About Dianne



“My interest in art began at a very young age.” (Dianne Dengel®)

Dianne was born on January 1, 1939 in Rochester and grew up in Chili, a suburb of Rochester, where her father built a humble home from scraps of timber where she resided all her life. Her mother Mildred, noticed the gift her daughter had with art and helped her to pursue it. Mildred would bring home pieces of cardboard from dress shirts from Edwards, a department store where she worked. As a small child, Dianne would use this cardboard to practice drawing on. Since her family was poor, the budget didn’t allow for expenses like paintbrushes and canvas. As her art matured, she scrimped and saved for tubes of oil paints but had no money left for brushes , thus embarking on a journey that makes this artist well known for painting with her fingers and rolled bits of paper. The artistic influences of the time for Dianne were covers of magazines from the 1940’s. This is where her eye for people developed. She felt a closer connection to people rather than landscapes.

Humphrey Bogart’s mother, Maud Bogart (of Rochester, N.Y.) was an artist who Dianne relished. Maud was an innovative artist who captured the sweet innocence of childhood in her original style. Her paintings were like dry watercolor-etchings which companies long sought after. She produced over 10 illustrations per week, accumulating an estimate of 30,000 originals which were printed and re-printed by publishers by the millions. If you read about Maud, you will soon feel an artistic connection between these two fine ladies.

Dianne came into her own when she was about eighteen, passing up scholarship offers and even trying out college for a short period. Her mentors tried to persuade her to seek out teaching as her chosen career path but she didn’t agree. She decided instead to take up an opportunity of creating portraits. At the time, portraits were going for about $1.50 a piece and drawn with colored pencils.

During this interview she remarked, “That was a good amount of money back in those days, you’ve got to remember that rent was only about $40 back then.”

There wasn’t time for marriage or raising a family either. She went on to say that her pursuit of artistic happiness just would have been in the way of all that. Dianne took her work on the road and exhibited her art in places like Greenwich Village among other cities across the United States.

Her mother accompanied her on her trips watching Dianne demonstrate her skills to a bewildered audience. Dianne says, “These shows were not always so glamorous, putting up with the heat when outdoors and the inconsistent benefits that come with the territory. Sometimes my mother and I would go home hungry”. Her mother would tell her not to worry and “never give up”. Mildred loved the dolls that Dianne created so much that she would interview the prospective buyer and then kiss them each goodbye after their sale.

Dianne’s claim to fame came in 1984 when Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” while going through his fathers’ belongings, found a portrait drawing Dianne had drawn of his father. Fred loved the portrait of his father so much he sent a talent scout to Rochester to visit with Dianne and see if she was interested in painting his portrait too.

The scout was thrilled when Dianne agreed and was excited to tell Fred Rogers about her art and sculptures. The television crew came in to Dianne’s small home and began filming for what took two days. She completed half of a portrait on air and Mr. Rogers then commissioned her to do another. He was delighted when Dianne showed him the completed painting of himself surrounded by all of his puppets.

The two episodes ran on PBS for years and still continues. Dianne recalled Fred Rogers being very polite, courteous and very genuine in nature.

For all those Oprah fans, Dianne painted a special picture for her on Oprah’s 50th birthday:
Oprah Winfrey receives painting from Dianne DengelDianne felt that she just needed to paint her as a child because it was sad that such a nice lady didn’t have many pictures of herself looking happy. Oprah was nice enough to write back a sweet note and enclose a picture of herself with the painting.

Dianne not only paints but creates fabric dolls and paints them; exhibits her work at shows; has several puzzles out by Sun’s Out Inc. including her most famous painting “Home Sweet Home” ( a huge seller in Turkey) and is the illustrator for a diversity and environment-themed book (currently awaiting publishing). Her puzzles of her most beloved, “Home Sweet Home” can be purchased at the Greece Craft and Antique Co-Op (http://www.craftantiqueco-op.com/ ) and online at http://www.diannedengel.com where she also has many paintings, prints and dolls on display. Dianne mentioned that her mother delighted in these dolls, an inspiration for her to create them.


Dianne’s own words:

I never attended a posh art academy. I taught myself the intricacies of transforming a blank canvas into an oil painting.

I began artistic endeavors at a young age. My dear mother noticed my talent when I was 3 years old.

My family had little money and my mother, who worked at ‘Edwards’, a department store in Rochester, NY, brought home shirt packaging cardboard for me to use as canvas.

She encouraged me. She was my dearest fan, she gave up lunch money to buy me a pencil at Sullivan’s on South Avenue in Rochester, NY. I loved her. She was a big part of my art life.

And the art became a major part of my life. Using oil paints, rolled up pieces of paper towels and my fingers, I created paintings.

My subjects are not the lush landscapes of the region nor are they bold and abstract works.

My work mostly has to do with people. I was born to make people. Some artists are wonderful with landscapes and modernistic work. I’m a people person.

A couple years ago, taking part in a Cooperstown art show, I was “discovered” by a calendar company and provided art for its 2007 calendars. I had a contract that covered several years to create more art for calendars.

I don’t participate in as many art shows as I once did – like the Canandaigua’s Waterfront Art Festival.
But, in addition to the Canandaigua downtown show, I’m usually a ‘regular’ at the Clothesline Festival at Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery. Come September, I will try to return to that gathering.

I have had a long life as an artist – I love to be older, I am 72 years old now and appreciate my long journey. Some of the worst hardships are behind me.
Now I am continuing my fight against ovarian cancer. I want to live a few more years to paint and to give the world more of my art that has always warmed your heart.


Dianne in front of her booth at the Park Ave Summer Arts Festival 2011 in Rochester