in a gestural dance.
I have been an active member of the Brush and Palette Club since 2002, participating regularly in its annual art show and sale and taking art instruction from innumerable artists through its workshop program. My work has also been shown and sold at Paint Ontario and Art and Soul Cafe in Port Stanley.
In 2016 I co-produced a local show called Home and Away that featured the work of 35 artists depicting Canadian immigration stories.
The subject itself is less important than expressing how the landscape feels to her. Donna would describe herself as a landscape inspired abstract expressionist. She has a romantic notion of herself exploring the Canadian Landscape one province at a time with her paint box in hand and a palette full of juicy oils. "Whether I am staring out at an open vista or I am just dreaming of it in my studio, I feel that the landscape calls out to me, like an old friend."
Donna's award winning art has been in many solo and group shows, as well as public exhibitions, and is part of private and corporate collections worldwide. Over the past decade her work has appeared in many publications, television programs and has been widely shared in the social media circuit.