Philip Donahue, Ph.D.
artist, curator, educator

Artist’s Statement:  

Most of my artworks are colorful, glossy, abstract paintings. My style & technique is inspired by the liquid light shows that I helped with in New York's Greenwich Village's "Fillmore East." It was then that I began using the additive color mixtures of light with the subtractive color mixtures of paint. During this time, I also began using radical scale change as my textural inspiration; enlarging microscopic, and shrinking macroscopic textures. My interests in mathematics and music also influence my artworks.

My paintings often feature detailed textures, with vibrant colors. I build many layers of glazes on top of underpaintings done with many tools, including pencil, charcoal, airbrush, acrylic, and monoprinting. I top coat my paintings with high gloss varnish mediums. This increases the intensity of the colors, giving my paintings a stained glass effect. My painting processes and techniques cultivate and exploit chance, frequently using frottage, sgraffito, decalcomania, collage, dripping, pouring, staining, monoprinting, scumbling, and glazing, with European and Japanese brushwork. I draw inspiration from the painting processes, tools and media themselves. I respect what emerges as I work and let the processes guide the development of my artwork. 

I lived and studied art in Japan for 3 years, and Europe for 4 years. In between these, I had a 3 year artist's apprenticeship at The Artists’ Workshop in Colorado Springs, where I learned traditional and contemporary art materials, tools and techniques for painting, sculpture and printmaking. While I am primarily an oil painter, I still continue to use many of these techniques, tools and materials together when producing my artworks today. 

I am especially interested in marrying the modern with the traditional. I use traditional as well as modern pigments, resins, and solvents, as well as painting, sculpting, and printing mediums and tools, both Eastern and Western.  I have found that modern resins and solvents let me build clearer and deeper glazes than ever before, adding increased depth and luminosity to my paintings.

One of my favorite oil techniques, begun during my apprenticeship in the 1960s, is to paint with my version of Bocour's Magna Paint (now Golden's MSA Conservation Paint). Inspired by the magna using artists Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and Kenneth Noland, I use a complex and particular process that is a distinctive expression of my personal vision. I usually mix my own paints using dry pigments and various mediums.

I draw stylistic inspiration from Muromachi brushwork, Synchromism, Surrealism and Chromatic Abstraction; from Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, but most of all from Max Ernst. 

My artwork is greatly influenced by the many different places I have lived, including the Seattle Puget Sound area, New York, Miami, New Orleans, and The San Francisco Bay Area, as well as Germany, Ireland, and Japan. In 2005, I moved to Bainbridge Island Washington where I was able to build a large art studio.

I have been exhibiting in Japan since 2006, and am greatly inspired by the Japanese artists that I now know there; as well as by their materials, tools and techniques. I feel that I am returning to my artistic roots, because my first 3 years of formal art training were while I lived in Japan while I was in grade school. I am honored to be included as an artist member of the Sakai (Osaka, Japan) Bridge Artists' Group.

My academic degrees are in Art History, Philosophy of Art, and Mathematics. My Ph.D. degree is in Visual Hermeneutics (the interpretation of meaning in visual art) from the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley. I have taught Studio Art, Art History, and Philosophy of Art, Research Methods, and Mathematics. I have curated many art exhibitions, and have been an artist all of my life.