Unique Lens

Artist builds on photographs to make original works

By Jessica Laskey
May 2024

Dianne Poinski admits much of her career has been serendipitous.

Consider her introduction to the art form she’s worked in for most of her life.

A self-described “book worm and math kid,” Poinski didn’t try anything artistic until she took a black-and-white photography course in college to satisfy an art requirement. Her passion for photography was born.

In the 1990s, Poinski started taking portraits of her children with a Pentax K1000 camera, a gift from her husband. She took a hand-coloring class at The Darkroom, fell in love with the process, and thought about selling her work at art festivals.

Serendipity intervened. She was seated next to someone at a dinner party who sold at art festivals and helped her get started. She says, “It just snowballed from there.”

Though Poinski planned to become an accountant and “had no intention of becoming an artist,” her passion for photography was irrepressible. (Even while working as a bookkeeper at Lightworks, Poinski went next door to The Darkroom for classes.)

Her accounting prowess came in handy. In her years on the art festival circuit, traveling as far south as La Jolla and as far north as Bellevue, Washington, she says she was “probably the only artist who knew how to do my own tax return.”

When it began to get difficult to procure paper and film, Poinski realized the digital age had arrived. She started experimenting with Photoshop and discovered a new way to create unique photography.

“I used to get angry when people would see my prints at art festivals and think it was Photoshop,” Poinski says. “I even put up a picture of myself hand-coloring to prove I’d done it. But now, I love my computer.”

Over the years, Poinski experimented with different papers, tools and mediums. She eventually landed on pan pastels on ink jet paper. Now she favors encaustic, a process involving paint, wax and heat.

After creating an image in Photoshop, she makes a print on a panel and applies four to six layers of clear encaustic medium over the top. She embellishes the work with pigmented wax and oil to “create depth and texture.”

“I joke that I always have to put my hands on my photograph somehow,” she says. “First it was hand-coloring, then encaustics. I like to make original art out of my photographs.”

If you’ve attended Second Saturday during the last 20 years, you’ve probably seen her work at ARTHOUSE on R Street. Poinski has been a member of the collaborative gallery and studio since 2005. Once again, serendipity intervened.

“I went to a Second Saturday at ARTHOUSE and thought, I would love to have a studio here,” she says. “I mentioned it to a friend, who contacted me a while later to see if I was still interested because a studio had become available. I’m now the second-longest member and in my fourth studio space.”

Studios at ARTHOUSE are open to the public during the day. Artists welcome visitors. Poinski loves her interactions with folks who wander upstairs to discover the studios.

“ARTHOUSE is such a unique situation,” Poinski says. “We have the studios and we have the gallery. Each studio is responsible for one (exhibition) a year. We’re not a co-op, but we work together to make this thing happen. For four years, I actually managed the whole space, but now we all share that responsibility. Funnily enough, now I’m in charge of bookkeeping!”

How serendipitous.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at “Artists at Work!” on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at ARTHOUSE at 1021 R St.

For information, visit diannepoinski.com and arthouseonr.com.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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