An art to recreating the past

PUBLISHED: 11:57 13 April 2006 | UPDATED: 10:01 06 May 2010

Donna Watters

Donna Watters

WHAT do you get if you combine trowels, mud and buried treasure, with inks, oils and watercolours? Or, in other words, how do you pursue two passions - archaeology and art? The answer is ARTaeology and a very interesting career that Donna Watters loves. D

WHAT do you get if you combine trowels, mud and buried treasure, with inks, oils and watercolours?

Or, in other words, how do you pursue two passions - archaeology and art?

The answer is ARTaeology and a very interesting career that Donna Watters loves.

Donna, 29, lives in Shillington and works as a freelance archaeological illustrator.

This unique job sees her painting and drawing unearthed finds from digs, reconstructing past landscapes, settlements and buildings and moulding sculptures of historic characters.

She is employed by archaeology companies and museums in Hertfordshire to provide illustrative records of important artefacts and historic sites.

Her drawings play a crucial role in helping people visualise what sites once looked like, hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Donna has been enthralled by the past since she was a pupil at Hitchin Girls' School and then Collenswood in Stevenage.

Her studies began with art, archaeology and classical civilisation at school and continued when she went to York University.

While at university Donna met her husband Julian, who shares her interests and works as an archaeologist.

She said: "I did art A-level and archaeology at university, which are both my favourite subjects. This work allows me to combine them both.

"I've been freelancing for two years now and I seem to have picked up quite a lot of work.

"My full-time job is also my passion, which is really great."

Hertfordshire is rich in archaeology, keeping Donna busy painting artefacts and reconstructing the past.

"Archaeology units employ me to do line drawings of their finds", said Donna.

"Doing illustrations is mostly quite technical but I get lots of opportunities to be creative too.

"I especially enjoy doing reconstructions and I'm doing one at the moment for Hitchin Museum.

"The site opposite the museum is now an old people's home but archaeologists found evidence of a Bronze Age round barrow, which is a burial mound.

"There are similar examples at Therfield Heath near Royston."

Donna's next project is the reconstruction of Roman Baldock.

She said: "The site was dug in the 1970s so I'll be using maps, plans and evidence from then to work out the reconstruction.

"Drawing reconstructions requires lots of planning, then it's the painting, which I really enjoy and it usually takes about three or four days."

Donna even has a favourite period from the past, "I like the Iron Age because there are a lot of hill forts around here and their self-sufficiency really interests me.

"And the Victorian era, too. Sometimes you dig up stuff from them.

"I also like working with jewellery because you can imagine the person that wore it and link it back to them."

Painting the Past is an exhibition at Hitchin Museum displaying a variety of Donna's work.

"I contacted Hitchin Museum about two years ago because I thought it would be nice for the public to see these illustrations because usually they go into archaeological publications," she said.

"This way, a much wider audience get to see them and the exhibition also includes sculptures.

"I see archaeological line-drawings of finds as miniature works of art."

She may be mostly inspired by buried muses, but Donna also works with non-archaeological subjects, especially in and around Hertfordshire.

She said: "Sometimes I do drawings for owners of metal detectors, so that they can have pictures of their findings framed.

"And I do paint other pictures too, such as local scenes and flowers.

"I get a lot of my inspiration from local things."

Commissions are undertaken for a whole variety of subjects and Donna can be contacted on 01462 711648.

Her exhibition Painting the Past is open now at Hitchin Museum in Paynes Park and runs until May 6.

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