We had the good fortune of connecting with Dianne Harrison and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dianne, did college have a meaningful and positive impact for you?
Most definitely! As a seventeen year old, I had no idea what I wanted to “BE” when I grew up, but I did know that the very best way to move out of a limiting environment was through education. I went initially to a community college which was what I could afford by working part time. After two years I got a private scholarship from a generous Atlanta family and enrolled at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where I, somewhat naively, decided to major in American Literature.
My real education related to painting began when I entered a masters program at the Rhode Island School of Design. I am absolutely certain I would never have progressed from doing little watercolor sketches for family and friends to being a full time artist and a serious student of all things related to painting. Education enables us to imagine a future path before we can see it ourselves!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career actually started through volunteering to provide Art activities for the students of the Howard School in Atlanta which serves students with learning differences. The positive impact the art experiences had on their learning led me to expand my own knowledge of the visual arts by completing a masters program at the Rhode Island School of Design. It was through my masters program at RISD that I came to see myself as an artist and developed a passion for painting. I continued to take workshops and classes after completing my masters. Learning to paint is truly a life-long pursuit. Today I paint from life in my studio and on location every day I can. I offer workshops myself to small groups to share what I have been so very fortunate to learn.
I paint things in which I find peace and quiet and stillness and beauty. I look for inspiration in an arrangement of still life objects and in a swath of light that comes streaming into my studio in the morning and in the natural world all around me.
What sets me apart from some artists may be my complete devotion to continuously learn and try to improve.
I can’t imagine painting just one thing over and over that others may think is great. I’m not seeking novelty so much as something that feels “true” to the viewer in the context of their daily life. Many years ago, when I wasn’t a painter. I went into a little gallery-frame shop at Christmas time just to look, but I bought a painting! I had never bought a painting in my life or even thought about buying a painting! I couldn’t afford a painting, but I had to have this painting.! I am looking at it as I write this. It is a beautiful painting of hydrangea blossoms falling out of a vase with another vase behind as if someone, unseen, was trying to decide which vase would best show off the blooms. It is a painting about a human being looking at the beauty in the world and savoring it. The artist, Debra Nadelhoffer, is a highly respected Georgia painter whom I now consider a friend. Today, my own paintings are in that very same gallery, Frameworks Gallery in Marietta Georgia. Even more significant is the fact that there are wonderful patrons who have purchased my paintings there because they saw something in them that they loved.
This was utterly unimaginable to me those many years ago when I wandered into Frameworks Gallery and bought my first painting. I am still represented by the Frameworks Gallery in Marietta , Georgia.
I must mention Sunny Walker, one of the gallery owners, who sadly passed away last year. She had the most influence in my career as an artist because she believed in me. She opened her heart to me and saw me always as a true artist. She made me feel that what I had to say in my paintings was significant and important. All artists need a Sunny Walker in their life to support them, cheer them on and understand that the responsibilities we all have beyond our art sometimes keeps us from our passion but that we will always return to it.
My advice to young artists is to dream! Dream big and dream some more! It’s not about finding a gallery owner that loves your work, it’s about YOU loving your work! Bunny Harvey, a very wise artist I met at RISD many years ago, told me a very important thing that has helped me not to be discouraged about success. She said ,”For artists, success happens in the studio.” There will be obstacles big and small, but if you maintain your passion and love for art you will evolve into the artist you want to be in spite of the challenges you will face. When you think you have learned things worth sharing, teach. It will be the most rewarding thing you do. At seventy one, I still intend and expect to grow greatly in my skills over the next two decades at the very least!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The very first place I would take them would be to the Riverwalk along the Chattahoochee River behind my studio in Roswell at dawn! We would definitely visit Frameworks Gallery in Marietta for a friendly tour of a wonderful selection of fine art created by mostly Georgia artists.
We would go to Miami Circle for galleries galore and then head to Atlanta Artists Center on Grandview Avenue which is a thriving member run gallery and art center. Lunch would be right across the street at Anis Cafe where you are transported to France in the most delightful way. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens can’t be missed and the Carlos Museum at Emory University is an amazing treasure. Another afternoon would be saved for Oglethorpe University Museum. Atlanta and its surrounding cities have so much to offer a week would not suffice. I would bet that when my friend got home they would tell everyone about all the fantastic places, but they would probably say the most amazing thing about Atlanta is the people who are diverse and welcoming and beautiful.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The Faculty and fellow students at The Rhode Island School of Design who showed me what it means to be an real artist and gave me the opportunity to try. Sunny Walker and family at Frameworks Gallery, for their continuous support.
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