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Madaras Gallery
By Sarah Burton

Known for her boldly colored scenes of the Southwest, Diana Madaras continues her reign as one of this region’s celebrated painters—but art wasn’t always what filled her days. After running a successful sports marketing company for 12 years, she began dabbling in painting, which caught the eye of a professor at the University of Arizona. “He encouraged me to keep painting. He was relentless,” she recalls.

In 1993, she took a month-long painting trip to Greece that changed her life. “It was as if I got off the plane and the world was black and white, and by the time I returned, it was in technicolor,” Diana explains. Upon returning, her corporate life no longer cut it, and after three years she became an official full-time artist.

She opened Madaras Gallery and quickly garnered attention for her brilliantly colored depictions of the Sonoran Desert. Now with countless awards, exhibits, press, and a gallery shop on most Tucson visitors’ to-do lists—it’s clear this is where she’s meant to be.

“I never felt totally satisfied in any work until I found painting. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Her newest endeavor is a spirit animal series, inspired by famed Native American artist John Nieto, which debuts this fall. “Art begets art,” she says, explaining the new series. “After being around his work, I was so inspired.” For these works, Diana is opting for watercolor on a tree-free synthetic paper called Yupo. “It’s an interesting effect, which is what I was going for,” Diana shares. “The surface is slick and no water is absorbed, making it one of the most difficult to work with.”

Diana points to her childhood helping out in her father’s veterinarian hospital for the source of her deep love of animals, which are regular subjects in her work. “My job was to take care of wild animals that were dropped off,” she says. “Now I can paint them and give them eternal life.”

Longtime Tucson resident Sarah Burton decorates her home, her garden, and herself with desert-made products from local creatives.

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