5 Questions with Donna Hallman

Published on February 03, 2017

If you haven’t been up to Tahoe to enjoy the employee art on display, we’re bringing it to you.  All the art exhibited at the Tahoe City Library have something in common; the subjects are animals.  Donna Hallman’s piece is a pastel called “Mama Cougar with Cubs.” Donna is a staff services analyst for HHS Human Services in Rocklin and answers questions below about her creative inspiration.  

What is the inspiration behind your art in the show?

Cougars are beautiful, intriguing, and a hidden mystery of our wilderness. I was also inspired by our sons playful energy when they were young. I thought of them as I drew the two cubs. This piece makes me feel relieved that I finished it, and grateful for all that inspired me. It also gives me a peaceful feeling. When I walked in and saw the pastel on the library wall, the cougars looked so beautiful and peaceful together in Tahoe. I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing this pastel. I grow attached to my artwork, and sometimes it is difficult to let it go. As I create more, it gets easier. I would hope that this piece slows the viewer down for just a second, and gives them a sense of calming relaxation.

picture of 3 cats
dog collage

How has creating art and/or submitting it into the show made a difference in your life?

My creations are an expression of what I’m feeling, or seeing, and have always had a fondness for animals. Finishing this piece just in time, and then entering it into the show was a rewarding challenge. The feedback was also positive. It made me feel more comfortable sharing art.  I entered it just before the Holidays and shortly afterwards, our department decorated for the Holidays. I drew a German Shepherd with a Santa hat. It was a pastel sketch, that I normally might not have shared, but it was sweet and cute. I was feeling more confident, or maybe I was feeling less critical. I shared it. After seeing it, an employee asked me to draw her beloved dog that had passed. She shared her photos, feelings and memories. It was special to create this for her. Her Bella started out similar to a child’s drawing. I made her blue, so that it would radiate through the black for brightness. I tried not to second guess myself too much. I’m learning that every piece of art goes through an “ugly” phase, and I have to give myself a chance to finish it. When I share that thought with people, they sometimes relate and share a story. They’ve taught me that many aspects of life go through an ugly phase, before the beauty emerges.

What is the most unusual or remarkable piece you’ve ever created?

My sculptures are my most unusual due to their three inch height. A thoughtful friend saw me struggling with the clay, trying to find the right tool for each type of detail. He bought me a set of dental tools to use. The tools were perfect! 

What or who first got you involved in art?

My parents are both artists, so it just seems natural. My father was a machinist who sketched out his ideas and then designed them in his machine shop. My mother also enjoyed sewing, quilting and crotchet. We were a creative family. I remember drawing at home and in grade school. Throughout junior high and high school, I was always drawing for plays and projects. In high school, my teacher taught me my technical drawing skills. He also encouraged me to enter the California State Fair my Junior year, and I placed first in Arts and Illustration. My Senior year I also placed first, along with best of show. I continued into college courses with figure drawing and oil painting. 

Native American Girl Sculpture

What creative encouragement do you have for others?

Everyone is creative in their own way, you just have to believe it. If you want to do something creative, just try it. If you need help or ideas, reach out to someone. The internet and books are also great resources, along with art shows for inspiration. Know that every piece of art goes through an ugly phase before the beauty. Power through it, and try not to be overly critical. Ask for other opinions if you want, but know that ultimately your opinion is the one that really matters the most. It is your art.

Learn more information on Placer County's employee art show, including display locations around the county.