Artist Dianne Owen has liked art all her life, but didn’t take her plunge with a brush until about six years ago. The watercolorist says “every painting I do has a story.” In particular, she says “I love painting architecture, especially abandoned buildings, and I love painting dogs.”
Owen, who has a home in League City and condo in downtown Galveston, enters juried competitions held by the Galveston Art League (GAL) and St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church in Galveston as well as Texas City’s annual art show. She also has exhibited at Moody United Methodist Church in Galveston.
“My proudest moment was receiving the McGivney Award,” says Owen, referring to the annual Rosenberg Library purchase prize awarded to a painting with a Galveston theme that is accepted into the GAL Fall Juried Show. “I was stunned and thrilled. It was a painting of the Galveston Cemetery in bloom and a labor of love. I have also taken second place at St. Augustine and have received numerous honorable mentions.” Owen, 67 and an active GAL member, sells her work at the Art League’s gallery, 2117A Postoffice in Galveston.
She opens up below about how she has grown as an artist and her approach to art.
Q: At what age did you discover your passion for art?
A: I have always loved art, even as a young child. My husband and I have collected art since our marriage in 1978. Wherever we traveled, we bought a piece of art to remember our trip. I did not start painting until 2013 but quickly became obsessed with it.
Q: Did family/friends encourage you?
A: My family members are my best supporters and my toughest critics. Sometimes I even take their advice!
Q: How have you improved your skills over the years?
A: Every time you study with a new artist, it gives you more insight into your own painting techniques. I admire all of my instructors’ work, but feel I have developed my own style using their expertise. It is wonderful to have instructors and fellow students critique your painting and point out things you may not see when you are involved and invested in your ongoing work.
Q: What is your educational background related to art?
A: I admired and collected works by Jackie Liddell [a fellow member of GAL]. We became friends, and when she emailed me to ask if I knew anyone who would be interested in taking her watercolor course at Alvin Community College. I said, “Yes! Me!”
For two years she taught me everything I know about painting. She is a marvelous instructor and willing to share all of her knowledge with her students. When she retired, Cheryl Evans took her place, and I studied with her for a year. She was able to show me how to use color and shapes to create more-vibrant paintings.
I next took a course at College of the Mainland with Lee Johnson, another artist I admire and a GAL member. I consider her a friend.
Q: How does GAL membership benefit you?
A: Joining the Galveston Art League was the best thing I ever did. I admire so many of the talented artists there. I have made many dear friends and have been encouraged by other members’ critiques and comments. It is also fun! I look forward to the monthly change of shows and seeing what my fellow artists have done. It also makes you want to paint so you will have something exciting to show.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your artwork?
A: I have always been very observant. I love nature, architecture, traveling, and animals. Even at home I love watching the sunset. I come up with crazy ideas and sometimes they actually work.
I love New Orleans, and after watching some street musicians, I came up with the idea of a Mardi Gras-themed background with smaller scenes of the street and featuring the man singing and playing the clarinet. It became one of my favorite paintings.
I also love the Galveston Cemetery when the flowers are in bloom around Mother’s Day. I dragged my husband and daughter there to take photos and I did several cemetery paintings from that excursion. The flowers, the architecture there ― just breathtaking.
So if you can see the beauty in the everyday things around you, it is all inspirational. One of my instructors had us do a painting on our interpretation of the fortune pulled from a fortune cookie. I got the idea to paint a couple who have been together a long time. The painting turned into my personal story, and I used fortunes as the background to tell that story. It was the most challenging painting ― but the most rewarding.
Q: Do you work outdoors or indoors? Do you work from photos?
A: I work indoors from photos I have taken. I use a small point-and-shoot camera, nothing special. For instance, I was obsessed with the cemetery and took maybe two hundred photos. Going through them I chose the one that struck me to paint. If I paint people’s pets, I prefer to meet their pet in person and take my own photos so I can capture what I feel is the pet’s personality.
Q: Briefly describe your start-to-finish process for your artwork.
A: My starting process is to find a subject/photo that I feel inspired by. I draw the subject on paper and then transfer it to watercolor paper on a light table. I use scrap paper to determine what colors I will use and make note of the mixtures. By the way, I love mixing paint colors. As I am painting, I stop and look often at my progress to determine what it needs. I don’t rush because there is no time limit on art. Pausing between color applications is key throughout the whole process. Knowing when to stop is very hard.
Q: What is your biggest challenge artistically?
A: I have many challenges, but my biggest is capturing a realistic likeness of a person. I will continue to work on it. Values are hard for me, but I overcome this by printing a black-and-white of the photo I am using. I tend to paint dark, so I have lightened up recently. Now I also pay as much attention to negative spaces as I do the rest of the painting.
Q: Do you have any rules that you follow in creating your artwork?
A: I try to keep in mind at all times the rules of a good composition and painting. Jackie Liddell did an extremely good job of teaching the basic rules, and when I am painting I hear her voice in my head [saying]: The focal point should contain the lightest and darkest values in the painting; take care of the corners; where is the light source; use the biggest brushes possible for your painting; don’t overwork the painting; use of underpainting; know what to keep white; never use black paint.
Q: Do you often enter competitions?
A: I enter as many juried shows at Galveston Art League as I can. I believe I have only missed two in the last four years. I also entered shows at Affaire D’Art, St. Augustine Church, and Moody Methodist Church. The juried shows are nerve-racking, but even if you do not get in, the judge will leave a critique on your painting as to why not, and I find that extremely helpful for growth. The other benefit is that you get to celebrate the other artists’ achievements and see some beautiful work that you can learn from and also talk to the other artists about their work. It also feels wonderful when your work is recognized.
Q: Do you have a goal you’re striving for?
A: My goal is to become a better painter, and I focus on painting what I love. I have entered the Texas City juried show for four years and have never gotten an award, so that is a personal goal I am aiming for. I would also like to take a course in pastels and see if that suits me.
Q: What’s your favorite artwork by a famous artist?
A: I don’t have a specific favorite, but I think that Salvador Dali is a mad genius and I could look at his work for days. I also love impressionist painting and anything by Klee.
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of creating art?
A: I feel that when I am painting, everything else disappears and I am focused on that only. Time slips away sometimes. I f someone buys one of your paintings, it is a glorious feeling that you created something that someone will display in their home and love.