by Cassie Stephens, Art Teacher, Johnson Elementary

Imagine what it might be like to talk with a real live art rock star. Ask them questions about their passions, their inspirations, and, you know, their favorite paintbrushes. Well, that’s just what my third- and fourth-grade art students had the opportunity to do. After I introduced my young artists to the work of Diane Davich Craig, an artist whose paintings are so realistically executed that many of my students thought they were sculptures, they threw many questions her way. Here are just a few of their inquiries and her intriguing answers:
Students: How do you make things look so real? It’s such an illusion!

Diane Davich Craig: I love hearing that! I am trying so hard to make things appear like they are in 3D. Chuck Close, who is one of my favorite artists, said he liked doing magic as a child, and he believed that was what attracted him to painting. When I am successful making my painting to look like a real object I do feel like I have performed a magic trick. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, like using higher contrast on the close items, fuzzy edges and low contrast on the distant items, and using the most concentrated colors where I want your eye to follow.

Diane Davich Craig Shake, Splash, Sprinkle, Squirt, 2011, Oil on panel, 30” x 30”

Diane Davich Craig Shake, Splash, Sprinkle, Squirt, 2011, Oil on panel, 30” x 30”

Students: What kind of brushes do you use?

Diane: I use both manmade and natural hair of every size and shape. But the majority of my time on a painting is done with small, sable round brushes.

Students: Who is your favorite artist? What about your favorite painting?

Diane: I spend a large amount of time admiring and studying artists and their work. I could easily spout off 50 names with little hesitation of artists that I love. You will see glimpses of inspiration in my art from these artists that I just adore—Charles Bell, John Baeder, Ralph Goings, and Robert Cottingham just to name a few. Also there is not a week that goes by that I don’t add another artist to my list of artists that I love and admire. As for a favorite painting today, I might say Marbles XII by Charles Bell. Tomorrow it might be Tony’s Trailer Camp by John Baeder. And let’s not forget all great works by the great master painters that I failed to mention like Vermeer, Bouguereau, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt van Rijn.

Students: What would you do if art never existed? (Great question, right?)

Diane: Wow. As a child I spent a lot of time looking at the art in my encyclopedias (and the different dog breeds). I have always loved music too and played the flute professionally for many years. If there were no visual art, I would listen to and play more music.

Deyanira works on her candy contour drawing

Deyanira works on her candy contour drawing

Students: Where do you get your ideas?

Diane: This will sound a little crazy, but most of my still life ideas come to me as I am trying to fall asleep or in the middle of the night. As for the neon signs, I mostly see those along the roadside and fall in love with the colors and composition of the sign. Then I photograph them so that I can paint them at home in my studio.

My students were so inspired by Diane and her realistic work that they tried their hand at candy contour drawing! Special thank-you to Diane for taking the time to connect with my students. They were thrilled and have decided that Diane needs to come and teach art class, which I might totally go along with . . . if I didn’t secretly think the children were conspiring for my early retirement.

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