Story by JOYANNA LOVE
Photos Contributed and by JOYANNA LOVE
Painting is more than a hobby for Donny Finlayson. It is a way to preserve a time and place in a meaningful way.
Donny Finlayson’s serious interest in art came in 1979 after creating some illustrations for a project for his wife Judy.
“My wife was working on her master’s degree in elementary education, and she had to write a children’s book,” Finlayson said. “She wrote the book, and she had to have some drawings and illustrations in there, so I did the drawings and illustrations.”
After seeing his work, Judy suggested that he might enjoy art classes. She said she would buy him supplies for Christmas.
“I said, ‘You’ve got a baby due in January, and I am coaching baseball at the high school and I don’t have time to do that,” Finlayson recalled. “She bought the stuff anyway.”
The very first painting he did was in a class taught by Scarlett Teel.
“It has shadows,” Finlayson said. “You got a bowl that will give you depth. You have a vase that has light coming to you. So, she is showing you how to use light and colors to make you do your picture what you want it to do.”
Finlayson continued taking classes in painting and completed projects from 1980 to 1985, when he became principal of Adair (precursor to Clanton Middle School.)
The additional commitments of being principal meant Finlayson mostly gave up painting for a while.
In 2015, Finlayson retired from education and decided to get serious about painting again.
The subjects for his paintings change with seasons of life. He said right now he is enjoying painting pictures of his grandchildren.
Finlayson has paintings of each of his children when they were young. Some of his paintings are portraits, while others are of every day scenes, including fishing and participating in sports.
Finlayson said he usually works from a photograph.
Many of the portraits he has painted of his family members have been given to them as presents.
Finlayson likes trying his hand at painting new subjects, whether it be flowers or people’s faces.
To initially learn how to paint faces, Finlayson painted portraits of clowns.
“On the clowns that I do, I put initials in the background,” Finlayson said. “I put B.F. in the background for Bart and Brooke Finlayson, the name of my kids, to add a special little touch to it.”
In addition to paintings of his family, Finlayson likes to preserve the look of old buildings through his work. One such painting is of an ice plant in Jackson, Alabama.
Some of his paintings are of old buildings his family had owned.
He has mainly worked with oil paints but began using watercolors when he received some as a gift from his faculty when he was a principal.
“You can paint completely different both ways … in watercolors, you do your light (colors) first, then add your dark to it,” Finlayson said. “With oils, you do your dark first.”
The way these paintings are displayed is different also.
“Adding the right frame to it helps bring out your picture, too,” Finlayson said. “… Most oil pictures you want a wider frame. Watercolors usually have a matte and a thinner frame.”
Finlayson has also done a few paintings with a religious theme.
“We were singing at church one day ‘he could have called 10,000 angels to come take Him (Jesus) off the cross,’ so that’s what got me to do that,” Finlayson said on his piece “On Call.”
By choice, Finlayson rarely sells his artwork, but he does do commissioned pieces sometimes.
Some of his friends are surprised that as active Finlayson is that he will sit for hours to paint.
The finishing touches on a painting are the most challenging aspect for Finlayson.
He compared painting to baseball, sometimes things go exactly the way he wants and sometimes they do not.
Correcting mistakes takes a different approach depending on the paint used.
“In oil painting, you let it dry, and then you can paint over it,” Finlayson said. “In watercolor, you try to incorporate whatever happened.”
Finlayson has submitted his work on a regular basis to the Roy Wood Peach Festival Art Show.
“We want people in town to see what we do,” Finlayson said. “I think people enjoy going into the bank (River Bank & Trust) and seeing our work.”
He said for several years, the contest had required that the art have peaches in it. As a result, he has many paintings of peaches. He has also entered an art show in Montgomery a few times.
When participating in shows, Finlayson tries to keep it in perspective because it is usually only one person’s opinion.
Some of Finlayson’s work is on display in the library of Clanton Middle School.
“I put my work in Adair and Clanton Middle School because most kids do not know anyone who paints,” Finlayson said. “And, I wanted kids to know that you can be an athlete and enjoy the arts.”
He said he wanted students to know that they did not have to choose between or the other. Some students have also had artwork displayed there.
“I inspired a few,” Finlayson said.
Finlayson said he paints when the mood strikes him but also attends a weekly class at Senior Connection as a set time to paint most weeks.