Shares Her Gift
By Christie Remley, Manager of Communications & Public Relations
On a snowy afternoon, I made my way over to MVEC member Donna Jelmeland’s beautiful home in rural Jones County to talk about her second act as a watercolor artist. Donna, a retired interior designer, has been painting in watercolor since 2011. One wall of her living room is a gallery of black and white prints of some of her work with one special (and colorful) addition - while Donna paints realistic portraits and landscapes, her grandson Drew created an abstract water color which Donna proudly displays in the middle of the wall.
Donna’s husband Kermit encouraged her to pick up a paint brush eleven years ago. While Donna admits that some may find watercolor to be a difficult medium, she likes the challenge. Creativity and a love of learning/challenging oneself are engrained in Donna’s DNA - her father made ceramics and her mother started doing one day of RAGBRAI at the age of 85. Of course Donna documented that achievement with a painting of her mom dipping a bike tire in the Mississippi River.
Donna has not received any formal training and describes herself as self-taught with encouragement from other artist friends. “I know God’s gift has been loaned to me. It’s a real privilege - I feel I get younger with every painting. I am fortunate to have found a passion and feel I am never done learning.”
Over the years, people have commissioned Donna to paint their children, parents, pets and favorite buildings and places. Typically, a portrait will take one week to complete although as Donna said, it depends on her mindset at the time. “There is an element of being in a creative mode - I can’t really control it. About a year ago, a high school classmate lost her daughter to cancer and I felt compelled to paint her and the next thing I knew, it was after five in the morning.”
With watercolor painting, materials matter. Donna uses a professional grade paper made of cotton, as well as the best pigment and brushes. When asked to share her favorite painting, Donna selects the piece she just finished that is titled ‘GOD’S GIFT…PRICELESS’, which one might also say applies to Donna’s talent. Her second favorite painting is the one of her father which her mom asked her to paint. “It’s kind of like reading a good novel - when you get to the end, you don’t want to say goodbye to the characters - I felt this way with my dad’s painting. I hated to say goodbye,” said Jelmeland.
Not afraid of critique and always open to learn, when Donna does a piece, she will post it to a watercolor group to which she belongs and pose the question, ‘If you could change one thing, what would it be?’ Donna said she usually agrees with the feedback.
Since picking up a paintbrush, Donna has created 188 paintings so far. Some are on display at Meth-Wick Community in Cedar Rapids and others can be purchased at Thou Art in downtown Anamosa. Donna also posts her work on her Facebook page (facebook.com/donnajelmeland) and website (artistdonnajelmeland.com). Price is determined by size of painting and number of subjects in the piece.
Looking ahead to 2023, Donna would like to hear from you and if have a special person, pet, place or precious moment that you would like to have painted, feel free to contact her. Donna looks forward to continuing to find inspiration in family and nature, always ready to learn and share her God-given talent.