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Don Newgren

Professor Emeritus, York University

Toronto, Canada


BFA, University of Illinois

MA, University of Illinois

PhD, Syracuse University

Over the past twelve years, I have returned full time to painting after a career in graphic design and design education. In hindsight ‘Design always seemed easy but art definitely seems hard”. These current paintings represent selections from over 100 paintings done since 2006 on my annual three-month visit to New Zealand with my partner/artist Elizabeth Barry . . . always staying with Gill Gallacher and David Short at Nelson Coastal Barnstay in Tasman, NZ - where they have made the ‘Wood Shed Studio’ available for my use. 


Experience at York University in Toronto

  • Founding Chair of the Department of Design,

  • Founding Director of the Masters Program in Design

  • Master of Winters College, Associate and Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. 

  • Over 30 years of teaching experience; lectured and published in Japan, Europe, Canada, and the USA. 

  • Research interests focus upon user participation during the inventory and planning part of the design process.

  • Award winning professional graphic design projects for  fourteen Fortune 500 companies.

David Short & Gill Gallacher 

Abstract Art

Abstract art lets us see with our minds what we cannot see with our eyes; it enables artists to move beyond the tangible and into the infinite; it frees the viewer's mind to 'imagine'.  (Arshile Gorky).

Viewers don't need to be trained or experienced in abstract art to appreciate it. Because of its wide range of interpretation, we can derive our own meaning and make it 'personal’.

My approach to making art

Abstract Expressionism is my preferred approach; my style is 'gestural' - characterized by energetic brush strokes. I like to paint on high quality watercolour paper, or Terraskin (a more permanent and 'forgiving' support made of mineral powder and non-toxic resin - containing no pulp, water or bleach).


Typically I start a painting with an idea or concept, e.g. 'togetherness', 'escape', 'solitude', and I paint some large gestures in response to the idea; I often step back to find ways to accent, add to and strengthen the thoughts or feelings that evolve. As the painting develops, and way leads on to way, spontaneity, materials, tools and - analysis on the fly all make contributions. This process of analysis and reaction can take several hours, or even days.


As this process unfolds, I may use a different brush or tool to introduce some splashing, dribbling or blending of wet paint into the initial marks while they are still wet. . .  always trying to visually layer and intensify the basic concept of the painting. Sometimes this ‘wet into wet’ process just doesn't work out. However, hidden in these ‘unsuccessful paintings' are often tiny portions that are astonishingly rich and interesting. These little ‘jewels’ have been extracted and can be seen within the Miniatures section. 

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