Dona studied classical realism at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest art school in the country. Her work combines technical skill, imagination and a passion for Louisiana culture. In one of her paintings Charlie Miller's trumpet serenades small fishes in a coral covered underwater landscape. This undersea world mirrors dreamlike, below sea level New Orleans. Here members of the Young Tuxedo Brass band, in a composition suggesting musical notes on a page, float along playing their instruments while comfortably seated on translucent golden jellyfish. New Orleans is a town saturated with water and music and the paintings reflect that environment.
The musicians selected for this series represent disparate genres. As an artist, Dona enjoys the ability to bring them all together in one room in visual harmony. She believes creativity in one person stimulates creativity in others and art in one form often inspires art in another. The "visual soloist" in the group is Breaux Bridge guitarist/singer/songwriter Sonny Landreth. Over a dozen paintings explore different aspects of his public persona and the way people perceive him. Widely recognized to be one of the greatest slide guitar players in the world by people such as Eric Clapton, Dona is inspired by the magic of his music as well as his unique creative genius, humility and dedication to his art.
Just as in music, some of the paintings present variations and progressions. One painting shows a finely detailed rendering of Rosie Ledet playing accordion in a defiant I'm-one-of-the-only-women-in-Zydeco stance. She plays at Lafayette Square with Gallier Hall as an elegant backdrop. In another painting Rosie Ledet is underwater. Gallier Hall is crumbling. She is surrounded by sea anemones. It is entitled Zydeco Princess in the Lost City. Perhaps a vision of post-coastal erosion New Orleans. A group of three paintings called Slide Progression shows Sonny Landreth playing guitar in various stages of completion. The first painting is an ultramarine blue and white underpainting. The second adds burnt sienna and the third is in full color.
Dona listens to the artist's music while working on each painting. For the undersea elements, she takes canvas and easel to the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. She often spends hundreds of hours on a single painting. In Dona Simons' series of paintings called Louisiana Music Below Sea Level art, music, water and culture come together to create a unique world called South Louisiana.