Monday, August 3, 2009

Meet Diane Hoeptner

Longtime friend Diane Hoeptner is a fine artist living and working in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. We first met when we both attended Kent State University in the 80s. Diane, however, soon pulled up roots and left for Los Angeles, CA, where she finished her Bachelor of Arts degree in studio arts at Cal State, Northridge. She ended up staying 17 years, becoming fully involved in the art world, which included working as a digital animator for video games and the film industry, teaching art at East LA Community College and serving as a special events coordinator for the Culver City ART group, all the while cultivating her own style as a fine artist.

She’s been honored with several art awards, has been published by fine art companies, and has enjoyed a consistent influx of commissions. Currently her focus is on working with oils, but she also is accomplished in a particular technique of watercolor and color pencil, having created gorgeous, dreamy pieces such as her portrait of my children. [See above.]
I met up with Diane last week in her studio to catch up over coffee and discuss her art.

Let’s start at the beginning. Have you always seen yourself as an artist, or how old were you when you knew that this was your calling? I was encouraged to paint and draw as a child. At some point we lived across the street from a professional artist and her husband, a professor. They were world travelers who seemed very exotic and exciting. The woman, Mrs. Snyder, told me about their travels and gave me impromptu art lessons. I sort of equated travel, literature and art because of the Snyders and it was around then that I got the general idea to become an artist – at age 9 to 10.

You are originally from Northeast Ohio, but you move to the Los Angeles area for 17 years. What were you seeking out west?

Opportunity and sunshine.

And what made you "come home” again? 
You know the area where we grew up, Pat! Downtown Austinburg [in Ashtabula County] consists of a post office, a grain store and a church. My mother raised my sister and me by herself. She is made of very strong New England stuff – I am not. I hated growing up in the snowbelt and I longed for sunshine and civilization. But I came back home because I missed my family.

After so many years of success with watercolor and color pencils, what made you decide to change your focus to oils? I could write a book on why I love oil painting...and why I wish I would have started in earnest when I was 22 instead of 42! A good color pencil/water color painting takes 20-plus hours. A good oil painting can take as little as one hour. It's easier to frame an oil painting, and oil painting is more forgiving. The slow and meticulous nature of color pencil doesn't allow for a lot of experimentation; oil painting does. I was just telling my husband the other night I think I need reading glasses, ha! I'm just not in a place where I want to fuss over details (for more reasons than one!) and oil painting is perfect for me right now.

Not in a place to fuss over details – that sounds like a lot of women who come into their own in their forties. More creative, less uptight, more willing to work with imperfections, and even see the beauty in imperfections. I’ve struggled with perfectionism myself, but your blog has inspired me to push through that. You’ve posted a quote there that seems related to that – “commit to the process, detach from the outcome.” How do you bring this quote into your own life as an artist – what does it mean to you? "Commit to the process, detach from the outcome" reminds me to do what it takes and keep doing it. No one tells you in art school, "Hey, if you wanna actually make a living, you'll have to devote about half your time to marketing and sales." My "process" happens to include a lot of marketing and presentation-type activities. I'm not a natural born sales person. Rejections happen all the time in big and small ways, [and so] detaching from the outcome when a gallery says "no thanks" or a customer says "I'll pass" is really important. Producing good paintings, repeatedly, is crucial, so whatever it takes to get to the next painting, or the next thing – be it a marketing chore, blog update or correspondence – it's all necessary and it's all part of the process!

There's something to be said for going with the flow and starting right where you are. Committing to the process can mean crawling before you run…. It's not a lot of things I can do very well, but painting happens to be one of them. However, paintings do not sell themselves, not in this economy. So, I stumble and I try things, many things, and I stay on track by reminding myself to commit to the process and detach from the outcome.

Describe a good day for yourself in your studio. Do you have a routine? What works to get your creativity flowing? Everything begins with coffee and a healthy dose of internet celebrity gossip. Ha ha, just kidding (kinda). Seriously, coffee first. I like to start early, around 6am is ideal, and end around 3pm. I work from my own photographs and I keep a huge database of photos. Making a good painting is an elusive thing. Sometimes, it happens effortlessly. Sometimes you re-work it, wipe it down, do it again and then you have a good painting. But any day when a good painting happens is a good day. When I make a good painting, all things – inspiration, energy, more good paintings – flow from that.

What artists have influenced you in your path? Sargent, Sorolla, Waterhouse & Cassatt…. So many, a lot of whom are still living and working: Thiebaud, Chase Chen, Carol Marine & Arron Lifferth (both fellow daily painters) Tiina Heiska is my new absolute favorite.… Too many to mention.

