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
In the late 60s 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 then 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
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."