Paintings by Dianne Mize

Click on image for larger view.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


My hard drive has decided to die; Dell's technician will be here Thursday afternoon to replace it.  Meanwhile, I have cyberspace access through my tiny netbook whose keyboard is too small to do much more than cramp my not-so-young fingers, so at the risk of whining about the whole affair, I'd better hold of on blogging until Friday, hoping Dell keeps its promise.

Meanwhile, enjoy your week and I hope to meet you here again at the end of it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

To Be or Not To Be

Holly Solomon for me has become the symbol of the mainstream art world gone awry. ( Obit HERE).  I wonder whether her hold on attitudes of the mainstream owed its strength to Andy Warhol's portrait of her (see article HERE) or if just being in the right place at the right time would have given her the power she held.  In the sixties, for an artist to have Holly's nod was as close to a guaranteed success as one would desire; to have Holly's disapproval was a total close-out, at least in the mainstream.

I wonder how many artists skewed their works towards get Holly's blessings and how many came to her attention after they'd discovered some new idea on their own.  I wonder how much the teachings of colleges and universities reflected her influence, indeed how many do so today. 

And then I think of Andrew Wyeth (website HERE) who was dogged determined to follow is own artistic direction no matter what was happening in the mainstream, and of Richard Schmid (website HERE) who held tight to his inner direction, resisting current trends and attitudes.  Knowing Holly and her inner circle sneered at both these, each whose work continued to evolve and who, today, are examples excellence in artistic achievement--knowing that makes me smile.

Have a happy Sunday.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where's the Courage?

Another study from deck   Gouache on paper  4" x 5 1/2"  
I wonder, when Chopin wrote his √Čtudes, whether he had any notion that nearly 200 years later they would receive attention equal to his larger, more complex works.  We listen to them today without realizing that when they first appeared, they were radical, challenging the established techniques for playing piano.  Radical, bold yet a part of an evolutionary process rather than jumping off the cliff and daring others to follow.

I was angry yesterday and you got a whiff of it in my blog entry.  I was angry because I sense in our culture the loss of courage to be real.  On the one hand, I had been witness to an artist hiding behind plagiarism in order to be bold and acceptable; on the other, young artists being instructed to be bold, to push the limits of their "creative boundaries and technical skills," but left unsaid was that their productions had to be acceptable to the bias of their judges.

Chopin made a discovery that evolved from his native creative process.  It was radical and challenging to accepted standards of his time.  But it happened as a result of an evolving process, allowing his acquired skills to respond to his imagination.  I'd like to see more of today's artists claim that kind of courage.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Are We Screaming?

Has our culture become so loud, busy, non-discerning that the artists among us must scream their heads off just to become noticed?  Are we living on sensory overload?

Yesterday I had two encounters with art, each leaving me wondering who is in charge.  One was a visit to a gallery showing a batch of paintings, all blatant copies of photos, some I've seen passed around as e-mail attachments, others obviously lifted from greeting cards and magazines, and absolutely no credits given.  The paintings were over-sized, some containing little relief gimmicks, most in bold colors--and these predominated the hallway and main gallery area.  I felt socked in the face by somebody with obvious skill but with nothing to say.

Later, with some friends, I watched the final two (recorded) episodes of Bravo's reality show, American's Next Great Artist.  The only evidence of art was the process these youngsters used to try guess what would win for them the title.  What was hard to believe was the verbal garbage thrown at them by their mentors and judges, advising them to be bold and off the top.  Reminded me of those undergrad days when we were advised that to be artists we must "be inventive."

No word about utilizing skills, about composing, about responding to one's inner voice:  just advice to scream out loud so that through all the glitz and masquerading, their voices could be heard--maybe.  I kept thinking about Dale's question that I skirted around in my last blog entry, and I kept thinking about those awful paintings I had been assaulted by just hours earlier, and I wondered how is it that our culture has become so assaulted by loud voices and harsh colors that no longer do we cherish a paper boy strolling the streets whistling Un Bel Di...

