Artist Celia McDonough is Dot’s calendar guru

Paige Pihl Buckley, Special to the Reporter
Dec. 12, 2013

Celia McDonough: Photo by Rebecca Kowalski.Celia McDonough: Photo by Rebecca Kowalski.The annual Celebrate Dorchester calendar, featuring artwork by Neponset’s own Celia McDonough, is now on sale for $10 at local retailers. Proceeds from the calendar help defray the costs of Project D.E.E.P., the Dorchester Educational Enrichment Program, founded by McDonough’s son, Brendan. Project D.E.E.P. provides affordable tutoring, summer camp, and educational support to local students.

A Boston native, Celia McDonough has been donating her work to the annual calendar for the past eighteen years, and as its popularity has grown so has its contribution to the nonprofit.

“It’s profitable,” said Brendan McDonough. “It helps defer the cost of the overall budget, not just the summer camp now. The calendar probably raises about 2 to 3 percent of the annual budget.”

Additionally, the calendar provides a way for low-income students to defray the $50 cost of tutoring at Project D.E.E.P.

“When the kids sign up, we give them calendars and if they sell the calendars they get the money back,” said McDonough. “So it helps them defer the cost of the tutoring programs.”

Celia McDonough began donating her work to the calendar during Project D.E.E.P.’s inaugural year when her son founded the project out of their Dorchester home. A teacher by trade, McDonough did not pursue her passion for art until later in life. Though it was her first love, McDonough did not study art during her time at Boston College.

“My father insisted I do something practical,” she said. “After I was married for several years, I went to Mass. College of Art at night for five, six years.”

Now, McDonough paints watercolors almost exclusively, though she initially dabbled in oil and acrylic painting as well. Her work can be found citywide, at Wells Fargo, Mount Washington Bank, Meetinghouse Bank, Children’s Hospital, Milton Hospital, and the Carpenter’s Center, among other locations. Several of her pieces have also been purchased for private collections nationwide.

The annual Celebrate Dorchester calendar has become a staple of her local work, with many people eagerly awaiting its arrival each December.

“As far as painting, I never probably would have painted Dorchester if this particular thing didn’t come about,” said McDonough of the calendar.

An image from the 2014 Project DEEP calendarAn image from the 2013 Project DEEP calendar“Every year I say I don’t know what else I can come up with,” she said. “But Dorchester has so many variables to paint as opposed to other parts of the city. Dorchester has so much history and so many wonderful locations all along the water, so many historical sites, so many icons – it turned out to be a pretty easy kind of thing as I got into it.”

McDonough is never without her sketchbook, and begins planning for the calendar’s twelve painting well ahead of time.

“I attack it many different ways,” said McDonough. “I plan on four seasons, roughly three paintings per season. I always keep a sketchbook in the car and if I see something that intrigues me, I try to stop for fifteen minutes to sketch it.”

“A lot of times there’s an impetus to return depending on the weather and the locations; some places are easy to jump out and paint, others are not. Oftentimes I go back and finish it in my studio,” she said. “A lot of times too I’ll add people or different little things to make it more interesting than the actual scene itself.”

She also finds herself frequently inspired by her membership in the Dorchester Historical Society, a springboard for the historic portraits featured in the calendar. This year’s calendar features a painting of a historic factory that produced nails for horseshoes.

In addition to her work for the calendar, McDonough paints other Boston scenes and house portraits by commission. Those interested in her work should visit