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Daily Inspiration: Meet Linda Donlin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Linda Donlin.

Hi Linda, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my journey to follow my calling to be an artist. I work in acrylics and oils and have created a body of work that reflects my passion for the beauty of nature, the Upper Midwest, and the arts. Influenced by the impressionists, I layer paint with my palette knife to achieve the desired effect. Whether building texture boldly like a sculptor to create the boughs of an evergreen tree or touching gently with a brush to add just the right finishing detail of an eyelash on a child, that calling runs deep.

Farm kid work ethic
I was born and raised on a farm in North Dakota and was educated in organizational communications. I hold business, public relations, management, and human resources degrees. I led communications departments in large energy, healthcare, and higher education organizations. I dove into everything I sought to accomplish by approaching it with a can-do attitude, my intellect, and my “farm kid” work ethic. During the day, I expressed my creativity as a writer and editor of business communications and marketing campaigns, winning  awards for my work and working my way up through the ranks. At night, I pursued my passion for the arts as a visual artist and as a performing artist, taking art classes as I could.

Mayo Clinic influence
While working in communications at Mayo Clinic, I was struck by how the arts play a key role in nurturing the whole person. With beautiful artwork on display throughout Mayo’s campuses and baby grand pianos available for anyone to play as the spirit moved them, the arts are part of Mayo’s philosophy of healing. I thrived in that environment and was part of an employee group that sang for patients during my lunch hour. If you were walking through the clinic, you might have seen me kneeling next to an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair serenading him with “I Could Have Danced All Night” or singing “How Great Thou Art” with a chemo patient in a headscarf and her family.

In Rochester, I became part of the arts scene, working with community leaders in a movement called Building a Creative Economy and helping to develop an event called “Dancing for the Arts,” which raised money for arts education. Today my work hangs in The Berkman, an extended-stay luxury hotel adjacent to Saint Mary’s Hospital, part of Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I’m involved in the MedCity Arts Festival, held in Rochester in September.

Body, mind, soul
Like the philosophy of healing the body, mind, and soul, I build my paintings in a similar fashion – first, creating the body by sketching the foundation of the painting with my fingers as I apply the foundational layers. Next, I use my palette knife to add the shape of the painting, often mixing colors right on the canvas.  I add texture creating a nearly three-dimensional effect, which gives the painting its purpose – opening the viewer’s mind to its direction. Then I use a brush in the final stages to add the painting’s soul – the twinkle in the eye or the sparkle of the moonlight on the snow.

Memorable color and texture 
I view my style as an intersection between painting and sculpture, taking painting with a palette knife to the next level. I hope that my use of color and texture creates a memorable experience for the viewer. Patrons often comment that online photos do not do justice to seeing the work in person.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It depends on which career you’re talking about. Overall, I would say that my path has been rewarding but with some intersting twists and turns. In my first career as a public relations professional, I entered the corporate world in the energy business. I worked for two of the largest energy producers in the Upper Midwest. That industry is male-dominated, and it was unusual for a woman to be promoted into a leadership role in these businesses. I moved up, but met much resistance, always fighting for a “seat at the table.” When I went to Mayo Clinic, it was very different, as much of the employee population at Mayo is nurses, a female-dominated career. Soon I was “at the table,” attending a meeting of the Board of Governors and being asked my advice on how to communicate a new strategic plan to employees. It was quite refreshing.

 Because I spent my first career on the writing side of the communications business, I did not have much time or opportunity to feed my artistic side. I didn’t study art in college, so nearly everything I’ve created has been through piecemeal instruction or self-taught and done in my spare time. Living in a more rural state with a limited population of art collectors is also a challenge in launching a second career as an artist.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My style is impressionistic, dancing on the edge between sculpting and painting. People tell me they can recognize my paintings immediately because of their texture, gloss, and nearly three-dimensional look, which sets my work apart from others. However, I certainly do create commissions of all kinds, some in my impressionistic style and others more straightforward and realistic, depending on the client’s desires. I believe my background in PR and Marketing and my expertise in social media helped me jumpstart my “second act” because I’m not afraid to put myself and my work out in the public eye.

The pandemic has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you, and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
It gave me more time in my studio, unhampered by a demanding schedule. It forced arts and nonprofit organizations to get creative in their fundraising and communications efforts, using social media to its fullest extent. I think it also showed the whole world how important the arts are to our happiness and general sense of well-being.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
I have either taken all the photos myself or have permission to use them.

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