Diane's Dynamic World: Vibrant art, 4000 masks, and war-themed eggs for Ukraine
MADOC, ONT. -- She’s a bold personality, with an even bolder palette.
“When did I know I wanted to be an artist? Always, always, always,” said Diane Woodward.
“It was like magic for me to make things more colourful.”
There are minimalists. And then, there’s Diane.
“I don’t like empty spaces. I’m a maximalist. What’s a maximalist? It’s decorating the decorated decorations. How far too far can I go?” she said, smiling.
Diane moved to Madoc, Ont. from Ottawa 22 years ago, bringing her trademark blazes of colour to the town’s landscape.
“When I was a kid, I used to take the bus from Toronto to Ottawa and I just wanted to live on the edge of a little town in an eyesore tourist attraction,” she said.
“I realize now I should have dreamed bigger,” she laughed.
Her property is hardly an eyesore. It’s a feast for your eyes; an unending, sumptuous buffet in every direction. There are layers of painted treasures up, down and all around!
“The house is a by-product of my constant need to make stuff,” she said.
“At first, I was painting people. And then people and animals and then I was like ‘what do you paint after you paint animals?’ I ended up painting God. So, I traveled around India painting temples there and temple art.”
Diane’s inspiration is everywhere.
“There’s some very joyful paintings. Little kids so excited, looking like they’re going to explode which was very fun.”
But Diane’s house of smiles hasn’t been immune to the world’s heartaches.
“For the last two years, I’ve been the ‘Madoc Mask Fairy’,” she said.
Encouraged by a doctor friend at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Diane began sewing masks and giving them away.
“As of last night, I’ve made 4,242 masks,” she said.
Diane’s offering to others has been a gift to her.
“Can you imagine what it’s done to my life over the last two years to hear that four thousand times? They say, ‘Thank you, this is beautiful, I just love it.’ This is what got me through the pandemic.”
And Diane understands the fragility of health.
“I had uterine cancer,” she said.
“I was so lucky I found out when I did.”
She says thanks to surgery and excellent medical care, her cancer is gone. And, she says, the experience helped her reframe a lifelong struggle with mental health.
“I was suicidal from the time I was seven until I was 57,” she said.
“I’m happy now. The cancer didn’t make me happy but my unhappiness is gone.”
That said, Diane feels to her core the collective grief and anguish of war.
“There’s a feeling of helplessness. So, I paint. And I’m doing war paintings right now with Ukrainian Easter eggs,” she said.
“I’ve painted pictures of Ukrainian Easter eggs for decades. It’s a thing of beauty that Ukraine has given to the world.”
A portion of the sales from her paintings will go to Ukrainian relief efforts.
For now, creating powerful paintings of the eggs will be Diane’s mission.
Her future, like a self-portrait leaning against a wall in one of her kaleidoscopic rooms, is a work in progress, just waiting to embrace all the colours of life.
“Ambition, like fame, fortune and beautiful lovers, I’m not interested in that stuff any more. But I’m driven. Every day, I get up and I make something.”