We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Dianna Fontes a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Dianna, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Has your work ever been misunderstood or mischaracterized?
My work is so often mischaracterized. Being an Astrologer and Witch often causes people to have surprising reactions to me and my work. In the beginning of my career, people would tell me they didn’t want to engage with my Astrological or Magical work but they’d buy or commission other art projects or retail items from me. At first, I was more patient and understanding about this but after a few years of people telling me all the reasons my practices were evil, forbidden, devil worship, and/or not real it was clear that there was a big misunderstanding happening. I had to confront the feelings that came up when I tried to work with folks with this mindset. In 2020 I finally started talking about how harmful it was for people to continuously tell me these things. I had to set some boundaries about what it means to engage with me. I learned that everything I do is Magical. Just because it isn’t directly connected to Astrology or Witchcraft doesn’t mean it’s not charged with those energies. If I am the one who makes it then it’s completely Magical. It was very healing to express this and to set these boundaries. I think it’s also made my work more intentional. Before I was trying to separate my work so it wouldn’t make anyone uncomfortable or offended and that made everything harder and more complicated. And when I was able to reconnect them to my self I really opened up my connection to my powers and gifts. It’s allowed my work to blossom in ways I couldn’t have expected. It’s also removed those harmful people from my client base and I rarely if ever hear these comments any longer.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I have always been an artist and creative problem solver. I have also been a little weirdo and so I spent a lot of time alone when I was a kid. We moved a lot and my parents were both dysfunctional and abusive people. This allowed me to spend a lot of time analyzing and observing people. I read a lot of books and when I was about 9 or 10 my mom’s friend gave her an Astrology reading and that’s when I fell in love with this language; mostly because my mom was so upset by it AND it was soooooo accurate that I had to know more about it. But, that was 1986 so it was hard to find more information but eventually, I was able to. Getting into Astrology gave me access to other esoteric things and soon I was interested in Witchcraft. These two practices are centered in Imagination and nature so I understood the basics easily but there was a lot of fear and discrimination around these things so I kept it pretty private as I got older. My art practice blossomed and most of what I know about the fundamentals of art I learned from my stepfather who was a professional sign painter for money and a hopeful professional oil painter. As I gravitated more and more towards creative pursuits my mother got more and more aggressive about deterring me from my creative studies. She constantly told me I couldn’t make money as an artist and I should do something else. So even though I was a National Honor Student in both academics and art in High School she talked me out of going to art school in Seatlle by refusing to sign my student loan documents. So instead I went to community college here in Portland and I studied business and project management while working in the hospitality industry. I took art classes on the side there also but it was really hard to quiet my mother’s voice in my head that art was a waste of time. I think that messaging translated into this belief that my work wasn’t good so I wasn’t really interested in making art as much in my mid-20s. Soon I was married and having kiddos and doing all that fun stuff so which lead to me opening my own business consulting/bookkeeping business. I enjoyed that work for the first 5-6 years but as my kids entered grade school I knew I wanted to be with them more and more. I started an after-school arts enrichment program at the grade school and that connected me with more working artists and programs. I discovered “process-based art” when I shared an office/studio space with an art therapist and that is when I really turned a corner with my work. I started making it just to process my own healing work and to share my thoughts and ideas. It was really a private thing more than a business thing. As the after-school program grew I attended more art shows and local events and soon I was submitting work to these shows and getting accepted. I was helping with their business needs and organizing. In 2012 I met my friend Aria and she had a little art studio called Art ala Carte. I started doing some events and special projects with her and that continued to connect with my small humans more and more often. This is when I realized that I make art like a child and that’s when I feel the freest. As soon as I was able to let go of the idea that art has to be commercialized or “good enough to sell” to be valid that’s when I think my work got good. Soon I was selling it and trying to navigate the world as an actual artist. I was still running my consulting business however and that was wearing me out and devouring my time so I knew I needed to make a big change. I started working at Aria’s studio and while the work was amazing both of us went thru some of the worst possible personal things during those few years and eventually the studio closed and I was heartbroken and broke too. I’d closed my consulting business and I needed to regroup and heal and that’s when I remembered my love of Astrology and Magic again. I registered for classes at the Portland School of Astrology and by 2017 I was a professional Astrologer. I merge art with Astrology in totally new and unique ways. I’ve developed systems and offerings that focus on individuals, businesses, and children so this takes all of my past experiences and blends them into this new, useful format – which I love so much. I also started doing more and more commissions and most of my commission work is focused on memorial paintings, though I also do all kinds of custom work too. These memorials paintings came out of another connection from Aria to a nonprofit called Buzzy’s Bees. They work with families who’ve lost their children and the project is called Give Grief a Voice. They pair the families with writers and artists who help them tell their stories. I paint illustration-like paintings based on the stories. It’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done as a fine artist but also as a Witch. Death work and ShadowWeRK are big tools for me so this allows me to connect those tools to an artistic expression and real Magic always happens. It’s so amazing. I’ve done about eight pieces for them in the last few years. This has branched off to others reaching out to me to do memorial paintings OR other paintings for them and that’s been so rewarding. I love collaborating and creating special gifts for people. I also make jewelry, and handpainted blocks. and all kinds of other sundries but I find that people really engage most with my commission work. I started drawing and painting charts during readings and that grew into the biggest part of my business now. I am so in love with everything I do that sometimes I have to just take a break and let it all sink in for real. I can’t believe this is my life and that I get to use art and creativity to help others learn more about themselves and to heal those really tender wounds. I love that my work has been able to help people get to the root of things they’ve struggled with for a long time or to heal wounds they were sure they could never heal. I love to help people find weird and outside-the-box solutions and Astrology and Magic definitely offer these options. Mostly I just love working with others and exploring the process. My motto is, Thru the Practice of Process, I Create Space for Magic.
In your view, what can society to do to best support artists, creatives and a thriving creative ecosystem?
The best thing folks can do is engage. Go out and see art. Support organizations and businesses that support artists. Buy original work. It’s not as out of reach as people think and it is an investment in the ecosystem. I would also say that it’s imperative to support arts education and to change the mindset so many adults have because they lost out on that education. We are creative beings. We need to remember that making is healing and we don’t have to do it for an audience, we don’t have to be compared or critiqued by anyone. We can make art at home and never show anyone and it’s still valid.
Is there something you think non-creatives will struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can provide some insight – you never know who might benefit from the enlightenment.
I think the most common thing I hear is, “I am not creative. I can’t even draw stick figures” and I think that narrative needs to be destroyed. Everyone is creative. Everyone’s creations are important. AND those creations aren’t just valid as long as their commodified. You can make things and not sell them. Not everyone wants an Etsy shop so stop telling everyone who makes homemade holiday gifts they should sell them. I think that we need to embrace the joy of making and the joy of imagining so we will be able to see the true value of the art that others make. Those who want to be professional and to sell their work weren’t born that way. Talent isn’t like being struck by lightning. It takes practice, failure, frustration, loss, more practice, investments, and dedication to get to that level so anytime you can support an artist who is putting themselves out there in that way you’re doing more than buying something you’re helping them recover from all that energy they put out to make all the work they’ve ever made. It’s really a Magical act.