Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Featured Artist: Diane Rank

This is the second edition of my ongoing series featuring accomplished and spectacular artists I've come across in my travails through the blogosphere. In this continuing series I have interviewed each artist, asking about their art, process, tools & inspiration. You'll be able to learn all about the artists in their own words. The F.A. series will focus on a new artist every month. I hope you enjoy our second Featured Artist.

(Please remember, you can always click on a picture to enlarge it and see it in all it's splendor!)

Diane Rank  (blog: The Expressive Paletteis a wonderful watercolor, acrylic and collage artist. I met Diane when she applied to be a member of Inspiration Avenue. When she was unanimously accepted, I was lucky enough to become her mentor and show her around our little I.A. Kingdom. We became fast friends as we have many things in common. Sometimes it feels as if a new friend is heaven sent, that's what meeting Diane was like. She's a lovely, happy, positive and multi talented woman who has a loving husband and children. She works hard to find time to  create and I admire her for keeping all the proverbial balls in the air with all she has to do.

Title: "Hope & Life"
Diane and I collaborated on a project for the premier issue of the new artist's magazine, "Featuring" . I had put forth an idea for an article and when it was accepted I asked Diane if she'd like to contribute a piece of artwork (along with two of my other artist friends) to illuminate the subject matter. She graciously painted several new butterflies for my article about the Butterfly Project (learn more about this labor of love from Holocaust Museum Houston) and told me to choose my favorite for inclusion. This painting on the left is one of the other especially lovely butterflies she painted in that series.

"Blueberry Field"
Diane's artwork, although diverse in kind, has a distinctive, simple style that shines through in whatever she creates. She knows intrinsically how to edit her subject matter and winnow down the details to the most important component parts. Her work doesn't overwhelm and tire out the viewer with too many superfluous details. An example of this is on the right. Diane was driving with her husband through the fields of Maine just after the blueberry harvest. She said she quickly did a plein air sketch of the splendor of color in front of her. I think she captured the beauty perfectly.

Now, don't get me wrong, Diane's art isn't always edited down to the minimum elements necessary to convey the subject. She also paints with more detail, especially when she's using acrylics. Acrylics and watercolors have such differing techniques for laying down color that it's not surprising Diane's style changes slightly with the change in medium. Her style is still wonderfully distinctive, though...
Title: "Bare Autumn Cathedral"Title: "Mystical Cathedral"
Diane hails from Graniteville, Vermont and she has successfully used the beautiful landscape around her as inspiration for several of her beautiful watercolor paintings. She has also travelled to Maine and Nova Scotia where she's taken advantage of the scenery encompassing her. What amazes me about Diane's art is that she says so much in one little painting. These next two watercolors are Artist Trading Card size which is only 2.5" x 3.5"! I know! She conveys so much feeling in her paintings with a few brush stokes and bursts of color. I find her work quite inspiring. I've wanted to try doing some ATC's and seeing her work makes me want to go try right now, lol. But I'll endeavor to fight that urge and finish this post/interview.

Title: "Vermont Birch Autumn Landscape"Title: "Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia"
Diane has not been wasteful of her other talents after she decided to shift exclusively to the painterly arts. She's been smart and morphed her other skills into more art centered possibilities. To utilize her jewelry making abilities (she was a jewelry artist for many years), Diane makes tiny original pieces of art that she then displays in glass lockets. They are exquisite jewels of art that you can wear around your neck! The piece on your right is inspired by Van Gough's "Starry Night". I think she did a beautiful job of capturing the feeling and movement of the famous painting!

I did a virtual interview with Diane Rank and she was so generous to answer all my questions! Here's the interview...

Diane's last "Ribbons of Grass" series.
Her collage paired the painting with a
wonderfully appropriate quote.
Jenn: How did you get started making art?

Diane: Like so many artists, I've loved to color and create since childhood; I could spend hours happily coloring and drawing or building things with my brother's Lincoln logs.  Beginning in Junior High and continuing throughout college, I took art classes whenever I could fit them in, but I regret not majoring in art.

