Catholic Painter: ‘Everyone Needs Joy, Hope and Light’
Diana Durantel discusses her craft and her calling.
Diana Durantel is a painter who resides in London with her family. Originally from Romania, she studied math and finance in France for her undergraduate and masters’ degrees. She and her family have lived in Japan, New York and now London. Though she still nurtures a love for math and the order it gives, her greatest love comes from painting. She uses this medium to express the truths of the Catholic faith.
How did you become interested in painting?
Early in life, I was attracted to the beauty of nature and the strong colors in flowers, sunsets and the changing seasons. For me, color and light are a sign of life and God’s presence in his creation around us. Growing up in communist Romania, everything around me was gray, echoing the lack of freedom. Painting was a way to express my hope and desire for a beautiful and freer life and something better.
How did you learn to paint? What is your background?
I am a self-taught artist, and the love of art and paint came naturally. My background is in mathematics and science. I have an engineering diploma from the Ecole Polytechnique in France, followed by two master’s degrees: one in pure mathematics and the other in mathematics applied to finance.
After graduating in France, I began to paint every evening. I had the chance to travel around the world and live in many different countries. The different places where I lived and visited were a great source of inspiration for my paintings and nourished my love for color and light. I especially loved Japanese gardens, with their cherry blossoms, and observing how light shines differently in different places around the world.
Over the years, I have continued to improve my technique. I have been painting with oil and acrylic for about 20 years now. As time passes, and through the years and different events of my life, my paintings have evolved and changed from figurative landscapes and flowers to something deeper and stronger, trying to reveal the presence of God in his creation and in our hearts. I paint the light and bloom of life, creating fountains of color and joy.
I paint layer after layer. Usually, my paintings take a long time because there is a lot of texture as each layer evolves.
Where do you draw inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from contemplation, emotions and from my faith — expressing joy and hope.
The beauty of nature is my first love. The play of a sunset’s radiance over the water and the color of changing seasons are great sources of inspiration. I emphasize movement and texture. I paint the joie de vivre, the light, movement and inner dance in my heart.
What are the themes of your paintings?
One of my themes is light. I am deeply touched by the words of St. John in his prologue: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). I try to express in my paintings the certainty that God is light and that he has the victory over the darkness and to share the hope of this truth, no matter what happens around us.
Another theme of my paintings is creation. I am amazed by the beauty of colors in the changing seasons, by the strength and the infinity of the sea. I love using paint and texture to express the hope of life and the joy of flowers blooming in spring, or the dance of the leaves swirling in the wind in the fall.
The Holy Spirit and his presence in our hearts is another theme of my paintings. God dwells in us. I see his Spirit in us as a fire of love, a dance that fills our heart with his presence, tenderness and consolation. It is like a breath that gives life.
Tell me about your Catholic faith.
I was baptized and raised in the Catholic faith, although during communism the practice of the faith was forbidden. During that time, my faith was nourished by reading old books that had been printed before communism about the life of the saints — such as the life of Pier Giorgio Frassati — and books about God. I prayed the Rosary daily and tried to go to Mass whenever I could, though I had to hide when going to Mass.
It has been a journey, with my faith growing and becoming more mature. I have become more aware of God’s love for me (through the years). I hope that this journey will continue on the same path.
How has painting been this past year in London with COVID?
It has been a hard year, with all the lockdowns and all the uncertainty. I think this is reflected in my last paintings. The messages of my paintings are the same, but the struggle behind them has been more intense. The whirlwinds I paint have been more dramatic. They seem to be searching for peace and life, but with the assurance that God is not abandoning us and that he is with us. We are not alone in this storm and night.
How do you feel that God uses your artwork to evangelize?
We all have different talents. They are gifts from God. Painting is my special way of talking about life and light and hope, talking about God and sharing this hope and life with others.
Painting is my way of evangelizing and communicating to others my thirst for a joyful life full of truth and light, fighting discouragement through hope and faith.
I want my paintings to be like stained-glass panels revealing a little of the beauty and the love of the Creator.
Do you have a prayer routine when you paint that helps you?
Before painting, I usually invoke the Holy Spirit. I also do this while I am painting. I listen to prayerful music. One of my favorites is a song that repeats the name of Jesus as a prayer of the heart.
Painting has been the answer to the call and talent that I have received, and it gives me life.
Do you sell your paintings only in religious settings or in secular venues, as well?
I sell in both Catholic and secular venues. In secular venues, everything depends on the person in front of me. I may not explicitly mention God, but joy and hope is still a message for everyone. Everyone needs joy, hope and light. We need God, who is the source of these things, but these messages can still touch everyone.
For more information, visit: DianaDurantel.webs.com.