Donny Morris Anderson Biography

PAINTER / Artist

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My earliest memories of being inspired in art was at the age of seven. My family and I moved to Alaska. The Alaskan native tribes people painted on everything from large trees to canoe and even their seal skin drums. The theme of the art work was their surroundings; their great hunts, fruitful fishing trips and even their issues with  neighbors, be they friend or foe. The work many times was primitive, but always done with passion. Their art would be so descriptive, some totem carving would tell a story or send out a message. What inspires me the most is that their works would be created on any surface they could find or make. The native people cherished this primitive and ancient works thru tribal wars and following the migration of the wild game. The works would be handed down from generation to generation. 

My first style was what I would call Primitive Abstraction works. These ancient people inspired me to go out into the fresh snow and scratch out figures, animals I saw or renditions of the native art works I saw. I began to do snow scratchings with my feet at first and eventually using sticks, rocks and finally graduating to the bones of animals consumed by natures natural process. When spring came each year I would continue my primitive etchings on the mud from the many marsh lands. In the three years that I lived in Alaska, my primitive art began to change from native inspired etchings to an abstraction that I absorbed from the land’s energy. 

Even though at a young age I didn’t understand that what I was doing was recreating an ancient art form, I was creating from the heart for no other reason but to create. I would bring friends to my first form of art. I would show them my works from a high hill or a climbable tree; I would do this because the work was so large sometimes as large as an acre or two. The winter before I moved away from Alaska I began doing natural sculptures. I would  take rocks and falling trees and what ever I could find and erect a sculpture. I soon realized there was a practical use for this art; a fort. My group of friends had the “coolest” and the best built fort, for the use of snow ball war games. We would challenge everyone for miles around, most when seeing one of my forts would reply “that’s really cool," “that’s kinda weird, or “can we be on your team”?  

After a few years my family moved to upstate New York. The art works found in the New England states was a whole different type of art work. This work was mostly from the early beginnings of the United States. This traditional art works was mainly from the 16th-19th centuries with traditional  early-American styles. Many of the artist’s focus was on realism.

In the three years that I lived in Alaska, my primitive art began to change from native inspired etchings to an abstraction that I absorbed from the land’s energy.

In these styles the artist would portray the object as if one was in the room with the person, place, thing, or historical event. The artist would take painstaking efforts to recreate the colors as they would represented in are earthly reality. I was so inspired by these early artists in the way they would depict the story or the event. These early artists didn’t have the modern day photo reproducing equipment. Rather, they had to be there when the event happened or have a vivid memory.

My favorite painted object was the paddle-wheel boats. The artist would paint these boats so realistic it was as if I was standing there watching it pull out of port. This is were my inspiration of movement in a painting or a sculpture began. The inspiration of a event in my life that I could document, a way of sharing it with others with the use of the brush instead of the written word; If you would, an “Artistic Historian”. 

What if a painter would paint the water orange or the trees pink and with a lavender sky; this abstract thought came to me inspired from the earliest artists.  These early artists would paint the water many different shades as they would see it or interpret it to be. The water would change during a battle scene or simply a winters run off. I began to think that color could tell the story; color gives movement, color gives emotion; A painter doesn’t have to reproduce form to tell a story or convey a thought or an emotion. At the time I didn’t even understand that this is a simplistic form of abstraction.

Well, it was time again that the family and I packed up and moved again. The next stop was the Middle East.

Photo: Sasan Geranmehr

Photo: Sasan Geranmehr

Each one of these artist/craftsmen performed their work in the public eye every day.  This is one of the reasons I began painting en plein air (outside in the public eye).

Tehran, Iran

We moved there in a time of beauty and a time of peace. As a young man I was fascinated with my new home in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. The art in this region was nothing like I had never seen or ever dreamed of. I would see this amazing ancient art. There was art everywhere. Inside an undercover market place built  of camel dung bricks, The Bazaar, housed artist of all types. There were the famous Persian carper weavers, the wood carvers, the metal table and pots makers, shoes and textile makers of all types, and of course the painters and the sculptures. In the area called The Bazaar there were several hundred thousand people who worked and called this city within a city, home. Each one of these artistic disciplines I would go and watch for hours. I watched every step of the process, even the artistic salesmanship. Thankfully most of the artists doing their craft were thrilled to have such an intense onlooker; a student. Going to the bazaar was something that I had to keep from my my parents; I still remember their exact words “stay out of that damn bazaar.” You could get into a lot of trouble in there; and trouble I did find. Mostly I spent hours watching the painters and the sculptors work. Most had their craft handed down to them from their father and as from his father. The painter would paint with such clarity. It was as if you could smell the camel dung on the artist portrayal of the ancient peoples preferred mode of transportation. I was truly inspired by some of these artist’s use of light; you could feel the softness of the rays peeking through the small holes in the roof of the The Bazaar. 

Although I studied the work of the traditional artists intensely and had a real respect for their god given talent; I was particularly drawn to the cartoonist artists and their light-hearted approach to historically documenting Persian contemporary culture. Many would paint cartoon scenes of real life genre events as you would stereotypically see the people. Each one of these artist/craftsmen performed their work in the public eye every day.  This is one of the reasons I began painting en plein air (outside in the public eye).

In the words of an old traditional painter master who said to me in his native Persian tongue, when I asked him why do you paint in public? “If the [folks] don’t see you or experience your work how would they ever know you exist?”