Living By the Light: Dianne Saron

Door County’s vivid landscapes, fiery autumn foliage and light-reflecting waters capture the attention of thousands of visitors every year, and for the few lucky among them, become the driving force in securing some sort of permanence here.

Dianne Saron counts herself among those lucky few. Fifteen years ago, after marrying former Sturgeon Bay teacher and football coach Gordon Saron in 2001, she made her home in Egg Harbor, relishing the evening glow of sunsets over Green Bay, the breathtaking winter skies, and, of course, the galleries that lined the peninsula.

"Dunes at Baileys Harbor" by Dianne Saron.

“Dunes at Baileys Harbor” by Dianne Saron.

It was a far cry from the life Saron had led to that point – until her retirement in 2002, life as a district hotel manager included frequent travel, detailed schedules and no time for making art. But as she settled into her retired life, Saron quickly made the jump from consumer of art to creator.

With camera in hand, she began capturing stills of the county’s landscapes, sunsets and changing skies – three natural features that have been a mainstay in her life since childhood.

“Skies are so important to me because growing up, we always had cottages, always had lakes,” Saron said. “My first husband passed away 24 years ago and we always lived on a lake. You got up in the morning and you just looked at the lake, at the sky.”

Little did Saron know these preservations of Door County through the seasons would find new life in pastel form thanks in part to a business art class at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, where under the direction of facilitator Mary Bosman, Saron’s eyes would be opened to the vivid world of pastels.

“I started taking classes from her through NWTC in Sturgeon Bay and Ephraim twice a week and loved what she was doing,” Saron said. “Before that, I had just done charcoal portraiture and pen-and-ink.”

A work in progress.

A work in progress.

That class was the catalyst for Saron’s life as a student of the Door County art scene, counting among her influences artists Tom Christopher, Colette Odya Smith and Marla Baggetta.

“I took many classes. In fact, I went out to the art school and got a list of all the artists that I’ve taken from over the years and I said to Gordon, ‘You could’ve retired a year earlier!’” she laughed. “I love to learn and I love different processes. I do oils also. I love the oil; I love the mixing of the colors, but there’s something about those pastels, putting your hands to the paper.”

Light-capturing landscapes have become the dominant focus of Saron’s work in pastels, some of which have been exhibited at The Hardy Gallery, The William S. Fairfield Art Museum and the Miller Art Museum.

Each piece begins with an acrylic or watercolor underpainting to establish its values. Saron often experiments with different paper surfaces and boards, and largely builds each piece off the photographs she takes around the peninsula. A small number of pieces are created en plein air, but all are done with a sense of freedom Saron has developed since landing in Door County 14 years ago.

“I love that part,” Saron said. “That took a long time to go from that mindset and art brought me there, plus the experience of looking for joy in things. I don’t need to be worried about what it’s going to look like. It’s going to be what it is in the end.”

"Window Into Yesterday" by Dianne Saron.

“Window Into Yesterday” by Dianne Saron.

For fellow Door County Art League member Connie Glowacki, Saron’s landscapes represent freedom of color and the depth of her commitment to her medium.

“She does beautiful pastel work and she’s continued to grow and use more colors,” Glowacki said. “You have a sentiment when you look at her pictures … she’s marvelously developed and has a little more freedom in the use of different colors which might not be there but you accept because they are the right value.”

That grasp on pastels, values and light has led to Saron to facilitate painting classes at different Door County venues. She is also a member of the Peninsula School of Art’s gallery committee, program director for the Door County Art League, a member of The Hardy Gallery, and a docent at Miller Art Museum.

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