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HomeArts & EntertainmentWildlife artist brings awareness to the AuSable

Wildlife artist brings awareness to the AuSable

By Nicole Mygrants

My tires made crunching sounds on the loose stone as I slowly rolled down the driveway to interview local artist and business Owner Kim Diment. Wild turkeys and a pair of Whitetailed Deer greet me at her home studio, located on the banks of the AuSable River.

The at-ease animal encounters foreshadow the visit ahead.

I learned how Diment came to be an accomplished artist that calls Grayling and the AuSable home. I was able to get a glimpse of her techniques and pieces, and a heartwarming experience of witnessing the spirit of a woman who lives a life of purpose, and tries to create a more beautiful, sustainable world while she does it.

Original works created by Diment can sell for well over $5,000, yet her window filled high-ceiling attic studio is home to mostly reclaimed windows she herself saved and collected. Diment’s studio shares a barn with her husband’s wood shop downstairs and several sometimes-friendly cats.

Grady the Cat

Grady, a stately figure of furry opinion, graces me with his presence. I can now say that I met the cat that Diment drew and released rights to the AuSable Valley Animal Shelter to, for use in their fundraising activities. The same high-end works of art can be found in her Grayling gallery, Riverworks Studios, as well as Rowe Gallery in Sedona.

An animal skull, multiple plants, and stacks of reference books are watched over by a wooden owl hanging over more bookshelves. Pencils and paints are gathered in the corner around a simple desk and easels. Having traveled around the world with a concentration on Africa, Diment could easily hang her canvas up in many places. But she said her heart always brings her home to animals and the AuSable River.

“I always knew that animals were a big part of me. I just can’t imagine the world without animals and those interactions and what we can learn from them and I’m afraid it really would be horrible to start losing so many because we were careless. And as animals ourselves, not watching what we are doing.” Diment said.

She discovered her love of the outdoors early.

When she was a child, her mom, Beverly, would bring out art supplies in inclement weather or to pass time together. Her dad, Bob, taught junior high woodshop in Oscoda. He would cut out animal models she would draw on or paint.

Kim would find more support when Peg Ridgeway, her second-grade teacher, was astounded by her knowledge, and soon had her doing bulletin boards. Diment recalls she was a tough teacher who challenged her and was instrumental in fostering her love of animals and birds.

mule deer drawing
Mule Deer for the Wild Turkey Foundation

“Teachers can have a heck of a lot to do with students’ success when they are allowed to teach and to do extra stuff” Diment shared, as she smiled, reflecting on her current friendship and support from Ridgeway.

If it involved bringing animals home, raising a duck to be released back to the wild, stray cats, anything creepy crawly; Diment was involved. Self-proclaimed, “a different kind of kid” who later in high school “felt awkward and somewhat tom boyish,” Kim now embraces the nickname her brother gave her in her teens, “nature girl.”

“It’s a title I’ve come to love…” she trails off. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than capturing the animals, their forms are beautiful and personable – even the ugly ones.”

Much of Diment’s work is animal influenced or directed, but not all of it. Diment’s Great- great grandmother was a Chippewa India, and some of Kim’s work does have a Native American element to it. When asked about this series, Kim shared a very different approach to painting than her typical illustrative animal style.

“Art is an opinion storyteller,” Diment shares as she reflects about seeing the expression on an animal’s face, the light, the environment- it all tells a story.

In college, she considered the thought of being a vet but couldn’t do much art that way. She chose a double major, Zoology and Art. After teaching high school art through community education programs, her dad suggested a teaching certificate could support summers off, which is nice for art … and thought she would be a good teacher. She did that or the next 13.5 years.

As a Standish-Sterling High school teacher, she earned a new nickname, “Green Peace”, and this time around the title was lovingly embraced. She began teaching people how to draw with the philosophy that “Drawing is the foundation for painting, you need to know it first. She said you must have the ability to understand the structure of the animal you’re creating. If you understand your drawing it will maximize your painting ability

While focused on nature art, Kim found many Michigan galleries weren’t interested in her work, “it was too illustrative, too animal” she shrugged.

Never having a gallery of her own in mind, and having worked with other galleries, Diment realized she had lots of talented connections and friends and said, “let’s do our own gallery and people will come once they realize its serious and for real.”

Diment celebrates the growing artisan presence in Grayling with its two galleries. She said the difference in educational components and styles is beneficial to the region.
“I’m encouraged by what it could do to help support downtown.” Kim shared.
Diment said she believes her destiny is to portray the nuances of the AuSable.

“I’ve always lived on it, I just want to do a whole lot of work involving the AuSable, from one end to the other. I’ve been around the world and the AuSable holds memories and magical moments for so many. It is a river known around the world, and more of my work will be AuSable related.

Skunk featured in new series, Animals People Love to Hate

On the future of conservation art fitting into this, Diment is encouraged as well.
“Wildlife art used to be more of hunting kind of art, and now some of my best buyers are hunting and fishing enthusiasts,” she said, adding that she is prepping for a series of paintings for the Wild Turkey Federation.

She said working with the Anglers of the AuSable is also within her vision and helps them with theirs. She donated a piece of work called, “The Hatch” for the organization’s 35th anniversary.

“You will find me doing what brings attention to our incredible resource and gift that we have here.”

Diment shared her concerns about the health of the river. Over the past century or so, it has overcome logging, overfishing and pollution, nut now faces new challenges.

“The temperatures have risen in the water recently at times enough that fishing is discouraged”, Kim shares. “Fresh water is going to be the new gold /oil, in my opinion. I don’t like to mix money into changing the integrity of things.”

I ask what our call to action is. Diment shares more about influential people who got her outside,

“I think, if parents show excitement for learning outside, we can reach children and more people right away. We need to realize even the mosquito is important. As far away as the arctic needs’ mosquitos, they serve a purpose and a food source.
“When you start messing with those things to make human life easier you mess something else up. Connectedness isn’t being taught. We need to realize that what’s going on outside is going to have a huge impact on what we are doing inside. We can’t choose to ignore it; nature is not going to care about us when things go bad.”

“As I realize that I’m aging, it’s hard for me to process losing loved things.”

Will she ever stop creating pieces of art?” I know as I age my style will have to change. I think the day I stop is the day I die. I will never have enough years to paint or draw everything I want. I know I can continue to do art to the end. When you have something that makes your life purposeful, you can do it forever and never lose interest.” May we all be so blessed with the awareness Diment so beautifully shares with the world.

It’s difficult not to be moved by Diment’s obvious passion for the vibrant range of life around us.

“If you’re willing to take different paths in your life, it works out for ya, I believe” Diment said, noting her journey from playing under a log as a child to teacher, artist, and gallery owner.

To experience Kim’s work, visit her website kimdiment.com or at Riverworks Studios in Grayling. While you’re there be sure to sit in her husband’s handcrafted rocking chair by the fireplace.

In in the gallery, you might find Diment there herself, working on her next project, a series called “Animals People Love to Hate”. See if you will find the life and light in her work as she shares a closer look at skunks, mice, possums, red squirrels, and porcupines.

If the intrigue of finding endearing qualities with these animals doesn’t delight you, the passion you feel in Diment’s physical presence or in her work on display, will.
Main Branch Gallery is located at 208 East Michigan Avenue in Grayling.

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