By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — Boxes of pastels and cups of paintbrushes are neatly arranged in a room filled with paintings and clay creations.
Sculptures of a ballerina, a guitarist and a man’s head are interspersed on the countertops in the kitchen. A clay work in progress of a Native American brave on a horse sits on the kitchen table, waiting for the hands of an artist to shape it into something magnificent.
This maker space and artist’s studio doubles as the home of Diane Markley, the Coeur d’Alene Art Association's Artist of the Year for 2017.
"I went back to school in my early 50s," Markley said Friday afternoon in her Coeur d'Alene apartment. "Maybe it was my mid-life crisis, I don’t know, but it seemed like creativity was the only thing that could fill that need."
Markley's talent and dedication earned her the top spot for her photography, sculpting and painting pieces that she submitted at each monthly meeting throughout the year. She received several first-, second- and third-place ribbons, as well as numerous people's choice votes from her peers.
Her award was announced just before Christmas at the organization's annual holiday gathering.
"I was totally surprised,” Markley said. "I had no idea."
Markley spent two years studying art at Spokane Falls Community College and got her B.A. in art from Whitworth University.
"I did get the art department’s talent award in my senior year at Whitworth,” she said with a sweet laugh.
She also spent a five-month internship at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (formerly the Buffalo Bill Historical Center) in her native Wyoming, where she got to view many of Frederic Remington's original Wild West works.
"It was great," she said. "That's a beautiful museum."
Markley moved to Coeur d'Alene from Spokane about two years ago and right away joined the art association, where her commitment is much appreciated.
"One of the things is she was very consistent to bring something every month, and not everybody does. You have to be consistent and keep doing it," said Coeur d'Alene Art Association publicity chair Yvonne Benzinger. "Her work is just appealing. She has very soft colors at times and quite beautiful things she does."
Markley really enjoys portraiture and has created detailed, life-like renderings of a couple of her grandkids. She also wrote and illustrated a book, "This Mouse and That Cat," that she dedicated to all of her grandchildren.
She shared that she very much enjoys painting from her own photography and wants to explore Idaho through the lens of a camera.
"I like this one, I thought I’d try to paint from some of these,” she said, showing wilderness photos with deep shadows and pops of color. She smiled. “My son wants this one with an elk in there."
As for what goes through her mind as she creates each painting or sculpture, Markley said it depends on what she's working on.
"If it's people, especially portraits, you're really studying and measuring not so much with a measuring (tool), but the features of the face," she said. "I guess that's what's pretty fascinating about portraiture. Everybody is so different."
For her Artist of the Year honors, Markley received an award plaque and a year's worth of bragging rights.
"It's always affirming," she said. "Like I said, I was totally surprised. Not expecting that at all."
The Coeur d'Alene Art Association meets every third Thursday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 501 Wallace Ave., in Coeur d'Alene.