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Painter Diana Madaras

Author: Terri Feder
Issue: April, 2013, Page 153
Photo by Tim Fuller

In her home studio, with the soul-stirring Catalina Mountains in the background, artist Diana Madaras paints a vibrantly colorful scene.

The Colorist

With a majestic view of Tucson’s Catalina Mountains, an abundance of natural light, and works on the wall by the artist in residence and others she admires, painter Diana Madaras’ home studio is warm and inviting—much like the artist herself. Vibrant watercolor and acrylic paintings of the landscapes, expressionistic portraits, flowers, and animals that she has become known for are everywhere.

The award-winning artist, who not only paints with splashes of brilliant color but also lives a life imbued with it, grew up in the rural town of Toms River, New Jersey. Her father, a veterinarian, ran the local animal hospital, and the family lived in an attached two-bedroom apartment. It is in this setting that Madaras developed an affinity for and a sense of guardianship over animals. “My job was to nurture wild animals that people brought to the hospital. I would stay up all night caring for them and feeding them,” she explains. It’s not surprising, therefore, that animals figure prominently in many of Madaras’ works and that she founded a charity—the Art for Animals Foundation—in 1999 to help abused, injured and orphaned animals. Says the painter of her philanthropic efforts, “If I can help animals and people through my art, there’s nothing better.”

Angel, Madaras’ favorite among her
horse paintings, is acrylic on canvas and measures 16"H x 20"W.
The road to the paintbrush was not a straight one for Madaras. She wasn’t the child in grade school who drew exceptionally well and that everyone thought would become an artist. But there was an incessant imaginative spirit within her. “I have always had a creative angst. When I was young, I mostly wrote and even won a national poetry contest at the age of nine. I also played violin and guitar.” Madaras grew up in a family that she describes as “very culturally oriented,” with a father who played the violin, a mother who was supportive of all her children’s pursuits, an uncle who was an opera singer, and a great-great grandfather who, she recently discovered, was a famous German oil painter and whose work now hangs in the Neue Pinakothek Museum in Munich.

While studying at the University of Arizona, Madaras earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s in bio mechanics. Not knowing exactly what to do with her life, she floundered a tad, selling life insurance for a spell and later starting her own sports marketing company, promoting major sporting events such as the LPGA and PGA golf tournaments—a gig that would prepare her for her later role as an art gallery owner.

It wasn’t until Madaras was persuaded to take a month-long painting trip to Greece in 1993 that she finally found the antidote to her creative quest. “It’s almost like I got off the plane in Athens in a black-and-white world and a month later I saw everything in color.” It was the first time in her life that she could paint all day. Once back in Arizona, Madaras began taking weekly watercolor and acrylic classes with painters whose work she admired, including Sarah Schmerl and William Hook. She also traveled to France, Mexico and Italy to further hone her craft. Somewhere along the way, Madaras became a full-time artist and, in 1999, she opened the first of her two Tucson galleries.

Child With the Yellow Hat, acrylic on canvas, 20"H x 16"W
In addition to painting, Madaras also finds time to write books, enjoy her dogs and horses, and dance and travel with her husband, Miroslaw (Miro)—a former dancer with Mazowsze, the Polish national dance group, and now a champion ballroom dancer.

Most of the time, however, Madaras can be found doing what she loves most—painting in her studio eight hours-plus a day, either on works of her own inspiration or commissions, which she happily accepts. The artist loves painting in both watercolor and acrylic for the variety the two mediums offer. “Watercolor is more spontaneous but less forgiving; you can’t make a mistake. I have to do a lot of upfront planning with it.” Says Madaras alternatively of acrylics, “I love that I can be very free and loose with acrylics. I can cover something up and change it if I don’t like what I see. I also like that acrylic paintings do not have to be under glass.”

As long as Madaras has some paint and a paintbrush, she reveals, all that has to happen for her to find beauty and inspiration is “for the sun to come up and cast a shadow.”

Barrel Plumes, acrylic on canvas, 14"H x 16"W
Inner Sanctum, watercolor on paper, 9"H x 12"W
Boulders II, watercolor on paper, 24"H x 18"W

Talavera Rose, watercolor on paper, 18"H x 24"W

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