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Q & A with Dorsi Diaz about window painting

Window painting created by Dorsi Diaz. Visit Dorsi's website to see more of her artwork:
Window painting created by Dorsi Diaz. Visit Dorsi's website to see more of her artwork:
Photos courtesy of Dorsi Diaz

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.

Dorsi Diaz is an artist who paints business windows around the holiday season.
Photo courtesy of Dorsi Diaz

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.

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