It wasn’t until she had her first child that artist Donna Taylor rediscovered her love (and talent) for drawing with dots, and it’s since become her full-time job (and obsession).
“Going back to work in the high paced retail industry would mean missing out on my daughter’s childhood, so I quit my job. But after 17 years in that industry, I didn’t know who I was anymore,” says VIC-based Donna.
“I found myself stippling [that’s drawing in dots] on the couch – something I hadn’t done since high school. My husband came home one day and – without my knowledge – put up a photo of one of my unfinished drawings on Facebook. The photo received such a good response that I decided to put up one I had drawn of my daughter on a mothers’ group page. That night, my inbox went into meltdown – I couldn’t keep up with all the enquiries!”
After deciding that commissions were not really her thing, Donna started stippling her own designs and promoting the prints at local markets.
“I would juggle up to seven markets in one weekend because I was used to being a multi-site manager in my previous life. Before I knew it, there were 50 stores around the world carrying my work – and now I even have a shopfront in Mornington.”
Completely self taught, each one of Donna’s illustrations is hand drawn on A3 by layering thousands of tiny dots, with the half face as her signature style. “I usually have about five or six National Geographic photos as a reference point, so that the final drawing is not just a copy of a photograph. The stippling effect is amazing. Even I can look at them for hours, and see something I have never seen before.
“Each one my animals is named after someone special in my life, and I think that personal touch shines through. For example, Leo the Lioness is name after my son and Milla the Magical Unicorn, after my daughter.”
To this day, Donna struggles with her perfectionist tendencies. It can take anywhere between 40 and 200 hours for her to complete one drawing.
“My rule of thumb is this: the day I think the drawing is finished, I work a whole other day on it. If I put two dots too close together, I need to add another layer of dots – which is about 10 hours to fix a dot that nobody else would notice. I re-drew Linda the Lioness three times because she had to live up to Leo the Lion’s standard.”
Although she puts a lot of love and effort into all her drawings, her personal favourite is the African Goddess. “She [the Goddess] was the one that got me through the hard times. Every time I’m standing in my shop she reminds me of how grateful I am to be where I am today – there’s something very special about her.”
Donna’s prints come in sizes from A4 through to A1 (from $25) and are archival quality – meaning they will last for 200 years. “I’m not in the business of mass production. Each one of my products has longevity behind it. They’re a family heirloom.”
Even though Donna’s illustrations are now studied at schools and even by interior designers, she has remained humble. “It blows my mind every single day seeing my prints on other people’s walls. I love how people puzzle them together to suit their own homes.”
Donna shares some advice with aspiring artists that saw her through the moments of self-doubt: “If you have a passion, follow it and work hard. This hasn’t been easy. If you don’t go for it you will have copycats overtake you, and you will always have that regret.
“This has been a dream come true. Every day I can pick my daughter up from school – I love that my job doesn’t stop me from being a mum.”
Dots by Donna is branching out to the US market in a few weeks, and can be spotted in west elm’s Chadstone store in November. Her current collection includes selection of limited edition prints of her work – part of a collaboration with digital watercolour artist Ink Hearts Paper.