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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Artist Diana Madaras Shares Her Private Spaces

Dec 03, 2014 01:59AM ● By Paula Frighetti

Diana Madaras with Birds in the Saguaro

Diana Madaras, a talented, award-winning artist with a generous heart,
is passionate about life. Her passion is expressed in her paintings and
in the way she lives her life to the fullest.

Madaras moved to Tucson in 1976 to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Arizona. After graduating, she began a career in sports marketing, working at major national events like the PGA Tour and rubbing elbows with celebrities like Joe Garagiola and President Gerald Ford.

On a month-long painting trip to Greece in 1993, Madaras began to see the world in a different way, with “color, shapes, shadow and value.” In Greece, she reconnected with her love of painting. Five years later, she sold her marketing company and began a second career painting full-time. Over the next five years, she opened two galleries and established herself as one of the most recognized fine artists in the area, becoming living proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

Madaras is a member of the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild and has been voted Tucson’s Best Visual Artist five times. Her paintings have been displayed in the Tucson Museum of Art, she’s been featured on television shows and dozens of newspapers and magazine articles have been written about her.

She describes her work as abstract realism. Her role models include the American landscape painter and printmaker Winslow Homer and American realist painter, author and teacher Richard Schmid. Once a year, she attends a workshop with an artist she admires to learn new techniques and perspectives to keep her “fresh and interested and excited about painting.”

Madaras works a set schedule that includes painting daily at her home studio. She is most productive during the day, when the light coming through the north-facing windows is at its best. Using photos as both inspiration and starting point for her art, she utilizes both watercolors and acrylics, letting her instinct guide which medium will work best for any particular piece.

The artist has received numerous awards for her community service and philanthropy, including being named Philanthropist of the Year in 1999 by the Arthritis Foundation. Her generosity has helped more than 100 charities. She donates thousands of dollars worth of paintings and art gifts to the Boys and Girls Club’s annual auction, and her art calendar benefits animal causes.

Madaras’ father was a veterinarian, and she grew up around a veterinary hospital loving animals. She founded and serves as president of the nonprofit Art for Animals, an organization that helps abused, injured and orphaned animals. Art for Animals is funded by the proceeds from gallery events and private donations. In 2007, fulfilling a lifelong dream, she went on a photographic safari in Botswana and South Africa.

Paintings created from that journey comprised her 2008 art show, African Sojourn. The proceeds went to Art for Animals, with additional funds from other artists going to five different charities. Madaras believes that when one is fortunate in life, it is important to help others and offer a hand up to those in need. She says, “If I can help animals and people through my art, there’s nothing better.”

Her newest project is a beautiful and unique coffee table art book and autobiography, Private Spaces. A collector’s set packaged in a clamshell box with an eight-by-10-inch signed and numbered limited edition giclée and certificate of authenticity is also available.

Madaras began Private Spaces in a serendipitous way. During a trip about 18 months ago, she found herself in the unusual situation of having some extra free time. She headed to Nordstrom’s to shop, only to find it closed on Easter, went back to her hotel and began writing. Five hours later, the first chapter was written. She sent the chapter to an editor friend that encouraged her to continue.

In Private Spaces, Madaras tells us what she loves. “Years ago, I came to Arizona seeking a new start. I could not have imagined the events that would unfold during the next 30 years. Tucson was nothing more than sand and cactus, they told me back home, but they didn’t know the mountains turn purple at sunset, the prickly pear bloom red and yellow in the spring and the brilliant brittle bush grows wild in the wash. They had never seen a bobcat walk across the front porch, 10 baby quail scurry across the road or a hawk glide on a downdraft with the grace of God in this magnificent desert, my home. Here I paint what I know, I paint what I love and yes, I paint to say everything.”

Private Spaces combines Madaras’ love of writing with her love of painting. Barbara McNichol, of Barbara McNichol Editorial Services, says about Private Spaces, “This story has it all: loss and pain, struggle and heartache, challenges and triumphs, intense romance and lifelong friendships, highs and lows and highs again. Feelings of love underlie every event in this artist’s life. Throughout, Private Spaces is brought to life by Diana’s intimate portraits and 152 paintings. It’s a masterpiece.” Private Spaces is indeed a masterpiece, because in it, Madaras shares her paintings, her passion and her life.

To learn more about Private Spaces and to view more than 300 paintings, visit

Local contributor Paula Frighetti loves to learn, read and write about the environment, animals, people and sustainable communities. Connect at [email protected].

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