I recently came across the work of a very talented artist named Diana Crow who lives in The Villages.
Diana can be seen around the community painting scenes of The Villages which she then displays and sells in several formats at art shows and through her website.
I had the chance to catch up with Diana by email and ask some questions to get to know her a little better.
First off, how long have you been painting and what was the initial spark for your love of the medium?
Oil painting captured my heart many years ago. My first lessons were with Mr. Ono, a Japanese artist. It was 1969 and I was a newlywed Air Force wife living in a “paddy” house outside the gates of Yokota Air Base in Japan.
We learned by copying, but I dreamed about creating my own original art. Mr. Ono didn’t speak much English, yet the techniques he demonstrated are ingrained in my brain. For endless hours I enjoyed playing with colorful blobs of paint because my husband worked every other month in Korea.
Today I continue to paint in oil because I am most comfortable with the medium. Also because oils dry slowly it is easier to blend or rework an area.
Returning to America I took workshops with various art teachers, but when my two sons were born I painted only occasionally.
During the next eighteen years our family moved across the globe from England to New Mexico, Ohio, Nevada and Colorado.
Which other artists would you say you’ve been most influenced and inspired by and why?
My work is influenced by my appreciation of the Impressionists like Monet and Pisarro.
I am also inspired by the works of my teachers and contemporary artists profiled in Plein Air Magazine and at Fine Art Studio Online, my website host.
Learning to paint plein air, or on location is what got me really excited to create artwork again.
In 2001 I traveled to Taos, New Mexico for a plein air workshop with Don Ward. At first I felt like a ten year old at the easel but eventually with much practice my paintings began to come alive.
Painting outside is a refreshing delight because it is possible to see more on site than from a photograph.
At the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Paint-Out in Estes Park, Colorado I admired the loose brushwork of impressionistic painter Eldon Warren and he agreed to let me be his first plein air art student.
One of his paintings was rated in the Top 100 in the 2004 National Art in the Parks Exhibition.
Our painting excursions in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Boulder in 2003 made me vow to never stop painting again.
Lessons in “The Art of Color Seeing” with Chuck Ceraso helped me learn to stop the chatter of my “thinking mind” to be fully present during the process of painting.
Chuck traces his lineage to the French and American Impressionists through his teacher, Henry Hensche at the Cape School of Art.
Learning to paint is a life long endeavor and I continue to learn about composition and techniques through the books of well-known artists Kevin Macpherson, Richard Schmid, and the late Ted Goerschner.
At the Lifelong Learning College in The Villages I took a floral painting workshop with local artist Pat Ford and learned to make looser brushstrokes in classes with Charles Grupp. He comes from a family of very respected American artists.
How long have you lived in The Villages and what enticed you to move here? Do you live here full time?
In November 2005 I became a full time resident of The Villages when I moved from Colorado to be near my mother.
Lots of people take up painting as a hobby, but you are a professional and your work is fantastic, so I think it’s be a mistake on my part to refer to it as your “hobby”. So taking painting out of the equation, what are some of your hobbies and what do you enjoy doing here in The Villages?
My hobbies are sports that I enjoy in The Villages. When I moved here I started playing golf on the executive courses.
One summer it was too hot outside so I ventured into the air-conditioned billiards room at La Hacienda.
Learning to shoot pool is fascinating and perplexing, but it’s a sport that I only would have learned in The Villages.
Most artists and writers I know need some level of solitude to create their best work. Do you have a favorite place in The Villages that you like to work?
The lush flowers, shrubs and trees in my private backyard in the Village of Country Hills create a nature sanctuary where I enjoy painting at my back porch studio.
I am not aware that hours are flying-by as I get lost in the reverie of the creative process. It’s also fun to hear the birdsongs and catch an occasional view of a hummingbird in the bushes.
Tell us about your process. Do you typically haul your canvas and paints around The Villages to the various locations you paint, or do you maybe take a photo and then place it next to your canvas in your studio and go from there?
In 2007 I began to paint plein air at quaint sites in The Villages. My first painting was a rear view of The Church on The Square with a reflection in the lake, Morning Reflections.
