Thursday, January 23, 2014 by


"I've always enjoyed drawing and painting going way back to childhood. When I started painting seriously about 20 years ago it was at the height of the tole painting craze and I had a friend who was involved in that, so I was introduced to the idea of painting on functional wooden items and to the paints and products that worked well for those types of surfaces, which is what led me to work with acrylics. I had no interest in tole painting itself (just hearing my friend talk about special strokes and following patterns in a rigid step by step method and all that bored me silly,) but I saw potential for creating detailed fine art paintings no different from ones that might be hung on the wall that just happened to be done on wooden clocks or jewellery boxes instead of canvas. I did that pretty much exclusively for a number of years, and the pieces were very popular as trophies for dog shows. When the local woodworker who made most of my wood pieces retired and sold all his equipment, I was left without a source for many of the items that had become 'regulars' for me.

Rough Collie Square Hinged Box - $75
This box measures almost 4 7/8" x 4 7/8". It has been stained a warm golden brown and features a scene on the lid with a sable Rough Collie in a summer scene.

These turned hardwood thimbles are painted all around with a continuous scene. The photo of each thimble shows 4 shots of each thimble turned slightly with each shot, to show the full design. These are actual 'thimble-size', measuring just 1 1/4" high, as seen in the photo of an unpainted thimble next to a ruler, shown at right.
They are $35 each

"That began the shift to working on more traditional surfaces, and although the paints I had used for the wooden items were artist grade and lightfast and not craft paints by any means, I was becoming more interested in colour theory and mixing and wanted to work with a good artist quality paint range that had more standard colour names and pigments. I stayed with acrylics because I was comfortable with them and I find them very convenient and versatile (and the quick drying characteristic and ability to easily paint over mistakes suited me well,) but I switched to using a different brand. I yearned to learn and improve so I bought a number of different books on art techniques, frequented art forums online, and studied the paintings of many artists whose work I particularly liked. Although acrylics remain my primary medium I love to try new things art-wise and in time ended up with full ranges of oil paints, watercolours, gouache, glass paints and airbrush paints, an airbrush and compressor, and a variety of different papers and boards as well! Continually experimenting like that is quite beneficial, as there are things that might be discovered in using one medium that can be incorporated in my technique when painting in acrylics, always trying to get closer to the end result I'm after. Just recently I picked up a few new slow drying acrylics, some new fast drying oils, a few tubes of a different brand of gouache I'd heard good things about but hadn't tried before, and a new art panel made from aluminum!

Bearded Collie in watercolour

Alaskan Malamute in oil

Bearded Collie in acrylic on birch

"I still do some painted wood items if requested, and continue to come up with new items such as the painted glass vases and painted stained glass pieces to satisfy the desire for dog show trophy items that have a range of sizes/prices and aren't the 'same old same old' each year. In the last couple of years I've also started painting some clothing items such as denim jackets or shirts, t-shirts, and neckties. I've also painted a couple of ostrich eggs! For more traditional work I am doing a lot of work in acrylic on birch panel which I really enjoy, especially the 'close-up' works where the subject completely, or almost completely, fills the panel with little or no background. These are also quite convenient in terms of being ready to hang without framing. Works on paper typically are smaller and in a more illustrative style, often using a mixed media approach and leaving much of the background the white of the paper."

Turquoise pendant with Skye Terrier headstudy. Silver bail, and black necklace. This pendant measures 1" high.

Scottish Terrier Pencil Cup $75
An original painting of a handsome Scottie against a white oval is featured on one side of this wooden pencil cup. The background, on all 4 sides, is a vivid handpainted tartan pattern to perfectly complement this Scottish breed. The inside and bottom are solid red colour.
The piece measures 3 3/4" x 3 3/4", and 4 1/2" tall.

So, we have now met the exquisitely talented and masterful artist Diane Wynen, I then asked her about her favourite subjects; "I'd have to say Bearded Collies, just because they are my breed and I've painted more Beardies than any other breed by a large margin. I certainly know them best, and they have such expressive faces, but I also like that they are long coated which forces me to really emphasize highlights and shadows to show the structure and shape underneath, and there's also the fun of the movement of the coat in the wind or when they're running. Also although there may only be four main coat colours that Beardies come in there is such a range of shades within those colours that it is always interesting!"

Puppy Race! Acrylic on Birch Panel, 12" x 24" - $350

Subjects tied to format or layout (composition) of a painting are crucial in producing a finished 'artwork', Diane explains, "There are all sorts of rules about what makes a pleasing composition, and while I might consider where a focal point falls or how the eye is led through the scene if I'm deciding where to place the subject, I don't get obsessive about analyzing and calculating the entire design. Really, those 'rules' came about because it was discovered that people found certain common placements or arrangements pleasing to the eye, so it shouldn't be hard for an artist to come up with a nice composition pretty much instinctively just by stepping back and letting their own eyes tell them if it works or not. While technically an odd number of subjects is considered more interesting than an even number, if I want to do a painting showing Beardie puppies in all four colours I'm going to paint four puppies not three or five, and if someone wants me to paint a portrait of their two dogs I'm not going to try and add an additional *something* just to follow that rule."

