Diane Howard (Ph.D. Communication, ’99) has worked in radio, television and education. She’s lived in Canada, taught thousands of students and traveled to the edges of the planet. Today, she is a painter known for her depictions of how remote regions are affected by contemporary environmental issues. She paints under her French maternal name of Diane Langlois and recently married her “non de peinture” to her legal name of Diane Howard. Clearly, her career has been a whirlwind of experiences – and she loves where she’s landed.
At the start of her career, Diane worked at the Canadian Broadcast Company. She then moved on to teach at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada before making the move down to Tallahassee to pursue her Ph.D. in Communication at Florida State University. She taught broadcast journalism at FSU and was known for showcasing her two young children dressed as twins.
Once she had completed everything but her dissertation, Diane moved back up to Canada to teach at the University of Calgary. She started off with Introduction to Communication Studies, and went on to also teach Canadian Mass Media, Rhetoric and Information Technology and Society. Adding more to her plate, she began working in the Engineering Department, where she was involved with team teaching and also videotaped weekly stories on the students assembling robots. These videos helped her and her team win the prestigious Alan Blizzard Award, a coveted national award for collaborative teaching.
However, this constant work eventually had Diane feeling mentally exhausted.
She discloses, “I was starting to experience burnout. I had started with 60 students and ended up with 1,255 students. A fellow colleague in the Arts Department encouraged me to try my hand at painting. He said to forget about a Masters of Fine Arts or another degree, and to just rent a studio and start painting. So I did!”
Diane started painting not only as a way to try something new and exciting, but also as a way to feel connected to her late father, who was also an artist.
She shares, “The smell of the oil paint reminded me of my father, and the solitude was bliss after two extensive careers with lots of interpersonal involvement.”
Diane has always been interested in and disturbed by climate change, and she wanted to bring that to her paintings. So, she did the what makes the most sense – she traveled to the high Arctic with a cameraman to document the changes occurring in our climate and how they are affecting indigenous people. All in all, she has been on ten different expeditions to the Arctic and three to Antarctica. Last year, she traveled for five weeks through the Ross Sea and westward along one third of coastal Antarctica. The paintings inspired by these trips were recently featured in an exhibit at the Agora Gallery in New York City. Several hundred people attended.
According to Diane, “Being an artist means capturing the times you live in and I can think of no other privilege than to continue my journeys to both polar regions to establish a genre of polar images that will last into the next century.”
Looking at the snowy and glacier-filled land, she has felt a deep connection between past and present that has inspired her art.
She explains, “I try to bring attention to the environment and wildlife of the polar regions in a contemporary manager, and perhaps some day my contemporary paintings will become historical paintings documenting our ever-changing climate.”
She was also inspired by the kind and contented spirit on the Inuits, who thrive on interconnectedness and consensus with little sense of ownership.
Regarding the Inuits, Diane shares, “Everything belongs to future generations and the idea of sustainability has been adhered by each successive generation. I feel we could learn so much from the Inuit way of life.”