An interview with artist Dianne Corbeau
by Nicola Burnell
When and why did you paint Winged Victory?
I painted Winged Victory during my first year at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for a Cast Painting Class held in the Cast Hall at the Academy.
Tell me a little about why you love this piece and why she is going to be the cover art of your book, titled the same.
I love this piece because it was the first time I changed the direction of my technique from abstract expressionist to naturalist work. I was forced to slow myself down in the painting process and actually look at the intricate details of the sculpture.
I chose Winged Victory as the cover illustration of the memoir I’m writing because I came full circle, both in painting and in life, while I was working on this piece.
What do you feel when you look at this painting?
When I look at this painting I feel love, tenderness, passion and compassion for the piece.
Who was it painted for?
Winged Victory was painted for Harry, a patron of mine when I was living in New York City. He always believed in me and was behind me 100% in whatever direction my life and my work were going in.
Harry was my true friend and wanted nothing in return except for me to live and paint to my full potential.
Unfortunately, this painting never made it to Harry’s office wall because he passed away in the twin towers attack in 2001, before I had a chance to surprise him with the painting.
Introspection, Oil, by Dianne Corbeau
When and where did you paint Introspection?
I painted Intropsection in 2008 after I bought a house with a studio in upstate New York.
Tell us about your process and your use of various angles.
I did not plan the painting composition. There was no sketching on paper. I let it happen organically and let it work through my subconscious.
This painting is a self-portrait of me going through a series of emotions which I express on the canvas. I set up a mirror at different angles, in some instances using two mirrors so that I could read my reflection.
Moving from left to right, the painting portrays a side view, suggesting a second look at the painter in a non-covered up but pure way.
The portrait then moves into a metamorphous where the viewer sees some of the head but questions it through the paint. It continues through disinterest into shyness, ending with joy, where I am looking up to the heavens, symbolizing how I feel when I finish a painting.
How do you glaze to enhance your work?
The use of a glaze in Introspection helped me to hide certain emotions that I save for only myself.
The glazing process is a very slow process. I add a little bit of paint and blend it either with liquin or linseed oil, depending on what stage I am at with the painting. Glazing takes from three to seven layers, and in some cases more. It creates the affect of depth that I like to achieve in my work.
When & where did you paint Winter Tree?
I was driving on a New Jersey highway, in the middle of the winter, looking for places to paint since I had exhausted so many options in Philadelphia and Valley Forge.
As I pulled off the road I looked straight ahead and saw my next painting. Adrenaline shot through my veins – it didn’t matter that it was twenty degrees outside. I set up my easel on the side of the road and painted Winter Tree. It took me about 45 minutes to complete the piece.
Tell us about the wispy quality and bold lines. It’s almost specter-like.
I work with very subtle colors and tones, and when I paint a landscape my palette changes very little. I do not have any greens on my palette because I prefer to mix the greens on my own.
The sky in this piece is a zinc white and red, yellow and blue palette combination. It takes many colors to make a simple sky look simple and it is a very complex process.
In the foreground, I layered the red to make it feel as vibrant as possible and to bring the eye forward.
I used a larger bristle brush to mass in the background (sky) and foreground. I used a small sable brush for the whisped branches as well as the trunk of the trees.
Who is Griff?
Griff was the maintenance man at my studio’s building. He was an open book – what you saw is what you get.
I met him one early morning when he came in to my studio to fix my faucet. He confided in me that he was homeless. He told me that he loved my work and as he said this I was studying his face – drawn to its unique lines from a hard lived life.
Griff was an honest man. When I asked him if he would sit for me he agreed without missing a beat. Our friendship lasted for years.
When & where did you paint this piece?
I painted this a couple of years after graduation. I was still living in Philadelphia with my first studio after the Academy in a 12th and Spruce walk up studio/loft.
Why did you feel moved to paint him?
I was already in the middle of a body of work titled “The Homeless on the Streets of Philadelphia.” Although I never put his painting into the series I did paint two more portraits of him.
I was moved to paint him because of his beautiful face. Not beautiful in terms of bone structure but beautiful in terms of his character. The lines on his face were earned from every cold night he spent on the cold Philadelphia streets. I usually idealize my models but with Griff I did not have to dream too much.
Talk about the color palette – it’s so vibrant in this painting – why do you choose these colors?
My color palette is always a mix of blues, reds, yellows and lead white. Instead of using lead white for figures, I use a blend of titanium and zinc white.
Where did you paint Winter Waves?
I walked out to West Dennis Beach with my easel to capture waves. This was my first seascape painting since moving to Cape Cod.
What were you feeling when you decided to capture this painting on-site?
I feel so many emotions as most of my paintings are done on-site (plein air). I go from feeling that I’ve captured a moment to What am I doing? I also know the whole time I’m working that painting is a learning experience, a process and ultimately a study.
Winged Victory, Oil, by Dianne Corbeau
Dianne Corbeau started painting in New York City when she was sixteen, where she was represented by several galleries in Midtown and Chelsea.
A graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Dianne was a three-time recipient of The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant. She lived in Philadelphia until 2010 and was was represented for twelve years by the Artist’s House Gallery.
Her work has been exhibited internationally and around the United States, with ongoing gallery representation.
Dianne has also been represented by the Chicago Museum of Art, Chicago IL, Copley Society of Art, Boston, MA, State Street Gallery, Madison, WI and Gallery H, Three Oaks, MI.
Dianne works in her studio on Cape Cod. She can reached by email
You can see more of her work on her website
My intention is to explore and express profound moments of truth.
Painting is not an end in itself but a means of studying the human experience, human condition, connection and alienation of natural elements.
My work is not about copying nature but about bringing forth the fundamental truth of the human experience of life, transformation, regeneration and death.
I explore nature while studying technical elements continuously and transforming the subject matter to a place of timelessness, universality and stillness. Beneath the surface, physiological and psychological factors are studied and portrayed in subtle ways.
Capturing moments of solitude and stillness the human spirit endures through the course of life brings about the most truthful image; in life and in death.
Winter Tree, Oil, by Dianne Corbeau
Griff, Oil, by Dianne Corbeau
Winter Waves, Oil, by Dianne Corbeau