Donna Brewins

Donna finds inspiration in "big winter skies" for her giant canvases of dark landscapes.

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It was a typically grey November day when we visited artist Donna Brewins in her studio at Yorkshire Artspace's Exchange Place, but we were greeted by the most fantastic light flooding in from the enormous studio windows. It was the best example of how this previously unloved building is so well suited to the residents who currently call it home, and who are bringing it back to life.

Donna's studio is a feast for the senses. As well as the aforementioned light there are the smells: oil paint and turps. And the colours: giant canvases of dark landscapes and stormy seascapes fill the space and take your breath away. Once recovered, we found Donna to be possibly the sweetest and most egoless artist we've ever encountered. A delight to spend time with, we talked about the inspiration for her paintings – walking and photographing landscapes, changing weather and seasons, and the impact of human activity on our living environments – all of which inform the direction of her work.

Donna's work comes in all shapes and sizes, and it's possible to commission her to create a painting of somewhere that is special to you. In 2013 Donna was commissioned to create an enormous landscape painting by a couple for their new home – both the home and Donna at work were featured on Grand Designs.

How would you describe your work?

I am a painter and work predominantly on large canvases using oil paint. In my work I try to translate my thoughts and experiences of walking out in the British landscape. The challenge is always to attempt to make the work as free and unconscious as possible, to let the paint guide me as I produce a piece.

What inspires you?

Predominately the British weather and the constant changes it goes through on a daily basis. I love big winter skies, with huge black clouds that look so foreboding at times and have dramatic light.

What’s your workspace like?

My space is a beautiful studio within Exchange Place, an art deco building that has spectacular views over Sheffield. It is warm and cosy. It's painted white and has a concrete floor, again painted to maximise the levels of light.

What do you love about Sheffield?

Sheffield is such a friendly and diverse city. I moved here in 1994. I've been away for three years and am currently in the process of moving back permanently. I didn't realise how much I would miss it – once the Steel City gets into your heart there's no living anywhere else!

What would you do to improve the city?

Nothing much really, I think it is a unique, quirky place. But one thing I would improve is having more cycling routes into the city, as I am not brave enough to cycle in Sheffield at the moment.

Written by Claire Thornley; July 22, 2014
Photography by Gemma Thorpe.