Artists Insights ~ watercolour painter, Diana Boanas

Artists Insights ~ watercolour painter, Diana Boanas

Diana Boanas is the winner of this months Portfolio Plus ‘Artist of the Month’ courtesy of Artists & Illustrators magazine. She wins a £50 art materials voucher for her wonderful watercolour ‘Steaming the Sprouts’. In this blog, Diana shares inspiration, artist journey and art materials with us….

Winning painting 'Steaming the sprouts' 58 x 38cm by Diana Boanas
Winning painting ‘Steaming the sprouts’ 58 x 38cm by Diana Boanas

What inspired your winning painting? Tell us about the process and materials too please.

My kitchen has the most wonderful light in the late afternoon. It is filtered through broad wooden blinds which cast dramatic shadows onto the sink and across the room to the hob . On this occasion, light catching the stainless steel pans turned the metal into a mirror of reflections from surrounding objects. I added the blue flame which complimented the Sienna as well as adding a bit more interest to the subject.

My main objective was to illustrate the texture of the foreground pans with the sharp reflections and metallic shine. I achieved this by using a lot of hard lines in this area, wet on dry painting, with strong tonal contrasts.  Much more water and the softer background of wet into wet washes both pushed the main pans forward in addition to suggesting the form of the hob and flames.

Round sable brushes (Escoda) were used with a very large mop brush for sweeping the watery background. The palette was predominantly Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine with touches of cobalt turquoise .

Watercolour painting by Diana Boanas winner of Pegasus art voucher.
Watercolour painting by Diana Boanas

Are you a full time artist, or do you balance your painting with other jobs?

I retired from my full time teaching career a few years ago, so in theory I am a full time artist as I paint most days . I would describe myself as a successful hobby artist because I don’t actively promote my work for sale . Occassionally, I exhibit in juried exhibitions and offer my work for sale during these shows.

What is your preferred medium and which brands do you favour?

Up until three weeks ago, I painted predominantly in watercolour with graphite and ink for plein air sketching . During the extended time available to paint during lockdown, I had the urge to try oil painting which is completely new to me apart from a bit of playing without formal tuition at teacher training college.

I enjoy using all major artists quality watercolour paints because there are are slight variations in colour between brands and occasionally I find a colour I love above other makes. I work predominantly with Winsor and Newton and Daniel Smith and have found the cheaper, art store own brands to be of excellent value for money.

The paper I work on is usually Saunders Waterford, High White. I have been lucky enough to win most of my paper so have the luxury of using the heaviest available. I used a rough surface for a few years regardless of subject but I have discovered the benefits of a cold pressed surface for portraits and more detailed work.

Scissors painted in watercolour by Diana Boanas, winner of a Pegasus art voucher.
Scissors painting in watercolour by Diana Boanas

Were you formally trained or self taught and do you think this matters?

As part of my teacher training course, I studied The Theory of Education in conjunction with two subjects which were art and music. The three year art course included tasters into the use of a wide range of both 2 and 3D mediums and techniques and culminated in an end of course exhibition . I spent every available hour in the art studios and living on campus, was able to use the facilities at weekends too.

From leaving college and throughout my teaching career, I stopped any personal art work, though enjoyed enhancing subjects with the use of artistic creativity.

I was introduced to mark making again almost 40 years later when I was bought a sketch book and pencils on a holiday … I was off!!

Gaining confidence

Starting with an adult education watercolour class, I developed a love for what seemed to be a very challenging medium. Wanting to learn as much about watercolour as possible, I enrolled on a couple of online courses and attended a few weekend workshops. In addition, I bought every book I came across and watched hours and hours of DVD and online videos.

Very gradually, I gained confidence to post my work onto online galleries and enter a few smaller competitions. Winning a selection of prizes, I was curious to know what it was that made the watercolour masters work so special. Social media is a hive of information where you can learn from the best and in such diverse styles.

I pushed myself and became increasingly self critical of my work which has been rewarded by selection for many major exhibitions , winning prizes and meeting like minded artists.

Formal training is appropriate for students wanting a specific career in the art world. But for myself and the thousands of very successful artists, learning can be person led. The encouragement and community of art people working together on social media as well as meeting in societies, exhibitions and other platforms serves as some of the best art tuition available.

Watercolour painting by Diana Boanas winner of a Pegasus Art voucher.
Watercolour painting by Diana Boanas

What advice can you give to a graduate leaving art school?

I don’t know enough about further education in art or the opportunities after graduating to be able to offer advice here.

Do you paint every day? Do you attend art classes yourself?

I paint every day where possible which I’m in a position to do since I retired. I reduced my hours to two days a week for the last two years of my career because the need to paint was so strong. There’s a possibility I might be a bit of a painting bore because when I’m not actually painting , I’m talking about it! I’m always looking around for inspiring subjects.

It’s great to attend a weekly watercolour class run by the talented watercolour artist David Thomas. I enjoy this class because we are pushed way beyond our comfort zones and learn so much from each other.

A watercolour painting by Diana Boanas, winner of a Pegasus Art voucher.
A watercolour painting by Diana Boanas

Which websites can you recommend for resources and support for artists?

I have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts which are great platforms for getting your work noticed. As well as ‘meeting’ thousands of talented artists .

There are websites available to all artists at every level of skill and purpose. I started my journey using  Art Tutor which is an Aladdins cave of resources for the beginner and intermediate artist. There is a great forum offering advice and encouragement .

In conjunction with their magazines, I visit Painters online and Artists & Illustrator websites. I showcase my work and gain inspiration from the diverse and very talented work of thousands of artists out there .

Is it important to be part of a group, society or club? How do you stay in the loop.

Being a full time studio artist can be a lonely occupation, though meeting at exhibitions and galleries is an enjoyable exchange of support and motivation.

Having social media accounts is essential to stay informed of societies, clubs and exhibitions. I feel I know so many other artists despite not having met most of them in person.

My weekly class is a self indulgent few hours of all things painting. It’s great to talk products and techniques to like minded people knowing they’ll be interested!

Are you represented by a gallery? Do you think galleries are still important for artists in the age of social media?

I am not represented by a gallery though was invited to exhibit at the Adrian Hill Gallery of fine arts in Norfolk. The invitation applies to upcoming exhibitions there where I show alongside artists I’ve met while exhibiting at the Mall Galleries Exhibitions.

I have been selected to show with The Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. The Society of Women Artists and The Royal Society of Marine Artists all in the Mall Galleries, London.

I was invited to write an article for a leading artist magazine and this will be published early next year.

Galleries small and large still pull the crowds from small amateur shows up to the major exhibitions because artwork viewed on a gallery wall is completely different to seeing it digitally. I am often so surprised to visit art in the galleries after seeing the selected works digitally. There is an atmosphere in galleries, not present online though both platforms have their merits.

What keeps you motivated?

I often ask myself if I would feel as motivated without feedback and support. All artists thrive on response to their creativity, be it a song, poem, or dramatic performance. Negative and or constructive criticism moulds the way I feel about my work. Several years into my painting I am beginning to be more assertive in my self belief, particularly when faced with negativity.

Every minute of the day is an opportunity to be motivated. I am constantly on alert for visions and experiences that need to be captured on paper or canvas. I feel excitement at the prospect of capturing a scene that has attracted my attention with colour, light and emotion. I am very honoured to achieve such pleasure from the world around me then sharing it with others.

Find out more about Diana Boanas and her work here.

Instagram @dmboanas7716

If you fancy the chance of winning a £50 Pegasus Art voucher, please look out for monthly posts on social media from Artists & Illustrators magazine. Become a Portfolio Plus member here.