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Menlo Park Renaissance: Diana Jaye

An interpretation of the artist's oil painting collection, Views of San Francisco.

Much unlike many of the people here in Silicon Valley, Menlo Park artist Diana Jaye chooses to lay off the ear buds while she’s working. 

“I’m trying to create the atmosphere, and music is too distracting,” Jaye explained to me in the front room of the Viewpoints Gallery.

“The sounds of the air, the traffic, and the birds all help me get a feeling for the atmosphere,” Jaye said.

To transfer that sense onto a canvas, she creates a spectrum of colors from only four tubes of paint: magenta, cadmium yellow, thalo blue, and white. This practice of carrying only as much as is necessary comes from her involvement in the group Peninsula Outdoor Painters, which is a group of artists who follow the philosophy of painting “on location, outdoors, in the open air.”

Jaye is primarily a landscape painter who created her collection Views of San Francisco from a variety of places on the Peninsula, painting what she saw on the scene as soon as it could be captured.  Her biggest challenge is to paint a scene before the sun changes position and changes the way the light hits things.

“When I see something in nature, the joy is to be there when it happens to catch it,” Jaye said.

Jaye chose oil paintings for this collection to relish in the freedom of being able to paint over what she has painted already, which she found particularly helpful during the process of painting “Union and Leavensworth.”  This piece is of the view from that intersection in San Francisco, California, a vision of townhome-dotted hillsides rolling towards a horizon hugged by fog.  This painting has an incredible depth of field, enabling you to see what is up close to you, such as a sun-kissed light post, as well as the lush hilltops located miles in the distance.

It was Menlo Park resident Margy Lim’s favorite.

“I was enchanted with it the first time I saw it, “Lim said. “There’s all that fog and then all of a sudden the sun breaks through.”

Fun fact: One of the cars in that painting began as a bright red color, but was later muted to prevent it from being the dominant image on the canvas.

This painting is one of the 14 paintings from the collection that Jaye had chosen to adorn the walls of the gallery.

Another one of the paintings called “Golden Gate from Lincoln Drive” was true to the collection’s theme and contained a San Francisco landmark framed from the top of a hill in the city.  The focus of this one is a visual element that can be found in many of the other paintings in this collection, the emblematic Golden Gate Bridge. The painting is detailed enough to deduce that quick strokes created the leaves on the trees that frame the bridge within the border of the painting.  But the leaves are not so intricately portrayed that you can see the veins on each one. Much is implied with larger shapes of color. Jaye's style is to start off with a larger brush and work her way into the detail, as she races against the setting sun to preserve a well-lit moment. 

Although these moments of artistic expression are ones make her heart race these days, it is only recently that she began to paint again.  She made the decision to shelve her art for 25 to 30 years while she was in high school.  She had just won an award and traveled to Kansas to accept it.  At the event, she began to talk to people about the possibility of becoming a career artist.  That’s when she was exposed to harsh reality that artists quite often starve if they are not popular.  And while she loved the creative process, she said she knew that she had to go down a career path that did not include art.

“I said to myself, I’m post-poning this until money is not an issue,” Jaye explained.

She went on to have a successful accounting career with Tribotech in Redwood City, maker of roller bearings and other parts for equipment manufacturing companies, and now spends some of her free time expressing her perspective through her paintbrushes. Jaye has lived in Menlo Park for 42 years, mostly in the Menlo Oaks neighborhood.  

To inquire about specific pieces she has done,  you can visit the Viewpoints Gallery in Los Altos, or contact her directly via her website.

diana jaye February 22, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Three of the San Francisco paintings, including "Union & Leavenworth", are currently being exhibited at the Menlo Park Library until March 1. They are behind the reception desk.

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