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Artist brings paintings to new heights

November 07, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Diana Suttenfield's paintings are looking up, way up.

Suttenfield has been a professional artist since about 1970, and many of her works have focused on landscape scenes in Jefferson and Washington counties.

Suttenfield said she believed she had developed her own style, but she was looking for something more.

She said she wanted more of an emphasis on skies in her pastel paintings, but the black paper she used as a base for her works was not conducive to creating the scenes she envisioned.

Suttenfield switched to a white "museum board," and her paintings moved into a new realm.

By allowing some of the museum board to show through, Suttenfield has been able to produce vivid sky scenes, such as the one she produced in the painting, "How Fair This View."

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The painting depicts a view of the Blue Ridge Mountain from Shepherd Grade Road just outside of Shepherdstown and includes nearby landmarks such as the old James Rumsey Bridge over the Potomac River.

But the emphasis here is blue sky, and lots of it.

The giant painting measures 56 inches by 40 inches, and about three-fourths of the picture is devoted to blue skies and billowing clouds.

Skies become the theme again in Suttenfield's painting "Katrina," named after the hurricane that ripped through Louisiana and Mississippi.

The entire scene in the painting shows a band of clouds which are dark and threatening near the bottom of the picture, but gradually brighten near the top.

"I didn't want it to be too depressing and ominous," Suttenfield said from inside the AIIA gallery where 41 of her new works are on display.

The picture gradually gives way to blue sky at the top, which Suttenfield said she created to convey a sense of hope and optimism.

Suttenfield has created more than 1,000 works over the years, and her art has been exhibited around West Virginia and the world and is part of private collections owned by United Airlines, U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.

Despite her success, Suttenfield is not resting on her laurels, and is instead pushing ahead with her new style which she said is making painting more intriguing to her.

"I think I'm finding my voice. Now it's a new adventure," Suttenfield said.

Most of the 41 new works exhibited at the AIIA gallery along Flowing Springs Road were created by Suttenfield within the last year.

Suttenfield paints in her house off Morgan's Grove Road and said creating artwork is a constant process for her.

"If I'm not painting, I'm thinking about painting," said Suttenfield, who often is searching for local scenes to reflect in her paintings.

The 41 works at AIIA gallery, which range in price from $285 to $3,000, will be on display until Saturday.

The new works also reveal Suttenfield's use of Diane Townsend's pastels, which Suttenfield uses to create more soft pictures of local scenes compared to the crisp images that have dominated her work in the past.

Charles Johnson, an Art in America critic, described Suttenfield's works as having "stunning techniques." Suttenfield has a full understanding of pastels' potentials and limitations and said the "eye is dazzled" by the works, according to a review by Johnson which is being distributed by AIIA.

Suttenfield started her career in pen and ink and later began using color pencils. From there, Suttenfield moved into watercolors, oils and pastels.

Not all of her works meet the public's eye.

Suttenfield said for every one of the works at AIIA, about three to six hit the trash.

Suttenfield's works have been exhibited in the Governor's Mansion and the Sunrise Museum in Charleston, W.Va., the Stiffel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling, W.Va., West Virginia University and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Suttenfield's artwork has been exhibited through the U.S. State Department's Art in Embassies Program, which involves exhibiting American artwork in embassies around the world to help illustrate U.S. culture.

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