When she’s not at her easel, Diane Dahlke is encouraging and mentoring aspiring and developing artists. She teaches painting in MECA’s Continuing Studies Program. That’s where I first met Diane. I took her Practice of Painting class several times. Couldn’t get enough!
Because her lessons still roll around in my head and in the hand that holds my paintbrush, it is only fitting that I include her in my series of Profiles of Maine Artists.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I always knew that I was an artist. I can’t remember when that passion wasn’t there. At times during my childhood, I wanted to be an artist and something else in conjunction with that (artist and Egyptologist appealed for several years). However, those other interests dropped away.
Where/when did you go to school?
After two years at St. Lawrence University, a school that wasn’t a good fit for me, I transferred to the Syracuse University School of Visual and Performing Arts. I received my BFA in painting from there. Years later I got my MFA from Vermont College.
My studio is in my home, so for many years I painted with acrylics. I had young children and was concerned about the toxicity of oil solvents. During grad school, at the urging of a mentor, I switched to oils and haven’t looked back. The longer drying time suits my process and I like the surface.
Where do you find inspiration?
Play. I play around with objects in my studio. I also take a lot of photos. My iPhone is a godsend for this. I can easily crop and do simple photoshopping on my phone or iPad. Photographs help me explore compositional possibilities and help me consider or reject possible subject matter.
What is your process?
I work on a number of paintings at one time which helps me with being patient with the oil painting process. I love building up layers of paint and using lots of glazes. When I work on panels, if something isn’t resolving itself I sometimes let it dry and sand the painting down, revealing great textures. Then I can go back and rebuild on those.
Do you have some words of wisdom for beginning artists?
No matter what, keep working. Stay open. Don’t get tied to thinking that there is a narrow way to do things. As a teacher, I’d say listen to mentors, but it is important to be able to defend your work in a respectful, thoughtful manner. Listen to your heart. Think about what really interests YOU when you make art.
An additional comment
One of the great things about painting is that I’m constantly learning new things and can continue to be engaged no matter what my age. Paintings don’t always resolve themselves. There are times when I get discouraged, but being a painter is something that is an intrinsic part of my being. New challenges are continually calling out to me. New problems need to solved. I love that.
Where to see more of Diane’s work
Visit Diane’s website to learn more about her and see more of her work. Where to see more of Lucy’s art