Donna with her painting The Two of Us.

Donna with her painting The Two of Us.

Donna Marko makes her mark

Coloured pencils don’t exactly have the most star-studded legacy in the world of art.

Angus Schroff

Arrow Lakes News

Coloured pencils don’t exactly have the most star-studded legacy in the world of art. Oils and acrylics have a succession of famous names to their credit, but coloured pencils are perceived first and foremost as the things kids use to make blue bushes and red trees.

Donna Marko seeks to change that perception. Born and raised in Alberta, Donna moved to Nakusp to retire and focus on her true passion — art. She’s done work of many kinds, including the aforementioned oils, but her favourite medium is coloured pencils on Stonehenge paper.

“A lot of people just seem to dismiss it at first,” she says. “They think that it’s just for kids. It doesn’t have such a rich history… it hasn’t been around nearly as long as the classical forms of art. I want to prove the potential that coloured pencils have.”

Anyone who sees her work, which is being displayed at Selkirk College until Aug. 15, would be hard-pressed to deny that potential. Whether it be a tranquil landscape or a painstakingly detailed portrait, her art is almost as realistic as a photograph — but with a little extra artistic oomph. The colours themselves are the stars of each piece, from the bright green of a tree frog highlighted against the nighttime jungle to the harsh whites and blues of winter snow. Whether they are vibrant, but not garish or subdued, but not dull, they bring the subject to life in a way that’s impossible to ignore.

Also impossible to ignore is Donna herself. Far from an aloof artist, she’s eager to guide visitors around the exhibit — as well as her creative process.

“Sometimes I base them off of pictures I take; sometimes I just take an inspiration and run with it. I am inspired by so many different things, but especially by other artists. I look at another artist’s work and see how they do things, and that inspires me to make something of my own.”

Each piece can take anywhere from 20 to 40 hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the subject.

“I try not to spend too much time on one picture — I have so many ideas; if I keep working on the same thing for too long, I get distracted and start thinking of what other things I can do.”

Donna started creating art in earnest around 15 years ago, but found that work all too often got in the way. She affirms it’s never too late to start doing something you love; she’s wanted to be an artist ever since she was a child.

“The key is persistence. Persistence to keep with what inspires you, and persistence to finish what you start. Don’t give up.”

As for artistic conventions and ingrained traditions, Donna says, “When people tell you that you’re doing it wrong, that you can’t do this or can’t do that… sometimes you just have to let it go and do your own thing.”


Donna has certainly done her own thing. As it turns out, it was the right thing to do.