Painting the Imaginary

When painter Alison O’Donoghue was growing up, art was both a sibling bond and the basis for a bit of sibling rivalry. “I was always interested in art, and I was always good at art, but so was my older brother, so I didn’t really try to get into it until I went out on my own,” she says. “He always influenced me, even though we’re completely different types of artists.”

O’Donoghue, a Portland native, studied art at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and has worked as an artist ever since. She works from a home studio and paints on birch plywood panels, which have a very smooth surface. She used to paint in oils, but she switched to acrylics because they were better suited to her painting style. “When I changed from oil to acrylic, I discovered my whole way of painting changed,” she says. “I started using thinner layers of paint, and it opened up painting for me in a different way. Sometimes I’d get frustrated working with oils; with the thinner layers, I had more freedom to make changes and get into the story of the painting.”

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Sego Serenely (above) takes its title from the white flower that appears in the painting. “Often when I’m painting, I let my mind wander a bit,” she says. “I like to have a lot of figures and shapes and have a lot of interactiveness among what’s in the painting.” For O’Donoghue, one of her favorite things about painting is the ability to create an entirely different environment. “In my paintings, I like to go to a place that doesn’t make sense and that doesn’t have to do with being practical,” she says. “I like to explore the imaginary.” The 24-inch by 24-inch painting is $975.

Contact painter Alison O’Donoghue via her website, Her work is also at the Mark Woolley Gallery (817 S.W. 2nd Ave., 503-224-5475 or go to in Portland and at the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery (335 State St., 503-581-3229 or go to in Salem, Ore.