Profile: Diane Wesman, Landscape Artist

November 21, 2008


Above: August Eve, pastel on paper, 12 x 6 inches (approximate) ©Diane Wesman

The top 4 reasons everyone should have a landscape painter for a friend:

1. While you are busy painting rocks and insects they take in the big picture—they literally can see the forest for the trees.
2. They are always willing to brave the elements  and insects to sketch out with you. (See item 1 above for additional aspects of this willingness.)
3. On a road trip they will sketch while you drive, providing a delightful recap of the scenery of your journey.
4. When you give them a handmade journal (even it if has destressingly intense yellow pages) they fill it up with wondrous stuff.

I am fortunate that landscape artist Diane Wesman is a friend, for the above four reasons and a whole lot more. Read more about her art and an upcoming show of her work…

DianeBasswoodPrintRight: Basswoods, 6 x 8 inches, monoprint. ©Diane Wesman

For the past several years Diane has worked in pastel, graphite, colored pencil, and monoprints. Her landscapes (like the hillside image at the top of this post) are not photorealistic. She doesn’t slavishly adhere to the details before her. As a gifted artist Diane filters her observations of place through her artistic skills, aesthetics, and personal experience. The resultant artwork depicts the essence of place. Her paintings are more real than real because they capture a psychological reality which melds the memory of a moment to the physical representation of that unique place. If you stood by while she painted and shared that moment (and I’ve been able to do this) you would know that what she got down on paper or canvas or board is accurate. It will satisfy all your senses and mind. If you weren’t privileged to be there as she worked, viewing her paintings still conveys the rightness of the scene. Her paintings are authentic observations.

The why and how of this is complicated. Part of the answer lies in the fact that Diane is drawn to the outdoors, loves to breathe it in. That breath is present in her paintings. Part of the answer also lies in the sure way she observes and registers mass, describing the volume of trees, forests, and land. It also lies in the way she captures values, creating depth, atmosphere, and a sense of space. Landscape painting is about space—and what fills that space, whether it is land, air, light, or even a sense of smell or a memory of that smell (such as pine needles in the hot sun).

Then there is Diane’s editing eye which knows both intuitively and through training what to include, what to leave out, to create the sense of accuracy. And Diane is aided in her execution by an ability to tweak and play with the rendition of color while not negating the reality of that light and color. You view her paintings and learn about light and how it works in the world. Again, in looking at her paintings you are struck by her authentic representations.

Left: a journal sketch, 9 x 6 inches, gouache on yellow Tizianno, ©Diane Wesman. Note: I can't get the color quite accurate on this scan. The paper is rather vibrant and the birches are a flare of Indian Yellow. I wanted to include it because of the wonderful values and the way she has clearly caught a sense of space receding down the road and beyond the trees. Click on the image to see an enlargement.

Recently Diane has returned to watercolor and gouache. Her sketches capture a lifetime of observation with sure strokes and bold colors. These are some of my favorite pieces of hers. They create a sense of immediacy, a sense that everything in nature is about to change (as indeed it does), but for this moment the world was like this.

Diane is a member of Project Art for Nature and her artist statement and much more of her work can be seen at that site. She participates in their shows, documenting the nature that surrounds her at Bald Eagle Lake and Grand Marais, her two areas of interest and study.

At Right: Portrait of Diane, ©Jack Coffman

If you are eager to see Diane’s work in person as soon as possible, plan on attending the Betsy Bowen Invitational Show which will run from December 5, 2008 to January 3, 2009 at Bowen's studio in Grand Marais, MN.  Opening festivities will be held on the first weekend in December. There will be a sneak peak preview and sale on Friday, December 5, from 5 to 8 p.m., and a two-day open house on Saturday, December 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, December 7, from 1 to 4 p.m. Diane will have several small works there at affordable prices. From the Twin Cities the trip to Grand Marais is a fast and astonishingly beautiful 4-hour drive through landscape that will inspire you as it has inspired Diane. It is the perfect holiday season getaway.

Note: the image sizes I gave are recollected from memory and may not be accurate.

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