I married and had children but the only "Art" I did back then were all sorts of crafts. It did help placate the need to create though. Then a botched back surgery changed everything. I was no longer able to stand or sit in a regular chair for more than a few minutes without excruciating pain, and was basically confined to a rented adjustable hospital bed. A friend and artist who has Muscular Dystrophy and is involved in our ladies Bible study suggested I take up watercolor painting. She loaned me everything I needed... paint, paper, brushes, books and even a large wood board so I could paint in bed! I would paint and the next week she would offer her critique.

One thing she said really stuck with me and began to change the way I painted...

"Grass is not green, there are countless colors in the grass". 
WOW, that concept opened my eyes to see beyond the ordinary surface of things. I created a series of miniatures called "Ribbons of Grass" and brought them to a brand new art gallery in a little town in Wisconsin. The gallery owner said they were like "little jewels". Only one of the series is left, the others are in private collections and I recently created a mixed media collage with it. After watercolors, I began trying my hand at pastels and lino block printing and loved them as well.

Alas, life and it's problems intervened and I had to put art to the side for several years.
When I remarried and moved to Vermont, our place was way too small to allow me to bring out all my art supplies so I began making jewelry and selling it in the local shops. A few years I later began selling my jewelry on Etsy but making jewelry really wasn't totally satisfying anymore. My heart was yearning to paint again and with my nephew's and husband's encouragement, I embarked on my journey back to art.

(Diane paired her last "Ribbons of Grass" piece with Henry Miller's quote...

"The moment one gives attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious awesome indescribably magnificent world in itself."

I think Diane's mixed media collage was an inspired mash up of poetic words and beautiful artwork.)

Jenn: Do you sell your work? where?

Diane: Yes, my Etsy Shop is "The Expressive Palette", easy to remember as it's the same name as my blog!

Jenn: What is your process in creation? (do you like plein air best or use of a photograph, or your own imagination, or follow where the art supplies take you?)

Diane: Quite honestly I feel a bit inadequate in answering this as I'm still learning and trying to find my voice. I tend to think & think & think a lot about a piece. In the back of my mind I usually have two or three  different pieces whispering through my thoughts. I'm mulling over what I'd like to do next or what the next step might be for a piece in process.

I've discovered I'm a serial painter, I paint in series. :o) If I like the subject, I'll do it again and again with slight variations, sometimes simplifying, sometimes with more detail or in a different color palette. I just work to my heart's content.

Title: "Dancing Ferns 3"Title: "Dancing Ferns 5"Title: "Dancing Ferns 2"
Title: "Abstract, Life"
Just recently I've been doing abstracts and I love the freedom of it! With my abstract pieces I begin with just playing with color, putting down a stroke or two, looking at it, then adding another, usually by the third stroke  I know where I want the piece to go. I absolutely LOVE the spontaneity of it! 

Title: "Sunset Road"
My landscapes, often, are a combination of memory, photography and imagination. I am in awe of God's wonderful creation and I strive to paint the "feel" of the scene. Sometimes that requires a bit of editing or an addition of something. I love  landscapes, but quite honestly they can be difficult for me because I want them to be recognizable. But if I put all my emotion into it, they can look rather "out there" for most people. I usually make a loose sketch in my journal of the landscape then mark in where I want the shadows and check to see if I like the composition. If I don't, I adjust it until I love the scene. Then I begin my painting. I don't use transfer paper, I just dig in & do it.

Title: "Abstract Landscape"
The traditional collages are the most time consuming and so messy, but so much fun! When I start I have a theme in mind and I spend a lot of time layering different papers & things, seeing what's pleasing to the eye. I place those layers on the side in order and then begin. Most recently I began collage painting & I love that! It's more forgiving than a paper collage and allows me more freedom of expression.

Oh, and here are a couple of tips I've learned about making a successful piece of artwork...
  1. I hold my pieces up to the mirror & upside down to study composition and balance. It's tricky doing this with collage but worth it. :o)
  2. I used to really struggle with the question "Is this piece finished?"   Now I stop when my piece captures the feeling I have inside for it.

Jenn: What are your favorite art supplies?

