April 2018

Creative Life With Danni Downing

Purposeful painting touches the lives of others

Danni Downing – Artist

Q:  When did you first discover you were an artist?
A: Thirteen years ago, I was invited to an art class given by Merriann Hornsby, and it was there I realized I had a love for the impressionists. Merriann has a gift for color and I will always carry with me what I learned from her. Her teaching style was very warm and engaging which is what I needed to build my confidence and develop my own style and techniques. I am forever grateful to her for jump starting my creative journey.

Q: How would you describe your artist statement?
A: I paint to put a smile on someone’s face. It is that simple. Every time I begin a new painting, my first thought is always: what will make someone happy? Will this painting bring joy to the person seeing it?

Q: Do you feel that painting is a spiritual gift?
A: Yes, absolutely. I believe every artist draws their imagination deep from their soul. Before I begin a painting, I pray and ask the Lord for direction and I want the completed painting to touch someone’s deepest need, to give peace, joy, contentment and hope. I am always amazed at the Lord’s direction because literally someone’s name may come to my mind and I will hear the Lord say, “….. needs this painting Danni.” I cannot tell you how many times I will give a painting to someone and he or she will say, “Danni, how did you know this is what I needed?” I am always tickled to hear those words and I am reminded that painting is a gift.

Q: You were a featured artist at White Light Night in November. How was that experience?
A: Yes, at the midnight hour, I decided to set up at Calandro’s and showcase my art. I really did not hesitate to participate because I believe in stepping out in faith. I had an amazing night. People came up to me the entire evening and I ended up selling three paintings and handed out all of my art business cards. I loved being among fellow artists and was inspired by the talented artists that were set up near me. I am excited about participating in more art festivals like the annual Mid City Arts festival. I have to say Calandro’s is a hot spot too because hundreds of people came through there that evening to not only see the art, but to hear the music and enjoy sampling appetizers and wine. It is like a mini arts festival.

 Q: Where can people find your artwork?
A: Currently, I sell most of my work via Facebook. I simply post my paintings on Facebook and people will message me in order to purchase it. I am hoping to find new places to showcase my work.

Q: Do you have a favorite scripture of book of the Bible?
A:  Psalm 73:25 is my favorite verse in the Bible. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Q:  Share anything you would like our readers to know about your journey.
A: Well, about two years ago, I discovered Sharon Furrate Bailey’s artwork on Facebook. I was drawn to her style of art and we became friends when I mentioned I would go by and see her at Calandro’s for White Light Night. So I went to see her and we hung out most of the evening. I told her I was one of her biggest fans. We began painting together at her studio not long after we met. Her dad is a retired architect and he designed her studio. Our friendship grew and we even teamed up to teach classes for the Mental Health Association of Baton Rouge. We also helped with their annual fundraiser Beat The Odds, which was held March 8 at The Lod Cook Center.

Q: What would you like readers to know about you as a person?
A: I grew up in Baton Rouge and graduated from Baton Rouge High School in 1974. In 1979, I married Paul Downing and have three beautiful and accomplished children — Amy, Heather, and Paul Jr. I am a retired flight attendant from Express Jet Airlines where I flew for 14 years. I am now pursuing a career in real estate and I am very excited about this new venture. However, I will continue to paint to touch the lives of others through this artistic gift.



Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, La., and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B.A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at sharon@brclm.com.

August 2015, BRCLM Lagniappe

Our Life As a Canvas: Educating God’s Masterpiece

by Nancy Smitherman

2081_1068580764420_6453_n-2As an artist and a certified art educator for more than 30 years, I have always been passionate about unlocking creativity in others. As I read through Genesis where it says that God created man in His own image, I realized that every human being has creative potential. It may be in different forms of creativity such as music, dance, architecture, writing, visual arts, etc., but there is a unique creative aspect in each person waiting to be unlocked.

As a young teacher I wanted to teach young people what I loved about art so they could discover their own way to express themselves. After several years of teaching the basics of design I discovered only one or two students who felt they were good at art, so I set out on a mission to figure out how to unlock the creative side of the brain to help all students achieve a higher level of expression. I discovered that the brain receives information through the eye by observation, different from a computer, which only gives out what has been put into it.

If people are taught to really see, the information gathered could add new thoughts and ideas to their lives. This realization sent me out on a journey to teach what I call a “visual language,” through the use of visual art. As people are taught the A B C’s of a visual language, they can be released from child-like thinking, to a higher level of cognition and self-expression.

BRCLM.ArtCamp-2If they are taught to see shapes, use line, color with different aspects and values, 3D perspective, and negative space, (all abstract concepts), they can become excellent observers. They will also be better equipped to use their entire brain and utilize what they are learning in the other disciplines of education (science, language, technology, and math).

The new buzzword in education is STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This emphasis, however, is based on a linear model (math and science only), and lacks the creative aspects that allow for comprehension of new ideas by experiencing new ways of designing and thinking. By adding the arts back into education (STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), students with different learning styles are given an equal opportunity to excel as part of a curriculum that educates the whole brain.

During my time in the classroom the Lord showed me in Ephesians 2:10; we are God’s workmanship (His masterpiece) created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. I sensed He was calling me to more than just educating the brain, but to also reach the hearts of my students. Since we are all uniquely designed and have a soul that He desires to fill, I wanted to make a difference in as many children as I could. I am now on a mission to teach adults and educators alike who could learn this visual language, and in turn, influence more people and students than I could ever reach on my own.

I have found quite a few people who needed to be introduced to this new way of thinking and who, by using the right side of their brain (creative dominant), could become more successful as people and educators if they were able to do so.

BRCLM.ArtCamp-3I also saw many students who learned new skills, which enabled them to succeed, along with self-motivation. Education became more intriguing and they looked forward to what they could discover at school.

This summer, God has given me an opportunity to serve Him with my passions at New Bethel Transformational Church’s Summer Outreach Camp, whose mission is to teach Biblical principles to inner-city children and families so they can go back into their neighborhoods and schools as heroes of their faith. Many of these children would otherwise be left to themselves or on the streets. These children come from homes that lack more than just financial means; they lack a biblical view of God’s unconditional love and the hope that He alone can give them if they put their trust in Christ. They are so hungry to learn and be accepted and loved, that it is a joy to serve there. They need to see themselves and life in a new and better way.

Pastors Monica and Kecert Turner have seen God do miracles in the lives of these children and their parents in just the past few weeks. We are bringing hope to a lost and dying generation of people right here in our backyard neighborhoods through the message of Christ.

I feel like a missionary bringing hope when I see the eyes of more than 60 children light up as they see God’s beauty in creation and that they are capable of learning as the apply this new visual language and produce a beautiful work of art. My goal is that every child will go home this summer with their own painted canvas to serve as a reminder that they too are valuable and have a future and a hope if they continue to follow the Creator.