Dianne Massey Dunbar Interview
"I paint ordinary objects and scenes from everyday life. While I have the highest respect for artists who paint vistas and exquisite nudes and the like, I believe that there is a great deal of beauty in the world that often goes unnoticed. The amazing color in raindrops, the variety in fallen autumn leaves, the interesting greens one finds in a stack of French fries, there are endless opportunity for paintings. My hope is that people view the world just a little bit differently after seeing my paintings."
I'm a huge fan of Dianne Massey Dunbar. Her work is exciting and joyful. It reminds me somewhat of Wayne Thiebaud's work, but I find Dunbar's work every bit as exhilarating. Thiebaud speaks of painting as celebrating the joy of living, the thrill of experimentation and expectation, I think Dianne would fully agree with that. Her works ooze with enthusiasm and controlled recklessness.
What is so amazing to me is her fabulous ability to take the most mundane of objects and transform them into delectable treats. How can someone take a simple tube of lipstick, or plain glass bottles, or even raindrops on a windshield, and transform those things into objects of desire...paintings sought after and cherished? Dunbar does it and makes it look easy. How she does it is what this interview is about.
|Red - 4"x 4" - Oil|
|Driving Through a Downpour - 12"x 16" - Oil|
|Driving Through a Downpour (Detail of raindrops on windshield)|
|Gumdrops - 10"x 8" - Oil|
I wondered how she went about selecting her subjects..."I try to remain open to what I consider interesting subject matter. If I am not interested in the subject before I paint it, I have found the resulting painting looks flat. I carry a small camera with me wherever I go, and when I see something that catches my eye. I photograph it. I may or may not decide to paint the subject matter, but at least I have a subject to consider. My still life's are painted from the objects; the other material is painted from photos. When I take photos I don't limit myself to one or two. I may take twenty or thirty of the same subject, from different angles, cropping them, expanding them and bracketing them. Once I have an idea that I like, I then take the photos or the objects and work on designing the painting. So, I would say the composition or design of the painting is very important when selecting a subject. If the shapes and composition are not strong to begin with, it will not matter how fancy the brushwork, or sophisticated the color scheme or values. The painting will not work."
|Cans - 12"x 12" - Oil|
|Cityscape in Green - 8"x 8" - Oil|
|Fire Engine - 5"x 7" - Oil|
|From the Outside Looking In (Photo reference}|
Describe your typical block-in technique, the thoroughness of your initial drawing, and the part photography plays in your work? I have more than one process that I use, depending on my subject matter. If I am doing a relatively simple still life, between one and three objects, I will do one or two quick thumbnails on a piece of inexpensive canvas board, and if I am happy with the shapes, I will begin to sketch those shapes in on my canvas. On the canvas, I may do a very simple sketch, or a more complete sketch, either very lightly with pencil or with a small brush. I then paint, working from background to foreground, massing in the large areas of a single value without much regard to detail. Once I have the large value shapes in, I can begin to break them down into smaller shapes, etc. I try to work on gradation and edges as I go along.
|From the Outside Looking In - 20"x 20" - Oil|
|Value study for a possible future work|
|Late Afternoon - 24"x 18" - Oil|
What colors are most often found on your palette? I love color! So, you would find a great many colors on my palette. My 'stock' colors are: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Light or Medium, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson (permanent), Dioxazine Purple, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue Deep, Permanent Green Light, Cadmium Green, Sap Green (permanent), Phthalo Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Torrit Grey (Gamblin).
I use other colors in different situations, especially Zinc or Transparent or Flake White Replacement. There are times I really need Indian Yellow. Caucasian Flesh is a very useful color in a number of situations. I also use Venetian Red or Naphol Red and a number of other greens, especially Emerald Green Nova. I mix my blacks, but I do have a tube of black that I use if needed.
Some of these are quite transparent in nature, and some opaque. An artist needs to know the tinting power of different colors and use the intense colors sparingly (Alizarin Crimson and the Phthalos immediately come to mind). However, a lot of wonderful effects can be achieved with a more limited palette, so you do not need all these colors to produce wonderful paintings. Indeed, if you are new to painting, you would probably be best served by using a more limited palette.
|Ten - 20"x 20" - Oil|
|Nancy - 27"x 23" - Oil|
How do you decide on a dominating color key for a painting, and how do you maintain it? I use the subject matter to guide this decision. If it is an overcast cloudy day, then much of my painting will be grayish. If I am painting toys, obviously the colors wil be much brighter. However, too much pure color is overwhelming. I mix almost all of my color. I reserve pure or intense color only for small splashes or small areas.
|Cups and Saucers - 10"x 10" - Oil|
|Ketchup, Mustard and Relish - 11"x 14" - Oil|
What advice do you have for a first-time collector? Speaking as an artist, it is my hope that my paintings find homes where they are loved. So, I suggest that you buy a painting that you love and respond to. Also, trust your instincts. You will hopefully have it in your home for years; you will look at it over and over, perhaps seeing something different every time. So, before your worry about who the artist is, or how the colors might work in your home, look at the painting and see how you feel about it. Does the painting interest you? Do you want to get close to it and see all the beauty in the brush strokes and splashes of paint and even fingerprints? Do you find yourself thinking about a particular painting you have seen but have not yet purchased? You will know it when the right one comes along.
|City Sidewalk - 18"x 36" - Oil|
If you could spend the day with any three artists, past or present, whom would they be? Every artist brings something different to the viewer. I admire so many artists, from Rembrandt to Wyeth, Monet to Van Gogh to Fechin. And, there are many current artists that I greatly esteem. I cannot begin to choose one over another, as they are each brilliant in their own individual way. However, I will state that for many years I struggled to appreciate the work of Vincent Van Gogh. Then, on a trip to New York, almost twenty years ago, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was there that I saw my first Van Gogh in person. I could 'feel' the passion and the painting just by looking at it. I remember standing there for a very long time, with tears running down my face, finally getting it. I have never forgotten that experience. It was profound.
|Shopping Cart - 20"x 30" - Oil|
What do you think of that amazing interview, folks? Personally, I so appreciate Dianne's willingness to submit to this interview...and being so thorough in her answers. I hope you do also.
Southwest Art magazine will feature Dianne in its November 2012 issue. To see more of Dunbar's work, click on the links below:
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