This is a lovely little glass ornament, with a charming Cairn Terrier looking through a festive Christmas wreath. The ornament is a soft white with flecks of brighter white, and measures 1 5/8" in diameter.

We got chatting about a range of topics, someone's choice of dog books and magazines is always informative and interesting, "When I first got involved in showing dogs I bought a lot of dog books on various subjects, I had subscriptions to numerous dog magazines, and I bought stacks of old dog magazines at used bookstores, and all were thoroughly devoured from cover to cover. As the years went on however I became much more particular in my acquisitions, partly because of cost but also because I had by then gained a lot of knowledge through both reading and experience and there wasn't such a desire to have books or magazines just for the sake of having them.

commissioned by the Clumber Spaniel Club of America to do many of the illustrations for the Illustrated Breed Standard. Most were pencil drawings, while a few were full colour paintings.

That said I have a signed copy of The Clumber Spaniel by Rae Furness which I'd have to say is a favourite. I bred and showed Clumbers years ago and got my foundation bitch from Rae, so that connection makes it quite special. Another is Handling Your Own Dog for Show, Obedience, and Field Trials by Martha Covington Thorne. I have a first edition bought in 1980, when I was still a kid. My family had just bought an Alaskan Malamute that the breeder wanted us to show, and the book was recommended to us. We went to a few shows to watch but ultimately didn't show the Mal, but I still really enjoyed reading the book over and over. Though much of the info is rather outdated (particularly the training methods,) the author had a wonderful matter-of-fact and amusing writing style and there are little gems of info and advice to be found throughout the book. I don't know if art books that feature dogs count in terms of this question, but I have a few of those that are definitely favourites - Rien Poortvliet's Dogs, the two William Secord Gallery publications Dog Painting 1840-1940 and Dog Painting The European Breeds, and Robert Abbett's books A Season For Painting and Wings From Cover.
"There are a couple of other dog art books I don't have that I would like to, but some are just too expensive for now! As for magazines, there was briefly one called Canine Images which featured dog art of all kinds, and I enjoyed that one a lot but unfortunately it folded quite some time ago. Years ago I had subscriptions to several dog magazines that had great articles on showing, training, breeding, health, breed features etc., but I think these days with the internet and instant communication and so much information easily available
with the click of a mouse, finding info and reading articles online has taken the place of magazines at least for me."
As a book will help evolve an artist eye, so too will the works of other artists, "There are several I am a big fan of, but at the top of that list would be Rien Poortvliet. My parents came to Canada from The Netherlands so I learned about him quite young. They had one of his early books (in Dutch) about farm life that I'm sure I looked through many times as a kid. I remember buying his wonderful Dogs book when it was first published, and I think that sealed it for me! I've bought several other books of his and gotten a couple of others given to me by Dutch relatives and they're all treasured. My work may be nothing like his, but I take inspiration in the way he so masterfully portrayed his subjects, particularly the naturalness of pose and movement and the use of detail only where/when it's needed, allowing the rest of the scene to support the subject rather than compete with it. His ability to tell a story and convey the emotions of a scene was remarkable, and it always looked so effortless.

some of the artists to inspire Diane have published lovely books

"I also learned a lot from Robert Abbett's work, particularly how he rendered outdoor backgrounds (as well as the dogs of course.) He wrote a series of articles in a wildlife art magazine about the painting process and the way he worked that was very interesting. Bob Kuhn was another true master in wildlife art whose work leaves me awestruck. I have books of artwork from both artists that I look through for inspiration. About 10 years ago the cover of an art book caught my eye in the store and made me stop in my tracks to look at it, and although I hadn't heard of the artist before as soon as I'd flipped through a few pages I knew I had to buy it. That was Kim Donaldson and his book on Africa, and it remains one of my absolute favourite books. The artwork is stunning, but I especially love the rough sketches strewn throughout the pages, which give a glimpse into his process and technique.
"Two others I have to mention are Joseph Sulkowski and Brett Longley. Both primarily paint dogs, the former in a very classic 'old masters' style, the latter in a highly detailed tight style. Sulkowski's paintings are so rich with highlights and shadows and it helps encourage me to push those 'lights and darks' in my own work beyond what might be seen in a reference photo. Longley's paintings, despite being so precise in rendering, still maintain both naturalness and emotion. They're so true to the character of dogs, and are often quite humorous. Since I tend to work fairly tight and have great difficulty loosening up, I find it inspiring to see that tight work does not automatically mean a bland, emotionless 'pretty picture'."