I see on your blog that you’re part of the Daily Painters movement. What is that, and how did you get involved? The Daily Painters movement was started by Duane Keiser a few years ago. He vowed to make one small painting a day. And this led to his daily painting blog and finally to posting the small paintings on eBay to keep up with demand from buyers. Normally, an artist aspires to paint big and have a traditional brick and mortar gallery sell the paintings. Daily paintings can be studies for larger paintings, or they can be finished products unto themselves. The basic idea is to paint a small 6x6 or 5x7 painting every day. I was very intimidated by the idea of oil painting, initially, but the modest goal of doing just one small a day was irresistible.

And now you seem to be quite in the groove of it, with a following of artists yourself, and even some blog awards. How has blogging helped your creativity? For starters, I get immediate feedback from other artists on my blog. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is immensely gratifying! There's an incredible support network for artists on the internet. That is a blessing for an a-social person like myself. My blog also serves as a real life record of my progress. I can compare paintings from six months ago to paintings from last week and, hopefully, see improvements. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have also been really helpful. A curator recently found my work through Twitter and with her help, I now have a two month exhibit at the 5700 gallery here in Cleveland.

Since I learned how to photograph my art for the blog, I can now provide up to the moment inventory choices for my buyers and to the people who help me sell my work! Because everything is so immediate, I find myself multitasking with many projects. For instance, a dealer wants a painting of poppies, my poster publisher does too and meanwhile, the company that needs art for their client will consider poppies. I'm a daily painter, so I paint a bunch of different versions of 8x8 poppies, then forward those to my various peoples. Next time around, I will paint selected versions bigger...and develop further versions with 8x8's according to the feedback. When one painting serves more than one client's needs I know for sure I'm on a good track and that sort of adaptability has evolved from my blog and the daily practice of painting.
You started your blog on April 23rd, 2008, with the entry, “This is an experiment.” Seems to be a pretty successful one. Where do you want to go from here with your blog and your art?I look forward to more of the same! More painting, more blogging and more seeing where things lead. I have 14 paintings currently being considered for publication as posters at Editions Limited, and it will be interesting to see how that unfolds. My Cleveland dealer has helped get my art into some great local venues. One of my sunflower paintings will be featured on a poster and t-shirts for an upcoming festival fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation.

Being juried into Daily as well as the Gawker Artist program has increased the readership on my blog exponentially and it has exposed my art to an entirely new audiences. As I take on paintings that are larger in size and scope and my collector base reaches beyond Cleveland, I suspect my blog will evolve as well. But for now, I just keep on truckin' and I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do for a living.

You can find out more about Diane and her art by
visiting her blog.


John Ettorre said...

Great stuff, Pat. You've set a high bar for your next one. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Good reading Pat!!

Pat Washington said...

Thanks for stopping by, John and Deb.

I've got a couple ideas for the next interviews, but they take a while to set up. If you have ideas, feel free to send them my way.

Dreama Tolle Perry said...

Pat--great interview. I have been following Diane's art, love what she does and love her energy. It was nice getting to hear her story. And nice to find your blog as well. What's not to like--great writing and great art!

Chris Beck said...

I really enjoyed reading your profile of Diane. I've been reading her blog for quite a while and admiring her work. Nice to have some background about her work and philosophy of art-making. Thanks.

Denise R said...

Thanks for the interview with Diane. I love her art and reading about her was very interesting too!

Kathleen Krucoff said...

Hi Pat!

What a great interview. I have followed Diane's blog for a while now and that brought me here to read your interview of her.

I must thank you for some of the questions you asked Diane as those were very helpful to me...keeping my spirits up and reading about the opportunities Diane's blog/twitter/facebook have brought to her. It is great to learn more about Diane too.

All the best! Kathleen

John Ettorre said...

Come to think of it, Pat, we could perhaps collaborate on something I've been thinking of featuring: a new retail shop at Shaker Square devoted to selling the work of local artists. I was planning on calling attention to it as part of my continuing reminder to folks (some would say more like nagging) to support local independents of all varieties. I'll send you that link when I remember where I put my note.

Pat Washington said...

John, that sounds like great fun! Would love to help you with that. Fill me in when you get the time.

Joan Breckwoldt said...

Hi Pat, thanks for this great interview on Diane. Her work is awesome and it's great to get to know more about her. Thanks!

Pat Washington said...

Thanks to all of you for your feedback. It was a pleasure to interview Diane.

I hope to do another interview, but not sure when. I've got a couple of other nonwriting projects that I need to do first, and I have a wedding to shoot this weekend.

Anyone who has an idea for an interview for someone in NE Ohio should email me.