I set up my easel under an oak tree behind La Hacienda.
Next I painted one of everyone’s favorite views on Main Street in Spanish Springs, Bougainvillea Blossoms.
The bougainvillea flowers in front of Kirkland’s were glorious that year so I set-up my easel there on three consecutive mornings so I could paint in similar light conditions.
It was while painting Lighthouse Point at Lake Sumter that I was stung by a tiny fire ant, now I wear socks when my easel is set-up in the grass!
When it is not possible to paint on location I take photographs for reference and paint on my back porch.
During the cold months in 2014 when I was busy completing commissions of five golf courses I had to paint inside, but it was necessary to open a window to dissipate the fumes from the “odorless” mineral spirits.
Facing an empty canvas can be daunting, but once I begin a painting I get excited and can’t wait to see the finished canvas.
I do not like to draw with a pencil or pen so I loosely sketch my composition with a brush.
I pay attention to the shadows and try to capture the light to create a pleasing view. Often I work on two or three paintings at the same time.
In the evenings I bring the wet canvas into the house to observe it from a distance.
I really enjoy conveying the varied activities of Villagers and sometimes people notice themselves in my paintings.
How many locations in The Villages have you painted?
Since 2007 I have created seventy oil paintings of The Villages.
I also reproduce the art as prints on canvas, matted prints on paper in various sizes, note cards and magnets so everyone can also enjoy these paintings.
I call myself the “little red hen” because I make all the products myself except for the prints on canvas.
Asking you to pick a favorite painting is probably like asking one to pick their favorite child, but how about a favorite “place” or “subject” in The Villages?
I have many favorite views that I have painted in The Villages. It has been fun to capture the essence of each unique themed town square in The Villages.
Several of my favorite paintings are also popular with my customers: Bougainvillea Blossoms, Market Square, Lake Sumter Waterfront, and all of the golf course views including Hibiscus at Cane Garden and Hole #3 at Caroline.
Recent paintings that attract attention are Eagle at Eisenhower, which depicts the new recreation center that honors the military, and Paddock Square Carriage Ride.
Your work is on the cover of the 2015 phone book for The Villages. Could you tell us how that came about?
It was surely serendipity! In May 2014 I received a phone call from Jennifer Gorczany at The Villages Media Group. She was super excited! She was initially calling me for one reason, but now she had another reason to speak with me.
Jennifer had been browsing The Villages Billiards Club website looking for a person who might have a billiards table in their home. On the page about member profiles, that I write, she clicked on my name and up popped paintings of The Villages on my website!
When she saw them she became interested in my artwork and asked to license one of my paintings to appear on the cover of the phonebook.
Her team chose the commission I had recently completed in 2014, Barnstorm Theater at Paddock Square. This is a great honor and it was really difficult to contain my exuberance and keep this event a secret for six months until the phone books were delivered in October 2014!
How would you describe The Villages arts community to an artist considering moving here?
There are so many opportunities for artists to learn, grow and show their work in The Villages. In addition to workshops and classes through The Villages’ Lifelong Learning Academy there are also many clubs.
Members of The Villages’ Art League (VAL), and The Visual Arts’ Association (VAA) gather at various recreation centers to paint together and help each other.
We become friends, share information and offer encouragement.
In conjunction with the recreation department the clubs produce several indoor shows and ARTS around the Square each year.
I know people who always wanted to learn to draw or paint but never had the opportunity, yet through the resources here, their talent blossoms. My mother’s neighbor had never dabbled in art before, but in The Villages he created really beautiful portraits of his family.
Tell us how people can learn more about you, view and order prints you may have available, or maybe even commission you to do a special piece for them.
People can visit my website to see my entire portfolio that includes paintings from the southwestern US to Nova Scotia and Florida. They can click on a list of upcoming events and also join my email list to receive reminders for dates of local art shows where I exhibit.
My phone contact information is on the website and I am also listed in The Villages 2015 phone book. I live in The Villages year round so people can contact me anytime to see paintings, order products or request a commission.
All images and writings Copyright Diana Crow 2015. Permission granted to Ryan Erisman to use images and writings on Inside the Bubble.