Have an unassaultd Thursday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This is what I get from going quiet for a few days:  Dale, who was my student forty years ago, sent me this:
The hyper-realist style fascinates me -- as I am sure it is meant to do -- but I am ambivalent about its "validity."  Mostly they seem to want to dazzle us with their ability to make shiny things.
Here's how I answered him:
In days of yore it was called trompe d'oeil (and a visually challenged person used to be called "blind," but that's another topic altogether.)  Remember William Harnett
     Not much has changed. It's a subject I've continued to be fascinated by--expression vs representation.  You can do it too; it's a matter of pure skill, nothing more.  And you have nailed it on the head--it is showing off their ability, saying "look what I can do," which is ALL I have ever gleaned from this stuff.
     As to its validity, that requires knowing what we mean by validity, doesn't it?  What shall we include in our scope of "art" and what gets called something else?  On the one hand we have the trompe d'oeil, all about pure skill--the image means nothing more than a conduit to show off what the "artist" can do.  And then we have pure idea--all the cerebral stuff-- requiring no skills at all.  (Too much of that going on, too.)  Add to that pure feeling, stuff that is nothing more than emotional vomit.  And on top of that, pure sensation--nothing more than a big whoopee or a huge goddamn or f**k off. 
     There is in every discipline a continuum extending from dull simple-mindedness to the extreme, but somewhere in between there is validity.  Where one begins and the other ends remains ours to sort out.
Enjoy your Tuesday.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Touchy Subject

I seldom lose my temper, but one thing that will raise my hackles without fail is opening an art magazine and seeing a photo of an instructor with his brush scooting along the surface of his student's painting.  Why do people who call themselves teachers do this?

Having spent a 43-year career teaching emerging artists, I claim myself qualified to make a call on this one, even though it's another one of those subjects whose argument has stirred up many a heated discussion between me and other art folks.  It's a subject that those teaching art won't get take seriously and those taking art instruction won't question, but a student should never allow it to happen, no matter how acclaimed the instructor.

In no circumstance is it acceptable for an instructor to touch a student's work.

First of all, the instant the instructor makes the first mark, that painting no longer belongs to the student; second, it is an arrogant assumption and disrespect for the student's art work for a teacher to "correct" the piece.  Any skill needing to be strengthened can be demonstrated elsewhere, even if the teacher needs to reconstruct a facsimile of what the student has done.

Even students--especially students--have a right to own their creations, flawed though they might be.  They have a right to show their exercises to their families with a clear conscious that all the marks placed therein belong to them.  Now if they could just grab the courage to say to their instructors, "Not on my painting, please."

Have a wonderful Friday.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Kind of Prison

I'm always interested in hearing folks talk about their style whether painting, music or writing. 

Recently, on a well-respected blog, there was an article on how to develop ones style of painting.  Okay, I thought, here we go again--and I was right.  This self-imposing sage suggested that the best way to develop a  style is to try out different existing styles by studying and imitating artists of the past who, themselves, had created a style we can unmistakeably read.  For example, I can see an Andrew Wyeth painting from a distance and recognize it as belonging to Wyeth, even before reading his signature. The assumption in the article is that should Wyeth's style fit, then I as the searching artist should adopt it. 

Here's where I part company with this attitude:  your style is like your handwriting--it either evolves or you fake it.  Like learning to form letters as a child, artists learn basic skills for creating images.  In the beginning those images look generic, but under the hand of their maker, while they are being practiced,  they take on a personality of their maker.  Over time that handwriting becomes recognizable.  (You look at the handwriting of a note and recognize who the sender is.)

To fake handwriting or a painting style or a writing style is to camouflage the communication of who I am, is to take on an identity other than my on, is to create a self-imposed prison whose walls become more secure each time they are reinforced.

Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Birds of a Feather

I've always had trouble getting along with artists who accept and adopt status quo.  Seems we humans have a habit of latching onto whatever cultural attitude is currently in fashion without pausing to question whether that attitude has anything at all to do with who we are and what we really believe.

I remember in the early eighties a new artist taking residence in our community brought with him the attitude that his choice of subject depended upon what people liked.  To him, it was a waste of time and materials to choose subjects that might not delight his viewers or that didn't have some guaranteed response reaction.  If a painting weren't apt to sell, then to this artist it was worthless.

He and I had several lockings-of-the-horns about this notion.  I contended that we artists owe it to ourselves to respond to subjects that speak to us, that whether or not the resulting painting sells is insignificant.  He argued that an artist has to make a living, that if he chose my way, he might as well go back to the corporate world and be a Sunday painter.  I argued that as artists we risk stifling any chance for growth if we allow our intention to be anything other than our own inner drive.  He argued that I was being unrealistic, pedantic and snobbish

And on the argument went for years to follow.  He went his way.  I went mine.

It's still raining in north Georgia.  Hope you have a happy Tuesday.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One in a Zillion

With zillions of painters in action today, and their paintings all looking pretty much alike, it can get tiring going from one website to another, even one show to another, without sighing.  And we've come to expect from the various artists' magazines one kind of repetition after another.  Granted, repetition is one of the unifying principles in all the arts--one of the most important ones, in fact--but too much repetition makes boredom.  (I guess the cliche is "too much of a good thing", huh?).

