Kind, caring, compassionate. Protective, political, personable. Warm-hearted, mischievous, funny. A passionate anti-plastic campaigner. Oh, and talented. My, how this gentle, spiritual soul is talented.
An artist’s daughter, Diana has lived and sketched in the Welsh hills for twenty-seven years. Purely abstract paintings have developed into semi-abstract landscapes, encouraging her to play between the boundaries of pure representation and pure abstraction.
Diana uses colour and texture to capture emotional experiences. Expressive marks, paint and collage direct her multi-sensory memories. “I rarely know what my paintings are about until they are complete,” she says.
Her bold engagement with various materials reflects her character and her search for the “intangible”.
Diana grew up in South London, where she lived with her parents and brother in what was a loving and carefree home. “My dad was an industrial designer. He created the Dunlop logo and I remember him going off to Pinewood Studios and building icebergs for a film set,” Diana recalls. “He was very creative. He often worked at home and I would sit on his lap and he would read books to me. Often they were his art books, not children’s stories. He adored anything highly visual.
“We had a very free and happy childhood. We lived next door to the Doomwatch writer, and original Cybermen creator, Kit Pedler. He became a lifelong family friend. In my early years I was surrounded by very creative, free thinkers. I was certainly politicised by my parents.”
Diana’s journey to become the exceptional artist she is today began at art school in London, against her creative father’s wishes, but halted by a lifelong career in education.
Diana and husband Rob, a modern foreign languages tutor, moved from Kent in 1989 when they and four other couples who were also teachers acquired Queen’s Park School in Oswestry. Together, the couples created an independently owned and operated boarding school for deeply dyslexic children, most of whom had been significantly failed by the state education system.
“It was incredibly hard work, and a massive financial gamble, but we all sold our houses and set about creating this nurturing environment for children with needs that at that time were not being met in mainstream schools. It was an extremely rewarding and deeply fascinating experience,” she says. “We’re still in touch with some of them to this day,” she beams.
Following a change in state funding, the school closed in 1998 after almost 10 life-changing years for its students.
“I rarely know what my paintings are about until they are complete.”
After retiring, Diana had time to re-engage with her art and enrolled on a B-Tech Course at North Shropshire College. Her work during this period was heavily influenced by global affairs, politics and the environment. It was the time of the second Iraq war and her pieces offer a revealing narrative on the dishonourable role of western governments.
Moving to the Ceiriog Valley in 2003 was a pivotal moment for Diana. “I thought this place is so beautiful, there’s no way I’m not going to recapture my interest in art. But I didn’t really know what sort of art I wanted to do until I got to Glyndwr, where John McLelland was an inspirational tutor. It was actually a trip to the butcher’s market in Wrexham and Alex Shepley, who was Head of Art then, and is now living close by, said ‘just do something in response to what you see.’
“There is a piece in there that I did from seeing lots of balls of coloured wool. And that’s where all this abstract work started. It just happened… there… of all places.”
A First Class Honours Degree in Fine Art in 2010 was followed by a Masters in Art Practice at Glyndwr University four years later. One of Diana’s pieces was shortlisted for the Signature prize 2010. “I didn’t win it, but since then I haven’t looked back,” she reveals. “I was invited to become a member of DegreeArt.com, which has a gallery in Somerset House, London, and sells art internationally. My work goes all over the world now.”
A subtle shift has taken place in recent months as Diana moves into semi-abstract paintings. “This valley has such a powerful effect on me. Suddenly I’m introducing horizons into my landscapes.”
It’s a subconscious evolution in the work of an inspirational woman.