Donna Warby stands next to two of her artworks that are displayed at M Mountain Coffee until the end of the month. This is the first time she has had her work displayed.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

Donna Warby has been an artist since she was 12 years old, but recently started doing multimedia artworks. She has done various crafts throughout her life, including making porcelain dolls. She currently has some of her multimedia work displayed at M Mountain Coffee, which will be up through the end of the month.

When and how did you get into art?

When I was 12. I entered an art contest, but we were so poor that it was a “come on” for money. I was from a dysfunctional family… I would draw for the teacher… I got married and that was dysfunctional. I raised a daughter that is dysfunctional so my excuse is that by the time 2001 came, I went to Rock Springs Western Wyoming Community College because all I did was craft stars and porcelain dolls. There are paintings that I did from there, but I still had issues with family and my choices.

When I moved here, I went to UNM and the Tech here and progressed until last year… I enhanced the ones I did in class and finished them up.

All my life, I’m 82, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I should have right from the get-go dabbled in it, but I did crafts. Now, (M Mountain Coffee) let me display my art and my health seems to be good so I’m on a roll. I have my art studio in (my sister’s) trailer that I’m renting and she and her husband are being really supportive. We have the same dad.

I moved here to go get my LPN license so I could work as a nurse and get out of debt. In Tom’s RV, I got exposed to carbon dioxide and now I have this brain damage. I can’t focus very well so it’s really challenging for me to paint something. When you look at my art, you can see that I’m not exceptional but I’m better than I thought I could be.

Now, I’m going to paint for my family and things I have harbored (in my brain) for the years. My main thing is I would come (to M Mountain Coffee) and see all the art on display. I was working at the bistro and then I would play cards at senior citizens while I was going to college. She would let the community and they had Vertu, but they’ve closed down. She is just so welcoming to the local artists. I can’t thank her enough.

Warby’s art is a multimedia format and she focuses on space, nature and landscapes that can be found in the Socorro area, including Bosque del Apache. The piece on the left is based on space, earth and the sea.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

What formats do you use?

This is multimedia, but at Western Wyoming, the instructors started you out with drawing and chalk and charcoal. After that, when we started color, it was oils. When I moved here, all I wanted to do was oils.

At UNM – Valencia, they work with pastels… They have a new technique where you can do oils and they dry fast and can mix with water. I don’t know what the additive is for you to be able to do that, but I just dabble in multimedia. I like oils, but I want to stay away from it because of the lead in the oils… Pastels, I couldn’t focus, but there aren’t any additives, any damage in pastels so maybe I will dabble in that. I don’t want to contaminate me any more than old age does.

What are your favorite things to paint?

Right now, I did locals like the bird refuge and the Rio Grande.

When I was in Valencia, in Belen, UNM, I came out of art class and they had a rainstorm. I stick locally… What I like to do is abstract and how the universe works — the sky and space. They have this attachment you can put on your phone and it’s a telescope and you can view space. Because I’m retired… just be adventurous and just dabble in the community with other artists.

Where have you had your work displayed?

This is the only place.

At Vertu, I kept wanting to display my art there, but I was having so many issues with my health and financial problems that I couldn’t focus. Georgette (Grey) could see that and she would say, ‘you’re not ready yet.’ I used to go in there and visit a lot with her and Skeeter (Leard). When I came into (M Mountain Coffee) to interview with Elieen (Comstock), I was kind of skeptical because I had a bunch of artwork in my satchel.

She was impressed, but it took about three months to have me come down here because she had other commitments. The pandemic came so this is my third month. Usually, you only have two months and she said by the end of the month I can take it down and make room for other artists. I’m happy.

What I want to do is UNM Valencia, every fall they have showings of peoples’ artwork and because I was a student there, maybe I can show my artwork. Other than that, it’s just going to be for family.

Donna Warby has 11 works of art hanging up at M Mountain Coffee, which is located in The Plaza. Warby has been mak-
ing artwork and crafts since she was 12-years-old.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

What is it like having your artwork shown at M Mountain Coffee?

Because of the pandemic, it’s really lowkey. They are really supportive of me. Since they have opened up fully, before it was just take-out, they are so busy. They appreciate my art and Eileen says it’s been a pleasure. When she said to have it taken down by the end of the month, I said, ‘thank you for the opportunity,’ and she said, ‘it’s been a pleasure.’ I’m kind of a negative person because of my background and dysfunction and bad choices and this thing from carbon dioxide.

What has art helped you get through?

Since I’m retired now and I’m not in debt and baggage and my family back home is having issues that I had when I was young so I communicate with them and offer my love and suggestions.

Before, when I tried to paint, I couldn’t focus and I had a hard time waking up in the morning other than doing a new crossword book. I help take care of the animals and I don’t have a significant other — I live alone.

Since the pandemic, being alone, this gives me inspiration. This gives me wanting to get up in the morning with all these ideas I have. It’s been a plus. It could have gone the other way.

Porcelain dolls?

I taught at Western Wyoming Community College from 1988, I took a class there, and then I opened a doll shop in my home, I taught until 2004 through the college making porcelain dolls. I thrived in that. I even entered contests and got ribbons for that. We are all creative, but my choices, I blame myself — people have hard times in life and make good choices and succeed — I made bad choices. I’m so lucky to be here and at my age and still able to pursue my art career. I’m so thankful… I want to be part of the community and contribute. It makes me happy. Ever since I was 12, I wanted this for me.

I guess when I was growing up I didn’t eat right because I didn’t do good in school and in the days of yore, they treated people like they were dumb because they had this disability. They aren’t dumb, they are smart. Because I’m creative, I didn’t have to worry about being good in government, math, English. English is my worst. I like math, but my brain hurts when I try to go in-depth, like calculus. I wanted to go to college and study the universe, but you have to have all this math background and it involves calculus. I just want to sit in class and listen to these people… about what they found out about the universe. That just fascinates me.