So it was with suspicion that I subscribed to Workshop magazine (published by American Artist).  My first issue arrived Friday.

I confess I scolded myself a bit as I reached inside my mailbox for what I just knew would be another art rag.  And I opened it not the least bit curious about what was inside.  But something caught my attention:  an article on artist Joseph Paquet, a painter I'd never heard of.  His subjects are typical of most plein air painters, but his paintings contain a strength, a life, an invitation to hang around, an import of the individual uniqueness of the artist himself.  I thought you might enjoy meeting this guy: .  And meet him on this video:

It's a rainy Monday in north Georgia.  Hope yours is a good one.
P.S.  There is a three-part interview with Joe here.  It will take about half an hour, but well worth it:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Morning's Quest

Several days ago I noticed dying foliage on one of our oldest and largest back yard trees.  With our house planted right in the middle of our woods and the summer foliage being so lush, I can barely see bits of the browning leaves and thought at first it was illusion caused by the later afternoon light.  But sadly, after taking a closer look, I realized the tree has died.

This morning I decided to make it the focus of my early morning studies.  Because oddly it seemed significant, I chose to make the study larger than usual, not realizing that there was no way I could work fast enough to capture the light changes, and this morning they were rapid and decisive.  Seems like every time I'd look down to mix a color, that particular color would be gone by the time I looked back at the tree.

I literally tired myself out chasing after these fleeting moments.  Time after time I tried to grasp what I was seeing, and time after time it eluded me. Then it hit me square in the face:  I was missing out by not claiming one moment at a time.

Have a happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chasing Light--Again

Light study in woods   Gouache on WC paper   4" x 5"

This morning, just as the light began its prelude in our woods, I spent well over an hour on the deck chasing it with another little gouache study.  (You can click on the image for a larger version, but keep in mind it's only 4 x 5 inches). 

When doing these little plein air studies, I like to check in occasionally to see what's going on in my brain.  What often happens is my attention to the subject will get subverted to random thoughts.  I'll think I'm focused on the subject whereas my brain has gone on automatic pilot: I'm moving paint around on the painting but  my attention will have drifted to other stuff.  That's when it's a good idea to shake out the brain rattle and refocus on the subject, and that's most often when I discover the light has changed once again.

It's called paying attention.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Staging Expression?

In the June issue of The Artist's Magazine appears an article entitled "Portraits With Universal Appeal."   As I understand it, the artist stages his models so that the pose will provoke "...memories that trigger a variety of emotions."  While photographing his models he will give instructions such as "Look down and think of something sad..." or "Look up as if you're looking at God."  Or (and this one really got my goat) "Try to look as if you're attempting to see something a long way off."  (All this reminds me of Hyacinth Bucket in all her staging attempts to appear elite--"Now Richard, look as if you're greeting the Queen.")

But can we really stage a universal expression?  Or can we really create universal appeal by doing a painting with the intent of it having universal appeal ?  And what is universal appeal anyway?  In fact, why should the intent be for our work to have appeal of any kind?  Are we fashion designers or are we artists following an inner voice whether or not what we say has appeal?

Just a few thoughts to get the day started...

Have a safe and happy Tuesday.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Difference Made

What better time than somebody's sabbath to reflect, and after all, isn't that what a sabbath is for? 

Here's what I've been thinking about this morning:  no less than three artists--each in or near their fifth decade of life-- have recently talked with me about where they now find themselves in the course of their artistic lives.  Not one of the three is happy.

Now I cannot make a call as to why, but I can make an observation from what each has told me: what they all have in common is an event that happened in their second decade of life:  a choice.  They don't know one another, have never met so far as I know, yet each made a choice to follow what was expected rather than what their innards cried out for.  One for financial success, the other two for recognition. 

Our culture has set us up.  There is an unspoken demand that we follow a cultural formula or "fail."  Even within the culture-of-follow-your-own-voice, there's a judgment factor and it's judgment we all fear because to be judged inadequate is to be rejected, and the one thing a human being cannot cope with is rejection. And in our twenties, we're too tender and vulnerable and in need of acceptance.  And if we've not been nourished to recognize and claim our quiddity, we're more likely to stumble. 

But "it ain't over 'til it's over."  There's another thing I observe in the trio on my mind this morning:  they are all still alive.  Choices can still be made. 

