Wednesday, May 4, 2016


ARYN, oil and cold wax on panel, 12 x 36 x 2 inches, © 2016 Diane McGregor

The new body of work I have been creating since early 2016 has been a rewarding shift in my painting practice. In addition to transitioning to new media (oil and cold wax on deep-cradled Gessobord panels), this work explores a completely different style and subject matter. These new paintings are gestural abstractions inspired by the planet Mars. My husband is an astronomer, and one of his responsibilities has been to serve on the International Astronomical Union's committee that names geological features on Mars. Mars nomenclature is a fascinating process and has a very interesting history, beginning with the Milanese astronomer Schiaparelli’s work in the late 1800s based on his visual observations of the planet. At that time Schiaparelli was only able to observe albedo features (dark and light patterns on the planet’s surface) as seen from the telescopes of that era. Schiaparelli’s thematic nomenclature referred back to geographical and mythical names of the ancient world, and, he chose names “whose sound awakes such pleasant memories.” This procedure for naming features on Mars has continued into the present day. HiRISE, THEMIS, and other orbiting instruments and spacecraft have been able to gather magnificent visual detail of martian geography. I became interested in the martian place names for their poetic and ambiguous associations, and I thought they would make great titles for abstract paintings. The link between titles and imagery has always been an important focus in my work. So I began to study the photographic data that has been gathered from the various spacecraft and I have found a rich resource for “landscape” abstractions that energizes me and seems limitless in its potential.

Monday, February 22, 2016


About a month ago I visited a colleague in her studio, while she was on a nearby retreat in northern New Mexico.  Rebecca Crowell is one of the foremost contemporary painters using oil paint mixed with cold wax medium.  She teaches all over the world.  I was fortunate to spend a few hours watching her work.  I was so inspired that I decided to experiment with cold wax when I got back to my studio. Using Gamblin cold wax medium with oil paint allows for a myriad of textures and effects that I was unable to achieve with oil paint alone.  The wax also helps the paint set up faster, so layering is facilitated. I stopped using stretched canvases – you need a rigid support to paint on, so now I am working on beautiful panels with 2 inch birch cradles (sides). The panels are lovely physical objects in themselves, and, for now, I’m working with small sizes.  I’m no longer using brushes – instead I’m reaching for palette knives, squeegees, scrapers, brayers, and pigment sticks.  I am still in a relatively experimental stage, but I love the results so far, and have decided to move forward with this major transformation in my style and materials. I am taking up a new challenge and I’m very excited about this evolution in my work.

I have been painting grids for five years, and I have been using only oil paints on canvas for more than 30 years. The change in my materials and technique has been a revelation. Sometimes it can be a little frightening to step out of your “comfort zone” and reinvent yourself. But I feel that the New Year and my recent birthday have been nudges to inspire a radical shift. I’m excited, and look forward to creating this new body of work. 

Boreas 1, oil and cold wax on panel, 12 x 6 x 2 inches

Boreas 2, oil and cold wax on panel, 12 x 6 x 2 inches

Hesperia, diptych, oil and cold wax on panel, 6 x 8 x 2 inches each panel