BROOKSVILLE — Writer and poet Oscar Wilde once said that "every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."
Ask Brooksville artist Diane Becker about that and she will tell you it's true. In fact, she tells her students that a portrait could never fully come alive if an artist only copied the subject from a photo, not capturing the nuances and spirit of his or her subject.
"Ultimately, you want to capture something that perhaps only you can see, but with the hope that others will see it, too," Becker said from her home studio in Brooksville this week. "That's a challenge for a lot of people who are learning to paint. But once you learn how to see from an artistic perspective, you realize there's no other way to do it."
Becker, who has taught painting for more than four decades, is perhaps Hernando County's best-known portrait artist. Her painting of former Sheriff Tom Mylander hangs prominently in the lobby of the Sheriff's Office. She has also contributed works to the Brooksville Mural Society community art project.
Becker, who will be among the artists participating in the Spring Hill Art League's Fall Harvest of Art at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park this weekend, will tell you one of her greatest joys comes from creating commissioned portraits of loved ones that families will cherish forever.
"I love the challenge of trying to capture the individuality and personality of a person, whether it's an adult or a child. Once it's finished, I feel like I've honored both myself and the person I've painted."
A native of St. Louis, Becker's pursuit of portraiture started at an early age when she began entering mail-in contests with drawing of faces she had copied from pictures. By the time she reached high school, she had already decided she wanted to attend the prestigious School of Fine Art at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Painting is all I ever wanted to do," Becker said.
Finding the time to paint while raising a family wasn't easy. It wasn't until she moved to Hernando County in the early 1990s with her husband and two sons that Becker decided to make a profession of it.
Becker spent 10 years teaching art at Pasco-Hernando Community College and another 20 teaching adult education art at the county Recreation Department in Brooksville, the High Point Community Center and the Spring Hill Enrichment Center.
Several years ago, Becker built a studio at her home outside of Brooksville, where she currently teaches painting three times a week.
Becker readily admits that more than 30 years of teaching others how to paint has enabled her to better understand the essence of her technique.
"I think painting is a process that continues to evolve over time," Becker said. "I always tell my students that once you learn how to see it, you can paint it. For me, that's the fun part."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.