Have a happy Sunday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Once Beautiful

Years ago I played hammered dulcimer.  My first instrument was a Dusty Strings, a good instrument, a standard model suitable for the beginner and the advanced player.  And it served me well--I began to bond with it as is our nature to bond with the tool through which our soul finds expression.

But after a few years, prowling through a musical instrument shop, I discovered a MasterWorks and found myself falling in love again.  I thought its design was beautiful and its sound quality delightful, so I brought it home with me, sold the Dusty Strings and didn't look back.

After years of playing, of meeting other hammered dulcimer players, of hearing a bunch of other makes, my MasterWorks began to sound pretentious and look clunky.  I began to appreciate the crisp, simple tone quality of the Dusty Strings and resent the MasterWorks'  full-bodied resonance and thick, rounded design.  So off I went in another search.  I did find my instrument and even though it was larger and a much broader range of notes, it was reminiscent of the Dusty Strings.

And today I'm thinking:  what if I'd stuck with the Dusty Strings?

Have a happy Friday,

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Ever wonder where our attitudes come from?  Ever wonder if maybe it's time to give them a spring cleaning?

Somewhere along the way, I acquired an attitude about gouache, that the medium was not suitable for much beyond poster design and underpainting for pastels.  And it stuck.  But yesterday morning that attitude got smashed for all it was worth when it occurred to me that if I wanted to chase the rapid changes of light and color happening every morning in our woods, I needed something I didn't have to pamper (so watercolor was out) or that wouldn't get muddy with rapid changes of mixes (so oil was out) and that I could work back into (so acrylic was out) and that I could grab in a hurry and jump right into. 

And then I remembered gouache (thanks, Dale).  Not to bore you with sequential details, I found myself with a quickly thrown together set of tools and a brush moving around colors, discovering something of what the early morning mist and sunlight were doing in front of my eyes.  It took a while to get reacquainted with the stuff and the light was so dim on the porch I couldn't really see the palette, but I ended up with two little studies (left and middle here):
Quick Studies   Gouache on Paper
Then this morning, I did the one on the right from the deck.  I chased one change after another for nearly an hour.

So gouache--a medium which I had discounted based on attitude rather than fact--has become for me another opened door.

Enjoy your Thursday.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Hero

I've always liked Richard Schmid.  Richard was the luckiest among us boomers-turned-artists--lucky, because he lived in a town where a painter could actually develop ones craft.  Growing up in Chicago, when a teenager he studied with a real plein air painter (decades before plein air became la chose √† faire), and later, at the American Academy of Art.  Another way to say it is that during his formative years, rather than have his head stuffed with avant-garde clap trap, Richard got the skills and knowledge to enable him to grow into a painter whose unique individuality could evolve.

But what makes Richard special, what keeps bringing me back to his work is its essence--every painting being more than itself, every subject translated with marriage of mastery of skill and fullness of spirit.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I remember my early days as an art student in the sixties when artists, critics and historians no longer valued art accessible to the person on the street.  In fact, an art student whose painting showed any signs of realism was scoffed at.   Our predecessors and our heroes had broken through the realistic image, fragmented it and cast it aside as an interference in the creative process.  Drawing and painting students were commanded to be inventive without being descriptive.   So what were they teaching us?

Rebellion breeds more rebellion.  Decades before us artists had rebelled against academic training, against the academies that shut them out when their work failed to follow criteria of those in control of exhibitions, of the public's attitude.  And just like today, public attitude reinforced whatever trend had been settled on as progress.  Artists who rebelled against those attitudes formed their own followings, sometimes strong enough for mainstream critics to morph their standards to fit into whatever they saw as the new art direction.

So without knowing it in the sixties--the era of rebellion--our art schools were, by default, teaching us to rebel.  A few of us unhappy with how we had been taught to think slowly--over the decades to follow-- took our rebellion as our mission and found ways to train ourselves in techniques and composition and an appreciation for what our eyes see. 

Enjoy your Tuesday.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Like Icarus

I don't know if this painting is finished.  My 13-year old neighbor Macklin says it is, and most likely he's right.
"Like Icarus"   Watercolor on Paper  14" x 14"
Here's the photo I used as my primary reference.  The painting is more about the moth as metaphor than the moth being described.  In fact, I'm responding more to my feeling about the moth than my thinking about her.

If there's been one thing that has stymied my work, it has been thinking too much about it.  It's imperative to do multiple studies, to get to know the subject, to plan its placement and to make compositional decisions, but all that needs to be done before the painting begins.  When the first brushstroke hits, the thinking needs to stop so that the muse can take over and create the work, rather like meditating.  

Easier said than done.

Enjoy your Monday,