Let's now investigate Diane's own art again, "For most paintings prices start at about $100 (CDN) for a small 6" x 6" acrylic painting and go up depending on size. A typical moderate sized painting would be in the $200-$300 range. Smaller painted items such as Christmas ornaments or little wooden boxes or glass pendants are available for $40-$100 depending on the piece, and as well in that range I sometimes offer some small paintings on paper that I might have done as practice works or to try out a new technique or medium.
"Most items I have for sale can be found on my website on the 'artwork for sale' page, and as well I have a blog at http://wyndianart.blogspot.com where I post new things I'm doing, some of which may be for sale. The majority of my work is commissioned so I don't usually have a lot of completed items ready to buy, but anything can be ordered and painted to a customer's specifications.

A slate piece, this one measuring approx. 5" square (shown before adding the leather cord) This example features a Lowchen and was a commissioned piece, done from a photo.

"Generally, I am the sole retailer for my artwork, although I do sometimes work with breed clubs who want to sell some of my work at a specialty to raise money for the club."
Are you available for commissions? If so, can you work remotely from photos or other material, and what's a typical price? "Absolutely! And yes I generally work remotely from photos clients send me. It is so much easier these days with email or online photo storage galleries - people can email me digital files or send me the URL to an online gallery of pictures they've taken of their dog and I can suggest which might work best for a commission. Price varies depending on size and style as well as medium and number of subjects, but for a moderate size with one subject in acrylic $200-$350 plus shipping would be typical, though commissions outside of that range on both sides are also available."
"I've considered a 'shopping cart' system on my website but the variables in calculating shipping costs have always nixed that idea for me. So for now people can contact me directly via email, phone, or mail, to commission or buy.
"I don't have a gallery or catalogue, although I do usually scan any small works that fit on the scanner, and photograph any larger works so I have digital files of everything on my computer."

"One of my favourite pieces would be a little watercolour I did of "Ligier", one of my Beardies who was very special to me, lying on the loveseat and looking at me with her soulful eyes (see above). I just wanted to play around with watercolours which I hadn't done a lot of at that time, and was trying for a looser more typical 'watercolour style' than I usually did. I was very pleased with how it turned out, but it really was
over time that I became especially fond of it.

"Another is Baby Frankie, a 10" x 10" acrylic on birch panel done in the ultra close-up style. Frankie is another of my Beardies and she was quite possibly one of the cutest puppies ever, with the most expressive eyes. I had come across the birch panels as a new item in my local art supplies store and was drawn to them immediately. The smooth surface which I prefer, and the variety of sizes available beyond the normal 'art sizes', plus not having to worry about framing really made me eager to try them. I had been using my airbrush more and felt for me this would be key to being able to paint larger without getting bogged down in minute details with a tiny brush which takes forever and wouldn't give me the results I was aiming for anyway. I came up with the idea of painting a close-up of the face, which ultimately meant I was painting MANY times larger than I'd ever done in the past, and after really liking how the first one turned out (a painting of Frankie's grandmother at 13,) I decided to paint Frankie as a puppy. The first of anything is always a learning experience and a bit of trial and error so I was much more confident doing the second, and I think the results show that. I've done quite a few more in that style since then, but this one remains one of my favourites because of the connection to the subject as well as the sort of 'aha' moment in truly achieving the results I'd hoped for."

Beardie Puppies
Christmas Cards
From an original watercolour painting

"Yes I do focus on dogs. I have done other subjects (one client came across my site and insisted he wanted me to paint a picture of his house!) but dogs are the subject I'm most connected to and know best so they will always be my main focus."

Just to wrap up the day's interview, I asked Diane if she had any tips or suggestions to share on displaying or storing pieces; "I suppose just the usual advice to avoid hanging most artwork in direct sunlight, or in areas of high humidity (that applies to watercolours in particular,) and when framing behind glass make sure the artwork itself doesn't touch the glass. Works on paper should ideally be stored flat, but if they have to be rolled make sure to do it loosely or you risk the paint cracking. That is one very nice thing about painting on the birch panels - they're rigid, easy to hang, and barring something scratching them they're easily stored without having to really worry about much!"

contact email: madigan@storm.ca

contact address:
1192 Corkery Rd
Carp, ON K0A 1L0


main website: http://www.madigan-wyndian.com

short bio: From a very young age dogs and art were two things that captured my interest, so it seemed a natural development to combine the two. As a breeder/exhibitor of Bearded Collies (and in the past Clumber
Spaniels,) the knowledge gained about structure and breed type has proved invaluable in my work, enabling me to truly capture the finer points of each breed. I've painted well over 100 different breeds, and am very proud that my work has been met with approval from top breeders and judges around the world. My primary medium is acrylic although I also work in oils, watercolours, gouache, and pencil. My work has been used as trophies for many national and regional breed specialty shows, and I have done several logos for breed specialties, as well as illustrations for the Clumber Spaniel Club of America and Havanese Fanciers of Canada Illustrated Standards (the latter being a current project.) I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with a house full of Beardies ranging from a bouncy young pup to a 17 year old senior, and I'm involved in conformation and agility. =

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