I've put a new Employee Spotlight display up at Powell's City of Books. This month, I'm highlighting Diane Rios [self-portrait above] who works in the French section and who is quite an accomplished artist. Here are some of her lovely stencil pieces, along with the interview she gave me about her life and her art.
me: How long have you worked at Powell’s?
DR: I’ve worked at Powell’s for 2 ½ years now! I started as a cashier, then moved to a Generalist position, and am now in charge of the French section. I post a blog on Powells.com about the most interesting French books both new and out of print that come into the store.
me: Has working at Powell’s or being around books had an influence on your art?
DR: Oh yes, I’ve made several prints of Powell’s itself, and am constantly inspired by the books and what they’re made of. As well as the beautiful covers of course, I love the delicious papers, old typeface, and lovely old ink illustrations in the books. New books are such a glossy, decadent treat, but the old books are my favorites--dusty, foxed, and with that bookish smell. I’m working on a very large print of a big stack of old books right now.
me: Which book has made a profound impression on your life?
DR: I would say Traveler by Richard Adams. I loved the books Watership Down and The Plague Dogs by him, so I tried Traveler which, strangely enough, is told from the perspective of Robert E. Lee’s horse in the Civil War. I learned so much about the Civil War and completely fell in love with Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln. This led me to read several books about Lincoln and the Civil War which led me to love American history, which led to an interest in European history and now I’m a huge history buff and can’t get enough of the 1700 and 1800’s. And it all came from that one book told by a horse.
me: What are you reading right now?
DR: High on Arrival by McKenzie Phillips. It’s sad, but a really interesting snapshot of the 1970’s boho scene, which, being a hippy kid from Southern California, I can relate to.
me: Are you willing to identify a cheesy book that you like?
DE: There are so many! How about Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico? It was made into a movie with Angela Lansbury! There’s nothing like a salty old London Char woman to make you smile. You know he also wrote The Poseidon Adventure? He had real range!
me: What is your ultimate goal with your art?
DR: I want to sell my illustrations to national magazines and newspapers. I think my style would lend itself very well to editorial art. I would also love to do a children’s book with my stencils. I have one started called “Lulu in Paris” that I will shop around.
me: Who do you feel are the biggest influences on your art?
DR: Definitely early commercial art and turn of the century poster art from Paris--Toulouse Lautrec, that kind of thing. Also, I used to be a street artist, putting my stencils on walls until I was caught. So other street artists still influence me, but my work is a little softer than what I have seen come from other spray paint artists. More bears, horses, and French angel dogs, than is usually done.
me: Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?
DR: I just got back from a trip to New York where I met with Disney/Hyperion and Penguin/Dutton publishers. They were excited about my unusual style and gave me a list of artist reps to contact. I am submitting work to local publications as well as national ones, so stay tuned for exciting developments. I’m looking forward to 2011!