I have long admired the work of Dona Bradley architectural illustrator. So when she expressed interest in having a feature in this ‘Made in Wiltshire’ section on the blog, thrilled didn’t cover it because I love her iconic Swindon images. #Obvs
It’s a b*gger that I’m out of wall space – fridge magnets it is then!
Dona at the drawing board. Photo credit: Stephen McGrath
Talk to many creatives of certain generations and you meet a recurring theme: that of parents discouraging their offspring from pursuing their artistic talents and aspirations. And Dona is no exception to this. She told me how, when she hit 40, she realised that the great keyboard of life had a lost chord. And that chord was her creativity, her art. So she set about rediscovering it.
From then until now, Dona’s pursued her art part-time. But January 2019 marks a new, exciting, yet scary era: that of pursuing her work full-time. She’ll be doing lots more live events, getting out and about with her art and meeting people. I think it’s safe to say the lost chord is well and truly found.
Art for Architecture’s Sake
Dona confesses to be being a closet architect. ‘If I had my time again, I’d train to be an architect’, she said. But instead, at the life point she was at when she realised how much she missed being creative, she opted to go to Bristol college and do a course in spatial design. The discipline takes into account the architectural aspects of a building and is much less about pretty colours, soft furnishings and the like.
All of Dona’s artwork now is a happy compromise for her. Specializing in buildings, her work fulfils both her interest in architecture and her desire to create. With Dona’s work, everything is about the building. What she loves is marrying a building’s beauty with the significance it holds for an individual.
The Feel Good Factor
Dona’s clients tell her stories about their experiences of a building or place – so her work helps people to feel good about where they live. Swindon is a great subject for Dona for this reason.
There’s no escaping that Swindon gets more than its share of put downs and knocks – goodness only knows why. Yet, Swindon has some wonderful, iconic buildings and structures that Dona has used in her work to great effect. For a start, my favourite David Murray John Tower has had the Dona Bradley treatment, as has the iconic (albeit neglected) diving platform at Coate Water. Aren’t they both gorgeous?!
Dona’s had wonderful reactions to her Swindon pieces and endless support from lots of Swindon bodies.
The library shop in Swindon central library stock her products. As does the shop at the museum & art gallery in Old Town and the cafe in Town Gardens.
There’s a list of places that stock Dona’s work at the bottom of this post.
Swindon Artist’s Forum and Other Support Networks
Freelancers of all kinds need support networks and, in the case of artists in particular, somewhere to try out their work in a safe environment. Dona cites the Swindon Artist’s Forum as one such place. Says Dona: ‘It’s a non-judgemental gallery for all comers.’ She is also a keen participant in Swindon Open Studios, displaying her work in Swindon’s central library.
Yet another group that Dona is involved in is Swindon Urban Sketchers – looking them up I find that the Urban Sketchers are an international thing with chapters all over the place – including Swindon. I rather like that.
A Swindon urban sketchbook on its way to the art library in Brooklyn, New York. Should you visit you can go take it off the shelves there and view it. How FAB is that?
Down the Motorway to Bristol
It’s obvious enough that Dona finds suitable subjects for her illustrations beyond Swindon’s undoubted charms! These are many but notably – Bristol. When she has stalls, and participates in markets in Bristol, Dona accepts their local currency, the Bristol pound. Over the 2018 festive season, Dona had a blast trading in Brizzle’s own currency and collaborating with seventy other traders at the Bristol Bazaar – a fabulous pop-up shop.
In the Ether
By now you’re surely keen to see more of Dona’s work and follow her on social media. So:
- The Dona Bradley drawings website.
- Dona on Instagram – a great way to see Dona’s work –@donabdrawings
- Our old friend Facebook
- And the Twittersphere of course – @dona_b_drawings
Shop local. Shop Independent. It’s Just a Card – or fridge magnet … !
There’s a growing appetite for shopping locally and supporting independents. Witness the diaspora of the coffee shop for a start. And the rise of artisan everything – now there’s an overused and wrongly used word – anyway! Anyone who’s paid any attention at all to this blog will know that I’ve written ad nauseam about the importance of shopping locally and supporting small businesses. I am one after all.
And so are artists! They have bills to pay just like the rest of us. Which is why there’s a thing, a campaign, called ‘Just a Card‘.
From the website: ‘The JUST A CARD campaign aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card‘ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.
The campaign came about when Artist & Designer Sarah Hamilton saw the quote “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card‘ we’d still be open” by store keepers who’d recently closed their gallery.’ That makes you think doesn’t it? It’s an important message – one applicable to any small business and *ahem* blog owner. So Dona, of course, subscribes to the ‘Just a Card’ campaign.