I discovered Donna Chess on Instagram one day, simply perusing the #tribalbellydancer images. I was drawn to this image she posted:
Turns out, this beautiful work of art she was working on was for a 2018 calendar of bellydancers! So I tapped “FOLLOW” and have been eagerly awaiting the completion of this project which has finally arrived!
Donna Chess has been creating visual art since she could hold a crayon and has been a student of Belly Dance for several years. In her 2018 calendar, she brings together these two art forms, creating paintings full of passion, colour and motion. I got in touch with Donna to ask her a few questions about her work and her life:
How long have I been an artist?
Donna: As long as I could hold a crayon! I’ve been creating art in some form or another since then. When I was in second grade, some of the boys in my class asked me to draw a naked girl for them. The boys were impressed but, the teacher wasn’t! My notebooks through high school and college were always filled with doodles and drawings. I studied illustration at California College of Arts, and did some illustration work in California before moving to Australia… a long time ago. Now, I exhibit and sell my work at local galleries, art gift shops and over the internet.
a few paintings of some of the women that I dance with and the ‘leader’ of our dance troupe, Flourish Tribal, suggested that we create a calendar together. I could do the paintings of some of the Australian dancers that would be teaching at the Belly Dance Festival and she could do the design work. I had only five months to do the paintings (I’m a slow worker!) and had 14 paintings that were useable and seven rejects!
It was all rather stressful and I swore that I’d never do it again but, I guess, like childbirth, the pain fades, I had wanted to make use of what I’d learned the first time around, and here I was this year, painting for another calendar. Plus, there’s so much beauty in belly dance, and my desire to try to portray that beauty through art was just too tempting. This time, though, I started earlier, was choosier with my reference material and only had one reject!
There’s so much beauty in belly dance, and my desire to try to portray that beauty through art was just too tempting.
3) What was the hardest part?
Trying to get the portraits to look like the people that they’re meant to be!
4) What was the most fun part?
I love the way the paint swirls in the water on the paper, creating the feeling of motion with paint. Also, putting the detail on the costumes. Probably the most ‘fun’ part, is the delight from the dancers when they like their portrait.
5) Will you be doing any more belly dance art?
Definitely! I’m not sure if I’ll create another calendar again, though. I’ll see what happens!
Below are more of the images featured in the 2018 Desert Moon Calendar, plus a few of my favorites from the 2017 calendar. If you’d like to purchase a calendar for yourself, a dancemate, or for your whole troupe, head over to Donna’s website here.
Be sure to follow Donna’s Instagram (@dschess_art) for regular posts of her beautiful art!