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Back “Home” Again in Indiana: The Brothers Donoughe

A contemporary landscape painter based in Pittsburgh and a communications designer with a firm on the West Coast have more in common then might at first be supposed. Identical twins Ron and Don Donoughe are natives of Loretto, Pennsylvania, and both are graduates of IUP’s Art Education Department.

Additionally, they attended California College of the Arts (CCA) in Oakland, California. Their artistic career paths eventually diverged, and each pursued his own course, but last spring the brothers reunited at IUP’s University Museum for a joint exhibit of their respective works entitled Paint & Pixels: The Oil Paintings of Ron Donoughe and the Graphic Design of Don Donoughe.

Ron Donoughe worked in a variety of capacities, including landscaper, gravedigger, chicken catcher, art teacher, graphic designer, museum installer, and college instructor before finding his métier. Once he realized that painting was his true calling, he studied his craft in Italy and America. Today, as one of the region’s foremost rural and urban landscape artists, Ron paints in the plein air style—completed on site in the open air or painting directly from nature. (He also occupies a second-floor studio in the historic Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, where he houses many of his artworks.) His highly sought-after works are to be found in the collections of private, corporate and institutional venues with representative examples on view locally at Westmoreland Museum of American Art and Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

Don Donoughe describes his displayed web design images during the University Museum show.

Don Donoughe describes his displayed web design images during the University Museum show. Photo: Keith Boyer

In the foreword to his 2006 book of landmark sites, Essence of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts), Barbara L. Jones, curator of Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, gives a glimpse into Donoughe’s artistry: “Each painting encapsulates the day, the time, the weather, the atmosphere, all of which contribute to the narrative as a whole—which is about life in Pittsburgh, southwestern Pennsylvania, or anywhere he travels. There is a spirit and energy to Ron’s work that readily transfers from his brush to the viewer, revealing his personal exploration of the world around him.”

Read more about Ron and Don Donoughe in the feature article of this issue of IUP Magazine:
Double Vision

Over the years, Don Donoughe also held a number of positions with teacher, art store manager, and technical illustrator among them. During his time as a visual merchandise designer for Gimbels Department Stores, Don realized that graphic design was beckoning. Upon moving to California’s Bay Area, Don attended CCA and subsequently worked for NeXT Computer, Espirit de Corps, and CKS, continually adding to his technical abilities and credentials. After honing his skills in interactive web design, advertising design, and branding, Don founded, with a former colleague, the design firm Maus Haus, Inc. For twelve successful years the company served such clients as Disney, Sprint, Intel, Robert Mondavi, and Stanford University and was twice named by Inc. magazine to its “500 Fastest-Growing Companies” list.

Since 2005, the award-winning graphic designer has owned Donoughe Design in San Mateo, California, which specializes in print, brand identity, and interactive web design. Don and his staff accommodate a mixed portfolio, ranging from the smallest startups to the largest corporations. The experience of a large agency with the attention of a small design studio have attracted such diverse clients as Adobe, Sun Microsystems, Catholic Healthcare West, Safeway, 2nd Harvest Food Bank, and a number of universities.

Although the landscape Don inhabits between Silicon Valley and San Francisco is far different from that which his brother Ron surveys in Western Pennsylvania, the twins prove the point that you can indeed go home again and find a common ground in the bargain.

Haid's Bottom, by Ron Donoughe

Haid's Bottom, by Ron Donoughe

BMN: Ron, when and under what circumstances was your John Sutton Hall painting of its bell tower done?

RD: It was last October on a beautiful day. I wanted to do a painting that was instantly recognizable as IUP; the bell tower is that architectural icon. The autumn leaves were framing it, and I liked the simple light and shadow shapes. To paint something is to look carefully for an extended period of time. The bell tower is an example of something interesting we don’t really see. Painting it from the cogeneration plant in early afternoon light gave me the opportunity to study it and appreciate its design.

BMN: Did you catch any rays and shade on canvas during February 2010, the snowiest month in Pittsburgh’s recorded history?

RD: Sure; I had a lot of snow paintings in the University Museum exhibition. (Maybe they didn’t bring back good memories!) Winter is my favorite season to paint. I really enjoy how snow reflects the color of light—it has a subtle beauty that must be observed while standing in it.

BMN: Can we expect another compilation of area scenes similar to Essence of Pittsburgh?

RD: An eighty-page book accompanied the exhibition titled Paintings of Indiana County, Pennsylvania. The hardcover has reproductions of all the paintings done over the last year in Indiana County. These paintings were displayed together as a wall mural I called Homage to Indiana County. (The exhibit book is available online. In February 2011, it is also expected to go on sale in the campus’s Co-op Store.)

Winter Light, by Ron Donoughe

Winter Light, by Ron Donoughe

BMN: Would you say that the prodigious talent of the Donoughe twins is a case of “art in the blood,” creative curiosity, or a bit of both?

RD: A bit of both? Our siblings think we were hatched; no others in the family share our passion for art. So it must be that identical twins usually have similar interests. Art was something Don and I have enjoyed since childhood. We also have always encouraged each other to do our best work, and that’s probably the best part of it.

Brother Don continues the conversation:

BMN: Donoughe Design stresses the importance of melding art, technology, and marketing in communications. How do you meet your objective?

DD: Each project has its own specific objectives; there is no formulaic approach, which is what makes Web site design so interesting. My clients usually have some goals in mind before we get to the “discovery and definition” stage. During this time I can point to other engagements that bring to mind a particular technology or idea that is appropriate for their site. There is always an opportunity to bring beauty into the equation no matter what the problem at hand is.

BMN: Your graphic designs seem to demonstrate a “less is more” viewpoint.

DD: The design needs to be less about how it looks than how it works. If a user has to wait too long for a site to load or cannot figure out where to click, the site is a failure. Simple and elegant often works well in interface design; in this way, the visual hierarchy becomes more obvious.

BMN: What trends in color and style (as important to the graphic designer as they are to the painter) do you see evolving in the design industry?

DD: I’m seeing more and more experimental typography, especially in the motion graphics world. Just like the fashions of clothes, graphic design can be extremely trendy. I try to do design that is timeless in nature without falling into the trend du jour mentality.

BMN: Would you say that the prodigious talent of the Donoughe twins is a case of “art in the blood,” creative curiosity, or a bit of both?

DD: I agree with Ron’s comments in that it’s probably both genetic and environmental influences. We were lucky to have a great art teacher in high school and very supportive professors at IUP. A strong work ethic from our father also helped us to work hard at our craft. I think we both realized from a very young age that we were artists and that no matter what we were going to use our talent for our lives’ work.

Visit Ron’s website; e-mail him at ron@donoughe.com.
Visit Don’s website; e-mail him at don@donoughedesign.com.

About the Author: Freelance writer Barbara M. Neill is a 1972 alumna of IUP. She taught Elementary Music in the Ligonier Valley School District for thirty-two years, retiring in 2004. From 2006 until 2010, Barbara contributed numerous interviews and articles to the Laurel Mountain Post, a Westmoreland County-based community magazine, where she served for a time as features editor and advertising sales director. Today she writes for several area publications, including the Latrobe Bulletin. Barbara and her husband, Kent, live in the Lawson Heights section of Latrobe.

More from the Fall-Winter 2010 Issue of IUP Magazine

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