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Q & A with Dorsi Diaz about window painting

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Have you ever wondered about who paints the windows for local businesses? These windows are capable of transporting us to a magical world around the holidays. Artists such a Dorsi Diaz spend many hours creating works of art for all to enjoy. Even though I have no interest in purchasing a car when I walk past a dealership, I cannot help but feel mesmerized by the adorable snowmen smiling at me from a window. Here are a few questions I asked Dorsi to learn more about what it takes to be a successful window painter, and this might inspire other artists who are considering this as a career. Dorsi also writes here on Examiner, and you can follow her column about climate change.

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1. How did you start window painting?

As a child, I grew up being fascinated by the Christmas window scenes that seemed to pop up overnight. In my twenties I became seriously interested in learning how to paint windows so one Christmas I went around taking photos of all the painted windows. A couple years later after my youngest son was born I ran into some window painters one night painting a Nations Hamburger window and they introduced me their friend Lisa Hamblett Montagnese, who also painted windows. I worked with her a for a few days then went out on my own. That was back in 1988. That next year I ended up also marrying her cousin Joe lol. After we married I started working for Safeway as their in-house sign designer, and I also painted windows for the stores.

What's really funny is that a lot of those windows I first took photos of were done by artists that I am now related to through marriage.

2. What is the best time of year for window painting?

The most lucrative time is definitely Christmas time. I try to start painting windows a couple weeks before Thanksgiving so I can do as many windows as possible. I used to have a couple big accounts - 24 Hour Fitness was one of them, and I painted for them almost every month. I also painted seasonal windows for Traders Joes for several years and painted for them about 4 times a year. I took a 10 year break from window painting when I had a lot of stuff going on with my life, so I stopped painting for them for quite some time. I just started back up a couple years ago and have really been enjoying it. I can paint all year round though here in California because we have such great weather (well usually anyway)

One of the things I have to laugh about though is how people think I have such a "great job". It is great, but it's also a lot of work. Unloading, loading , stretching, fighting with bushes, finding places to park (especially a nightmare in SF), rain and no overhang sometimes to protect the windows, extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter. I have worked under all sorts of conditions and it's very physically exhausting even though it's fun.

3. Is it easy to stay within a budget when painting windows?

It actually is Julia. I always ask the customer how much they want to spend then I tailor the window to that. I can always find something economical and pretty to put on their windows even with a small budget. I like to see every business be able to afford to have some pretty art on their windows. On the more commercial windows like 24 Hour Fitness, they have a bigger budget and usually a lot more windows so of course they can spend more. It's also a lot more work doing 2-3 foot letters for a fitness promotion.

4. What is your favorite subject to paint on windows?

I think Christmas scenes are my favorite, especially my special snowman that I paint. People can actually recognize my work by that snowman. I also like doing holly and Calligraphy lettering on windows, it looks so classy and beautiful. I also love painting colorful scenes - color and design are really my thing. My husband and I owned a sign company for 14 years and I was the graphic designer, so I love playing with lettering and colors to come up with new combinations of designs.