Diane: Arches 140lb cold pressed art blocks, Holbein watercolors, Sennelier and the Quinacridone colors by Daniel Smith, Faber-Castell Pitt Art Pens, and THE coolest thing ever.. my heart skips a beat... the FreshWater "Rinse Well" that I found on line at Jerry's Artarama. Instead of two or three water containers, I just need this one which dispenses fresh water as you need it!(this product can be purchased for around $13 at Dick Blick, you can click through from my sidebar!) Also, I LOVE fabulous handmade papers and Golden acrylics & mediums for collage.

Jenn: How does a spectacular piece make you feel?

Diane: Oh, all sorts of emotions! From pride "I am an Artist!" to incredulity "I painted this, really??!?". I feel total happiness and humility that God has given me such a gift.

Jenn: What do you do with a less than stellar piece? Do you rework it until your happy?

Diane: For the most part I keep them. Sometimes I can rework and save a piece. But most of the time I use them for reference... What was good about it? What was bad? ...and also for experiments. What would happen if i add this medium to it? What if i try this or that? I learn best by seeing and by doing, so really nothing is ever a total failure.

That's the end of our virtual interview but before I wrap up this post I must show you three series paintings that, although they didn't fit any of the paragraphs above, are my personal favorites of hers. I just love the coloration, they have Diane's distinctive simple style yet they capture an abundance of JOY within their boundaries as artwork. Don't these three pieces just make you smile?

Title: "Joyful Sunflower"Title: "Sassy Sunflower"
Title: "Sunflower Swirls"
Thank you, Diane, for your time and patience in answering all my questions. It was a pleasure interviewing you and learning new details about how you create your art. I'm so glad we've met and become friends. What a blessing you are as a friend! 

Thank you to my loyal readers for coming around and learning about another wonderfully talented and creative artist. In a month I'll post about Dion Dior, another spectacular artist, so please stay tuned. As always, if you'd like to read all the Featured Artist posts, just click on the "I've Been Featured" button in my sidebar, the button is given exclusively to the wonderfully generous artists who allow me to interview them. Thank you, Diane, for letting my readers get to know you better, we are enriched for the journey.

I'll be back soon with a new Artist's Play Room Challenge. If you haven't entered this week's, you still have time, the deadline is early morning Saturday! You can always find the latest Artist's PLAY ROOM Challenge by clicking on the APR button in my sidebar, that-a-way ---->
Or you can click here.


P.S. I would really appreciate it if all my visitors who are enjoying this series would join up using my Linky Follower tool in the sidebar, that-a-way ----->
(if you'd like a follow back please leave me a comment requesting one, I'm always thrilled to discover new bloggy friends.)

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  1. What a wonderful story of perseverance and encouragement. Diane has a wide scope of style, I especially liked the last three pieces you included, beautiful!
    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who gets "hyper-focused" on a particular idea as Diane is when she calls herself a "serial painter"...too funny.


  2. wonderful interview,I'm going to visit her right now, she and I have a bit in common!

  3. It was nice getting to know the newest member of IA thru your wonderful interview. She has a nice painting style, and I find it interesting that she often repaints her subjects in a series. Something I've never thought about doing. The last paintings of flowers remind me of batik--very pretty.

    Still trying to get to my APR this week!

  4. It's nice to meet new artists like Diane. Her work is an inspiration.

  5. As SOON as I get home, I'm gonna play along with your APRC! Keep on with the great interviews.

  6. What a wonderful feature on Diane! She is talented in so many ways, and we're fortunate to have her as a member of Inspiration Avenue! Every piece you included is special ~ I was really struck by her "Abstract Landscape" though. I love the earth tones and the square shape.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Oh dear sweet Jenn, I honestly don't know what to say except thank you. It's a special honor to be featured by you and it's an honor to call you a friend. Thank You so very much!!

  8. beautiful work!! I have an appreciate for art because my 2 kids are artists ...but I not talent for it. love the color!

  9. Great interview and I loved getting to know more about her... such wonderful work and it is soooo great to see it all laid out like that... and that water well sounds perfect... wondering if I can source one in Australia.... great interview Jen...xx

  10. I love your art work. Its beautiful, Loving back with love. Will definitely be letting my 11 year old daughter read your blog, she is a very talented artist, and will go places with her talent.


Please leave me a comment, I've sure missed hearing from you!


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