Becoming involved in her field by chance, Donna M. Bonin contracted a virus called Guillain–Barré syndrome, of which her legs became paralyzed. Her career as a physical education teacher and professional equestrian was necessarily over, and she needed to find something meaningful to do sitting down. Ms. Bonin had loved to draw in her childhood and teen years, so decided to enroll in a watercolor painting course at her community college. Within a year, she won an award in a juried show and that painting sold. Shortly thereafter, she was asked to teach at Loyalist College in Belleville, ON, Canada, and Michaels Arts and Crafts Store, which she has continued to do since 2000.
Today, Ms. Bonin is the owner of Back in Time Gallery. In addition to this role, she was an invited biannual instructor at Le Monastère in Limoux, France, and instructed several workshops in Portugal, British Columbia, Canada, the Bavarian Alps, the Amalfi Coast, the Greek Islands and Malta. She has also led travel art workshops in Europe and North America, and taught art classes in France and Barcelona, Spain. Prior to the start of her professional career, Ms. Bonin pursued a formal education at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada, where she attained a Bachelor of Arts in history and English in 1969.
As an artist, Ms. Bonin works primarily in watercolor, oil and pastel. She has shown her work in various international galleries and venues in New York; Miami; Florence, Italy; Paris and Cannes, France; Brussels; Vienna; and Toronto and Montreal. Her workshops are typically booked up to two years in advance. Outside of her primary trade, Ms. Bonin maintains involvement with several organizations related to her field including the ArtTour International, Artist Inspo, Farscec International, the Vivid Arts Network, Create for Peace, Artist’s Info, Arts Quinte West and the Belleville Art Association.
In light of all that she has accomplished, Ms. Bonin was selected as one of the top 60 masters of contemporary art by ArtTour International from 2015 to 2019. Likewise, she received the ARTYA Award for her entries in the “Art for a Green Planet” Show in New York in 2018, and is the recipient of multiple awards at juried shows. The most memorable highlight of Ms. Bonin’s career came as a great surprise in 2013 when France’s National Society of Beaux Arts requested one of her paintings to be exhibited to represent Canada in their exhibition in the Louvre. She was awestruck and found it hard to believe, and she has since been selected three more times to participate in the SNBA’s annual show in the Louvre.
Ms. Bonin attributes her success to perseverance. When her paintings didn’t come out right, she never gave up. She also credits her motivation to experiment and expand her artistic horizons. This comes from her art students, many of whom have attended classes and workshops regularly for years. They want to learn new things and approaches to watercolor. Lastly, she credits her decision to allow her paintings to “speak” to her and tell her what they need for greatest effect. Moving forward, Ms. Bonin would like to still be painting, teaching and traveling, but perhaps slow down a little.
Throughout her career, Ms. Bonin learned to always be open to new ideas, stay inspired and continue to learn. The awards and recognition are nice, but for her, the most rewarding part of her art career is teaching, earning the respect of her students and watching them excel. Ms. Bonin was greatly influenced by her father and late husband, both of whom were award-winning oil painters. Her environment was always filled with inspirational paintings; it seemed natural, later in life, to want to paint. After starting to paint, she was most influenced by classes taken with Margaret Roseman and Tom Lynch. Not only are they great watercolorists, but they are also great instructors.