Art is a lifelong learning experienceDec 22, 2022 12:13PM ● By Dianna Barnett
Art has been a lifelong learning experience for Diane and Norm Saulnier. Both have been able to pursue their love of painting, filling their home with all sorts of works.
Norm, now 93, began painting in his early childhood.
“Weren’t we all given those little water color sets by our parents?” he shared, laughing.
His first painting at age 12 was his rendition of a French artist’s church scene.
Norm was born into a family of hobby artists. His mother, grandmother and three brothers all painted.
“I remember Mother painted much like Grandma Moses—she told a story with paints,” he said. “She would paint things from her childhood and had art shows in Massachusetts.”
Similarly, Diane, 80, liked art as a child.
“I was babysitting on Cape Cod and went into an art store at age 16 and bought a set of pastels. Then I progressed to oils,” she said. “I sat on the floor and put my canvas on a chair to paint.”
Both Norm and Diane spent many years admiring the East Coast; however, the Grand Valley called to the Saulniers after a trip west one year. They fell in love with the area and eventually moved here.
“New England winters can get pretty hefty with a lot of snow shoveling,” said Norm. “We’ve been here for 31 years and it’s the best move we’ve ever made.”
The couple first settled in Loma and purchased a small home with some land surrounded by hills and trees. Norm converted a horse shed into an art studio and went to work.
“We became serious about our art and really started to learn,” said Diane.
Diane searched for a group she could be a part of and started with the Brush and Palette Club. It was there she met artist Sarah Oakley.
“Sarah asked me when I was going to bring some of my greeting cards to her gallery,” she said.
Diane displayed her work first with Oakley at her gallery, then in Colorado Canyons Gallery and several Fruita galleries that have since come and gone.
Currently, her cards are available at The Art Center and the Craig Gallery. Both Saulniers have work hanging in Western Valley Family Practice and Family Health West.
The couple’s painting styles are quite different. Norm paints in oils and watercolor. Subjects vary from landscapes to pets to people in a more realistic style.
He often paints from photographs; he recreated Dorothea Lange’s “Country Store on a DirtRoad” in oils. Although he paints prolifically, he has never been paid for one of his pieces until recently. He is currently working on some commissioned pieces.
Also from more traditional beginnings, Diane started with tole painting—a folk art style that uses tin and utensils as a painting medium, then moved on to canvas before progressing to a cold wax medium.
Diane currently does acrylic pours to create a more free, unique piece of work.
“I painted from photos at first, but I lost interest because I was just creating another version of the photographs,” she explained. “I was ready to try something different.”
She said acrylic pours are a great creative opportunity for people who would like to paint but say they have no talent. They can end up with a great piece without worrying about details.
A COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS
Diane loves sharing her talent with others. She has taught classes at Michael’s and The Art Center and also some from her home. For several years, she has hosted a group of women who gather to share their work, learn new techniques and support one another.
Her hand-painted cards also delight people everywhere.
“In 2021, I sent 153 Christmas cards,” said Diane, “and each one was an original.”
COVID threw a kink into communal painting and classes since creatives had to stay home and pursue their work alone. Diane and Norm were no exception.
Diane worked in her converted garage studio and Norm painted on the dining room table.
“It was really hard not to be able to meet with my group each week,” said Diane.
Norm painted 1,200 watercolor paintings during that time.
“We continued painting to preserve our sanity,” he said.
Now the couple is seeking new creative endeavors. Norm builds ship models. And Diane is trying out a new Japanese pen she uses with ink to make floral designs—one of her favorite subjects.
They are thrilled that their granddaughters love creating art as much as they do.
“It’s just like my dad used to say: If you’re bored, pick up a pencil and draw a picture!” said Norm.
To learn more about their work, contact Diane at [email protected]