When you’re an artist, it’s not just a job, it’s your identity. Watermedia artist Deanna Weinholtz was always drawing as a young girl. She credits one of her aunts, who is also an artist, as her inspiration. "I looked up to her and we always talked about art when she came to visit," Weinholtz says.
Her work is informed by weekends and summers spent at Redwing Cottages, the summer resort built by her great-grandfather on Lake Chemong, located two hours north of Toronto, Ontario.
"A lot of my inspiration comes from being outside; there was no television at the cottage until I was in high school, so we had to find our own entertainment," says Weinholtz. As a child and teen, she spent her time at the cottage watching the Northern Lights, lying on the beach at night looking at the stars, and sitting by the lake listening to the water lap against the rocks lining the shore.
"A lot of my water-themed paintings are inspired by this," says Weinholtz. "When we go out there now, once we get past Toronto and get into the countryside, I feel peaceful and that I am home."
Weinholtz graduated from Buffalo State College with a degree in graphic design and worked in that field for several years before her husband John and she started a family. "I was always doing something artistic, even when raising the kids; making floral arrangements, dressmaking, and more." Now that her three kids are grown, it’s come full circle, she says.
"Drawing and painting are my artistic outlets; it’s not just a job, it’s who I am."
Weinholtz’s art, which features seascapes and landscapes, can best be described as Representational Abstract; realistic, but not; it’s bit looser than realism. She uses optical mixing of her paints, mixing her colors in thin layers on the painting, rather than on a pallet. When working with acrylic paints, she uses them almost like watercolors, adding layer upon layer to create depth and dimension, sometimes using her fingers and rags as tools to achieve the effect.
When she paints during the day, she plays loud music and dances and sings. "I feel joy while I paint!" In the evening, she puts on more mellow classical or Italian music and draws. "Drawing is my happy place," says Weinholtz. Her in-home art studio was designed and built by Weinholtz and her father.
Buyers identify with the themes in her paintings, for example, sunsets over water. "Many people go to the same place for vacation every year; some will say, ‘That painting reminds me of__’".
Art as therapy
Two years ago, when she and her husband took a trip to Italy to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary, Weinholtz was injured while touring Pompeii. She fell three feet off an elevated area, fracturing her spine and breaking both her wrists, an injury that would be bad for anyone, but devastating for an artist.
Weinholtz spent almost a year recovering while working with an occupational therapist and then a personal trainer. While she was first recuperating from wrist surgery and had casts on, she spent her time playing DVDs of her favorite artists at work and studied color theory and design. Once the casts came off, she had to wear splints, which she took off only for therapy and drawing. However, her wrists were still fractured, and drawing was painful. Her therapist encouraged her to paint, rather than draw, but Weinholtz insisted on drawing because it calmed and centered her.
As she healed, her therapist continued to encourage her to paint with large brush strokes to help regain movement in her wrists and fingers. She finally decided to try painting with watercolors. Her first painting was In Un Prossimo Futuro this means "in the near future" in Italian. It was based on the last photo she took in Italy before she fell. This painting won "People’s Choice Award" in the Buffalo Society of Artists Member’s Exhibition.
"While the fall was bad, it actually was the best thing to happen to me, because it caused me to reevaluate my life. I met amazing therapists who helped me; friends and family stepped in; and I was able to get back to the basics with my art and strengthen my art skills."
"I never saw myself as a teacher," says Weinholtz. But, when she was invited to give a demonstration to the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society, she agreed to do it. "I was terrified to speak in front of people and was nervous at first about painting in front of my peers for two hours. However, once I got started, I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed it." During intermission, people came up to her and asked if she taught classes. "I heard myself saying, ‘Why, yes, yes I do!’"
Weinholtz normally teaches classes at the River Art Gallery and Gift Shop (www.riverartgalleryandgifts.com) in North Tonawanda, where she is a resident artist, as well as at Hyatt’s on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. (www.hyatts.com). This spring, due to the pandemic, she was unable to continue in-person classes for current students, so she experimented with teaching online classes on Zoom.
Her work was included as part of 20/20 Vision: Women Artists in Western New York at the Castellani Art Museum, (www.castellaniartmuseum.org) on the campus of Niagara University and she was selected to be an exhibitor in the 100 American Craftsmen 50th Golden Anniversary Show at the Kenan Center, Lockport, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has artist work available online at www.100americancraftsmen.com. Weinholtz also submits her artwork to local, regional, and national art shows and has won several local and national awards.
To find out more about Deanna Weinholtz and to see examples of her artwork, visit her website www.deannaweinholtz.com.
Christine Smyczynski is the author of Explorers Guide Buffalo Niagara Falls and Backroads & Byways of Upstate New York.