In spring and summer, she paints out of doors, capturing Sheridan’s idyllic scenes in rich oil hues as she sees them in real time.
Local artist Dianne Wyatt has been drawn to plein air painting since she took pencil and paintbrush in hand in an art class at Sheridan College. A Spanish teacher turned stay-at-home mom, she found herself longing to learn a new activity when her two children reached an age where they could care for themselves.
Her own mom had enjoyed painting, so Wyatt had exposure to art. When a friend suggested taking an art class, it didn’t take much convincing.
“It was the power of suggestion,” Wyatt said. “When I did, I just experienced that shift over to the right side of my brain. Time just passed, and I didn’t even notice it. The next time I looked up it was three hours later.”
She drew in class and out of class, eventually taking all the art courses offered at the community college. Since Wyatt already held a degree in Spanish, she was only three semesters away from earning a bachelor’s degree in art, too. She enrolled at the University of Wyoming.
The first semester, she took her daughter with her to Laramie and her son stayed in Sheridan with her husband, Bob Wyatt. The next semester, she took her son to Laramie. The third semester, she made a weekly commute to Laramie and back, earning her degree in 1990.
Like many college graduates, Wyatt suddenly had to decide what to do with her education. She had grown up in Denver, attended college in California and even spent a year in Mexico, but the subjects she loved most were the scenes she had called home since moving to Sheridan in 1974 a year after she and Bob were married.
“You look around in Wyoming and you see landscape,” Wyatt said. “You don’t see cityscapes. The land is very present, so I decided I’d paint the land.”
Wyatt began to take easel, paper and paints to surrounding ranches, conservation areas and favorite hideaways in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains. Sometimes she paints by the side of the road, and sometimes with friends, but she always enjoys the escape into the right side of her brain in the lands she loves.
“There’s just some favorite places that it’s different each time you go back there because maybe it’s a different season, or maybe the light’s different. I just never get tired of painting around here,” Wyatt said.
After taking a class in pastels, Wyatt was drawn to the immediacy of the medium. Without a brush in hand, she could draw with speed and vigor in the tempo of the Latin music she often plays in her studio.
Now, Wyatt spends summers painting outdoors and winters working with pastels in the bright, airy studio she and her husband completed behind their house a year ago. She has become a well-known and well-loved artist in Sheridan, but she can’t tell you how many shows she’s had over the last 30 years. She will joke that the friends who came to her first show at Sheridan College were “really good friends because it was really bad.”
Then she’ll smile and laugh in her bright, airy manner, and it becomes evident her art is an extension of her personality.
As SAGE Community Arts executive director Kate Harrington said of Wyatt’s current show at the art center: “It’s like stepping into a garden.”