Artists in the Garden: Diana Davis

 In Art

Diana Davis Artist and Watercolor Instructor

Diana Davis’ art lines the Education Hallway in Baker Hall Visitor Center. Her colorful and whimsical work is full of character and charm. Aside from her outstanding watercolors, Diana is also well known for her warm teaching style and delicious brownies. Diana and I chatted over the phone about art, teaching, blue-footed pigs, and chocolate of course. Read along to learn more about one of our incredible instructors.

CB: How long have you been painting?
DD: I’ve been painting always. I’m 62 so I started with crayons of course. (She laughs. It’s a laugh that makes me feel right at home and soon I’m laughing right along with her.) But I’ve been doing watercolor since I was 17 so that’s about 45 years.The image is a photograph of Diana M. Davis in her watercolor class at NBG.

CB: What got you interested in watercolors?
DD: Well I tried different mediums and I like different ones too, but then I took a class Willie Crockett and I just loved watercolor, what the watercolor does and it’s so different than anything else. The other night I put a painting out actually it was last night I did a clear wash and then I did the clear color and I left it outside for it to freeze because watercolor will freeze. It won’t freeze in the refrigerator but it will freeze outside on a 20-degree night and I’ve taught my students about that.

CB: How long have you been teaching art?
DD: I started teaching maybe when I was about 24 so that’s I don’t know 62 – 24 however many that is. I taught children to adults, engineers to adorable little boys who ate the salt off of their painting … you can sprinkle on wet wash and it leaves a little spot that looks sort of like a snowflake. .. that particular class he didn’t understand me and he ate it off his paper and he gave me the painting.

CB: What’s your favorite thing about creating?
DD: It’s almost like a passion. . . it’s just something you feel like if you don’t do it you really miss so much. I’d rather paint than do anything just about. Maybe eating chocolate .. just kidding. But I’d rather paint than do most anything. It takes you away. All of a sudden you’re just kind of floating in the creative process and it’s just wonderful.

CB: Favorite thing about teaching?
DD: Getting to know the students. The students are wonderful. Many of them have become friends.

CB: Favorite artists?
DD: Perce Wallace. Gene Haynes’s work and Janet Rogers. I took lessons from her. Very loose. Looser than I am in my watercolors. Use more water and their subject water may look more impressionistic than the actual botanical look. I do like other mediums too.

CB: Favorite subjects?
DD: I’m painting an owl right now. l like owls, flowers, nature, anything in nature. I love butterflies and hummingbirds but then again I really like old tractors too! There is a farm over here that has blue pigs and the pigs really are blue! They’re just wonderful they have these long snouts they’re just fabulous to me!

CB: I’ve never heard of a blue-footed pig!                                                                    DD: Oh yes, Blue-footed pigs. They’re really blue.

CB: Do you go out in nature?
DD: Right now there’s an owl sitting in the back yard in a hollow tree. I’m
painting from him and also a photograph but I do go out and paint outside if I can. We just did a class on roses and everybody got a rose to take home.

CB: Do you have any favorite plants or flowers besides roses?
DD: Well I like most anything. One time we painted some wildflower that has blue flowers. . . I can’t remember the name just now. . . and they were in the frog pond at the botanical garden and we painted the little tiny frogs that went on them and that was a lot of fun. I love hibiscus and I did a big painting of two giant orange and yellow hibiscus and I like to do vegetables too and anything that catches my eye.

CB: What inspires you to keep painting?
DD: I guess just about everything that I see. I love the highlights and the colors and the textures

CB: So you never have a time where Its like “Oh I can’t paint today”
DD: Yeah, oh yeah. I think every artist has at times. And you might as well just forget it for that day.

CB: Do you have advice for any artists out there?
DD: Keep painting and keep drawing. Draw as much as you can and paint as much as you can. Take classes from different people and that’s about it but if you keep drawing and keep painting you’ll get better and better. You’ll really enjoy it. It becomes a part of you.

CB: Favorite spot in the garden?
DD: I love the Japanese Garden especially with those beautiful flowers those great big pink ones what are they called? Lotus Blossoms I love them omigosh I love them. I’ve painted the Japanese garden before and we’ve done classes on the Japanese Garden and the lotus flower. I’ve had a hard time trying to get the timing right for the class to be at the same time as the blooms. I’ve had a time trying because it always seems like it’s slightly off ya know? – I had to go pick lotus blossoms here on the Eastern Shore and bring them over.
I do a pouring technique too which I love to do and I love to teach that too. . . where you actually pour clear water onto your paper then you pour the paint on to the clear water and it runs and drips and then you use different things to create texture and once it dries you come back and draw over top of it. And it’s really beautiful.

CB: That sounds fun
DD: It is fun

CB: Where can we find your work?
DD: Well you can find my work at the Botanical Garden in the gift shop and in the Education Hall. I’ve had two 1 woman shows at the Baker Hall and I’ve done over 450 juried art shows, the kind that you take the little tent and you know everybody’s handing the painting over the fence and trying to set up like that. And also the Lemon Tree Gallery over in Cape Charles and there are different places up and down the Eastern Shore and I’ve done Stockley Gardens, I did it for about 10 years. I’ve done the show in Richmond, and shows in Williamsburg so I’ve got paintings in Australia and England, I just sent one to England 2 days ago.

CB: Cool
DD: Yeah, it really is cool. The Philadelphia College of Art has one of my paintings, one of the gentlemen there bought it for his office.

CB: What’s your ultimate goal as an artist if you have one?
DD: Just to keep painting. As long as I can. Just be sitting there in a little rocking chair with a shawl over me painting. I told my husband if I ever end up in jail make sure I have my palette and my paint. Or a nursing home.

For more on Diana Davis consider checking out her blog or signing up for a future class @ NBG Adult Education.

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