Growing up in Vermont, D'Acuti describes herself as a closet artist. "I was the artist joke of the family." She left the artistry to her father and sister despite her fabulous collection of art supplies which she never used. "They were the artists, my mom and I were the singers." Later, when she first showed her art to friends, they would question, "who painted these?" The delicacy of the work, in contrast to her impatient nature made it difficult for her friends to believe it was truly her work.
In the late 60's after college, D'Acuti and a friend traveled around the country. Arriving on the West Coast D'Acuti fell in love with San Francisco. By 1970, she had moved to San Francisco and continued her nursing career at San Francisco General Hospital Emergency Department, eventually becoming Head Nurse. After 20 years in emergency medical care, D'Acuti felt it was time for something new. "I'd done everything," she said about her time in emergency health care. By the early 80s, with a move to Mill Valley it was time for a career change, she became a Realtor in Marin County in 1988. "They're both service positions," D'Acuti said about nursing and real estate. "I like helping people."
Her move to Marin, also introduced D'Acuti to Madeline and Paul Fu's Mill Valley art store. D'Acuti enrolled in one of Madeline Fu's painting classes, which began a student teacher relationship that has lasted over 30 years. That first class, initially introduced D'Acuti to Western painting; but she found herself more drawn to the white ceramic dishes, rich black ink and elegant work created with the bamboo brushes by the other artists. D'Acuti remembers saying "I have to try this stuff." Her years of hoarding art supplies had finally paid off and has led her to the brushwork painting she does today.
Calming White Birch Trees, Ghostly Mt. Tamalpais, Graceful Pines, D'Acuti's paintings evoke many emotions and thoughts. "I think it's interesting how people see my art, everyone responds differently," most feel it is very calming, but mysterious also comes up D'Acuti remarks. In the tradition of Chinese brush painting, she paints from what her memory and imagination see, rather than painting from a scene in front of her. She might watch the fog roll over Mt.Tam or stare at a table filled with photos, and then sit in her studio and paint from memory. "This is how traditional Chinese brush painters did it."
To make her art, D'Acuti combines her knowledge of traditional Chinese brush painting and her own western influences. Taking inspiration from the mountains and trees of Vermont and Northern California where she has lived and Montana and Alaska where she has spent time, have influenced her painting of pines and birches. She typifies them as "my favorite subjects". She creates her paintings using unusual paper ("I'd use a paper bag if I thought it would work well.") and innovative brush strokes as opposed to the traditional, "I still don't hold the brush correctly," she says with a smile. D'Acuti has taken all she has learned in her study of Chinese brush painting and made it her own. Despite her confessed impatience and high energy, D'Acuti enjoys the focus and delicacy that is required in her art. "When I'm really stressed out, I'll sit down and paint trees. It's my meditation."
Today D'Acuti can be found painting in her studio in the hills of Mill Valley, selling homes as a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, and singing jazz and blues at local bars and music halls (visit donnasings.com to hear recordings and view performance schedule). Donna D'Acuti is the singer and the artist. She's truly a woman of many talents.
"I hope you enjoy my paintings; I loved creating them."