We had the good fortune of connecting with Diane Bombshelter and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diane, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I have always been a creative-type, but I was encouraged to pursue a more academic & secure career. When I chose to go to college, I studied Electrical Engineering. I made it through two & a half years when I realized this was not the career for me. In 2004, I took a drawing class & it lit me up! I took more art classes & it became clear this was my path. At the time, I was working as an Administrative Assistant for a Financial Planner. Not a lot of opportunity to express my artistic side there. I found it difficult to switch gears from working in an office during the day to creating art in my spare time. I was lucky enough that I had the means to quit my day-job & fully dedicate my time to my art.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started teaching myself to paint on black velvet in 2007. While doing research, I came across the work of Edgar Leeteg of Tahiti. His masterpiece portraits of Tahitian people completely changed my perception of what black velvet paintings could be. Changing people’s perception through my body of work has now become my mission. I made a pilgrimage to The Velveteria Museum of Velvet Paintings in 2008 & that really blew my mind. The proprietors have thousands of velvet paintings in their collection which really fanned the flames of inspiration in me. I now look at the world through black velvet glasses. If I think something will look great on black velvet, I will follow that muse. Currently, I’m inspired by Jazz Age nudes and the Art Deco movement. I’ve also been inspired by Chinese Kung Fu movies, Tiki culture, Celebrity, TV and kitsch. I got to where I am professionally by dedicating my life to my art, working collectively with other artists & shameless self-promotion. Originally, I worked out of my house and progress was very slow. I decided to rent space at an Artists/Tattoo collective called Southbound Studios. Working in a creative environment with other talented artists accelerated my progression. This led to being featured in an episode of Arizona Highways Television. The following year I had my first, solo art opening in The Hotel Congress lobby. It turned out to be one of my most successful shows. Cherry Art Editions then commissioned me to do 20 paintings on black velvet that were turned into a limited-edition card deck. My first solo show at La Matadora Gallery in Joshua Tree, CA was the second most successful I’ve had. Since, then I have been in other group shows at La Matadora Gallery. I sometimes work Art Fairs in town; some of them lucrative, some just breaking even. For the past year, I have had steady sales at The Parish Restaurant here in Tucson. This is where you can currently check out my work. Not only do I love to paint on black velvet, I also love doing mosaic murals and making Art Cars. I took a mosaic mural workshop in 2010 with Isaiah Zagar in Philadelphia, PA. 7 years later, I was commissioned to create a 7 ft. x 7 ft. mosaic mural at Saint Charles Tavern in South Tucson. The mural took me 7 days to complete and can be seen on the wall of the tavern’s back patio. I am currently working on a 13 ft. x 6 ft. Tiki-themed mosaic mural in my backyard. In 2003, I attended Art Car Fest in San Francisco, CA that inspired me to make two of my own Art Cars. The first one is at Art Car World, an Art Car museum in Douglas, AZ . The other is my current car that I drive everyday. Of course, these past 14 years have not been easy! When presented with the many challenges of commissioned work, finding suitable studio space, marketing & gallery shows, I just dove-in! I got through the challenges because of my many years of yoga/meditation practice! But I also knew those challenges would help me grow as a person & an artist, I was very determined. I have an Andy Warhol purse that had a copy of one of his rejection letters in it. I would remind myself of that when I would have to deal with rejection of my work. You keep going because you love doing the work of making your art. I’ve learned that that really translates & vibrates with people when they observe your creations.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would go to The Parish Restaurant to check out my artwork & have drinks & a nosh. Next must-do is go to Saint Charles Tavern to see my mosaic mural then eat at Crossroads, my favorite Mexican restaurant. Go hiking in the Santa Catalinas & have drinks at Kon Tiki. Stroll down 4th Ave. for shopping & maybe some drinks at The Surly Wench (I have several commissioned pieces hanging there). I would take them to Bisbee, have lunch at Poco, explore the shops & galleries, get pastries from Patisserie Jacqui, visit friends & have dinner at Roka. I would take them to Douglas to Art Car World to check out the Art Car Museum. Back in Tucson, we could do yoga & I’d make them dinner. I love to cook! Depending on what live music was happening, I’d take them to a show of one of our fabulous local musicians. All of this when we can move about without fear of the virus, of course.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Do I have to choose just one? The main two would be Don Holbrook & Kate Pearson. Others are George Welch, Caren & Carl of The Velveteria Museum of Velvet Paintings, Colleena Hake, Wendy Gadzuk, Tracy Ledbetter, Elizabeth Cherry, Steven Eye, Gretchen Baer, Harrod Blank, Susan Frank, Justine Hernandez, Sarah & Bobby Franko, The Parish Restaurant, Saint Charles Tavern, La Matadora Gallery, Hotel Congress & everybody that has bought my art!
First image of me taken by Colleena Hake at La Matadora Gallery.