Layer by layer, my paintings become time capsules.

Abstract Watercolor Art by Luz Donahue

My work through abstract watercolor art is a constant exploration, not only of different colors, shapes, and materials but also of myself, my mental state, and of my relationship with all these elements in conjunction with external conditions and events

To me, the action of creating is anchored in a spiritual process, almost a religious one, in the sense that once it’s initiated, it feels like watching a narrative unfold. I can’t stop the process until the picture is complete. It’s not something I feel I really have control over, and that’s why I attach it to spirituality. The process is largely based on trusting something outside of a rational understanding. 

Of course, when it comes to commissions, it’s slightly different. When someone commissions me an artwork, it’s about incorporating someone’s input and desires inside a process that’s already ongoing. So a commissioned piece has an intention in a way that my non-commissioned artwork hasn’t. 


I have ADHD so because of that I work on a large number of paintings at the same time, sometimes, as many as a hundred at the time. I’ll work on all of them by layering one thing or two on them a day. I’ll choose a color, a pattern, or tool I’m drawn to that day without asking myself why.

Concepts like silencing the inner critic don’t really come into play because when I’m working, I’m just in a state of flow, I don’t question the process. I’m creating a visual journal of what my mental state is at that point, or about whatever my relationship is to a specific color, or tool, or effect, or texture, on that specific day this layer is created.

This kind of mental state while painting is also an important part of how I help my students unleash their creativity. 


My paintings are sitting around in my house and I’m looking at them all the time. Since I work on many of them at once over an extended period, even when I’m not working on them, I’m working on them. Some part of me is thinking about balance, movement, depth, and coherence. So even though I like to say there’s no planning, what I’m learning to understand is that the process of stopping and analyzing is, in itself, a form of planning. 

My work is very autobiographical because I’m adding these layers as a form of visual journal, using these materials in whatever way makes sense to me at the moment, and then reflecting on that use and behavior later. 

It’s only when I look at a painting and I start to feel that the energy coming off of it is becoming chaotic or farther away from balance, or if I start to feel like maybe it’s complete, that the analytical process starts. 


When the pieces are finished, I take some time to think about what was happening in the world during their creation, and what my mindset was retrospectively from the time when those pieces were born to when they were completed

The paintings naturally end up grouping themselves together into these cohesive collections and series. That’s when I’ll take them, put them on my wall, and meditate on them. I feel they almost tell me what they are called. The names that come up are usually a reflection of what I was experiencing at the time.

To me, the creative process is a metaphor of life in the sense that we never really know what it is we are working through or experiencing until after we’ve come out of it. That’s what this creative ritual does for me, it creates the space for me to be in a constant state of reflection. I can take my time, look back at a set of paintings and reflect on where I was when I was working on them and understand what my mental state was. Through that process of reflection,  I can see I’m not the person I was when I started them.

That’s why I like describing my paintings as time capsules. Each layer they are made of holds an emotional record of who I was at a specific moment in time. It’s a way of honoring self-transformation and change, of celebrating the process of adaptation that to me feels sacred.



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