Bougainvillea, diana willard

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began.
~ from "The Journey" by Mary Oliver

sketchbook, diana willard

I've been trying to make a very big decision for about a year now. And I've finally decided.

I waited a long time before writing this post -- partly because it would make the decision real (things aren't real until they are on the internets, right?), and partly because I didn't know how this space would fit in.

To make a long story short (and to rip the band-aid off, so to speak):

I've decided to return to medical school and bring my art-making back to the realm of hobbies and self-therapy where I enjoy it most.

sketchbook, diana willard

This decision was not an easy or clear one for me. I loved my time living as an artist in San Francisco, painting and scheming and exploring the city. In fact, there were many times I felt absolutely certain I would never go back to medical school.

I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty details of my agonizing and flip-flopping over this decision (plus I think I've blocked most of them out), but I wanted to share a few pieces of writing that helped me:

Whitney English's interview on Latrina's blog - on the difference between purpose and passion

Cheryl Strayed's Dear Sugar column "The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us" - on big decisions and letting go of the options we don't choose (p.s. the whole column and Dear Sugar book is fantastic)

Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In - on many things, including being unafraid of big undertakings and not over-planning for the future

sketchbook, diana willard

This will be my last post here, and it is certainly bittersweet. I will miss the space, but mostly I will miss the lovely and unexpected community that came with it. Thank you to everyone who has been so welcoming and supportive of me. I really can't thank you enough.

I am both excited and terrified to start (re-start?) this new phase of my life, and see where it carries me. I hope you will stay in touch, and perhaps follow along on my new adventure over on Instagram.

Oh, and before I go -- one final sale! I wanted to thank you all, plus celebrate my transition back health care by donating the proceeds to a favorite non-profit: Partners in Health. Use code ARTPARTY over at my Etsy shop for 20% off your purchase.

Have a wonderful weekend, and I'll see you around.

xo Diana

My least favorite color

palette, diana willard

The lovely Julia Hendrickson, a fellow painter, asked me to share my paint palette over on her blog.

Take a peek here, and find out what my least favorite color on it is!

xo Diana

Little bits 06 // leaves

leaves, diana willard

Whatever you're seeking won't come in the form you're expecting.
Haruki Murakami

It's been raining, hard, for the past two days here in the Bay Area. I can feel the change coming, and between now and taking this photo, the sun has begun to peek out.

I'm headed outside.

Have a great weekend!

xo Diana

Little bits 05 // seeds

seeds, diana willard

They tried to bury us.
They didn't know we were seeds.
~ Mexican proverb

This week has been one for reading the news and thinking a lot and feeling a lot of feels. Nothing too coherent or productive yet, but I did wake up with these words on my mind, and a title for this piece.

seeds, diana willard

I hope you all have a good weekend.

xo Diana

P.S. The lovely Amber of Ember + March interviewed me for her blog this week. Take a peek here to read more about my work-life imbalance. :)

DW discusses // interview on creative index + a giveaway!

the postcard project, diana willard

One of my favorite parts of having a blog is all the lovely people you meet through it.

I've admired the beautiful design work of Jess of Creative Index for some time now, so I was beyond delighted that she wanted to interview me about my art + art process. Yay yay yay!

You can take a peek at the interview here. In it, I discuss important matters such as:

  • The best kind of paint for impatient people

  • Why I'm kind of glad I broke our mirror, and what I put in its place

  • All the ways in which chocolate fulfills me

  • And so much more mildly embarrassing goodness

Plus, hop on over there to find out how you can win one of my framed postcard paintings! (Hint: it has something to do with the photo above!)

Have a great rest of your week, friends. Hang in there -- it's almost Friday!

xo Diana

The Postcard Project // first looks at my new painting collection

the postcard project, diana willard

Can I tell you all a secret?

(I'm going to assume yes here.)

I started tearing up when I wrote about each of the paintings in this new series of mine.

the postcard project, diana willard

I don't usually do this when it comes to my art, but as I set out to write the little secret message that will go out with each of my painted postcards, I became choked up.

I was staring at each card, thinking about the setting I'd painted and the month I'd named it after.

And thinking about what that place and that month means for me.

the postcard project, diana willard

Some months were naturally bright and cheery. My birthday month. Major holidays. The start of summer. (I love summer.)

But some months were more bittersweet for me. Major moves or changes in my life. Losing friends or passing through a dark period in my life. Coming out the other side bruised, but stronger.

the postcard project, diana willard

I was originally going to tell you how amazingly excited I am to finally get to share these little paintings with you all (I am!), and how awesome they are, and how I hope you love them too.

But I realized that, at least for me, the power in them is in their quiet reflection. They are a tiny window onto a scene. A place for each of us to take a moment and think back to another time or place that was (or maybe still is) significant, that shaped us into who we are today.

the postcard project, diana willard

So while I do hope you love these postcards, I hope more that you can take a quiet moment out of your day to take a look at them and think about some of the places and memories that are most powerful for you.

the postcard project, diana willard

You can find the full collection here.

Have a lovely week everyone!

xo Diana

Art Process 12 // little moments

postcard project mood board, diana willard

one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine

I've mentioned a couple of times on Instagram that I'm working on a new painting series. Top secret. Coming soon. (Er. . . see a sneek peek here, since I obviously cannot keep these things to myself!)

So instead of revealing even more of the project before the big reveal (control yourself, Diana!), I decided to share a bit about the backstory and process.

A lot of this year has been about experimenting with my art. What works for me? What resonates with other people? What do I want or need my art to be about?

At my open studio a couple of weeks ago, several things clicked for me:

  • I want my art to be more accessible.

The more people who can fall in love with a piece and give it a place in their house, the happier I am. For some people, original art may be too expensive, or too big, or too intimidating to consider purchasing. I want to change that.

  • I want my art to be about more than "this is pretty!"

(Although I want that too!)

  • There is something really enjoyable about holding a beautiful little item in your hands.

And so I set out to change things up.

To make something small, and beautiful, and meaningful.

Something I would enjoy sharing, discussing, and giving to my loved ones.

I searched out different places and stories and memories that were meaningful to me. And I collected some of my favorites into a lovely, pocket-sized series.

My little mementos.

I'm so excited to get to share them with you soon. I hope they brighten your day (or even your home!) and make you remember your own little mementos.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

xo Diana

Come visit my painting studio!

Noe Valley Artwalk

I'm opening up my San Francisco painting studio to the public this weekend -- November 1st and 2nd -- as part of San Francisco Open Studios and you're invited!

WHEN: Nov. 1-2, 11am to 6pm


Diana Willard Art + Design Studio

444 Valley Street

San Francisco, California

DETAILS: Come hang out and chat, see lots of art and in-progress works, eat some snacks, and make a craft!

Hope to see you there, and have a lovely weekend everyone!

xo Diana

Little bits // 04

reflections i, diana willard

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
~ Rabindranath Tagore, "Stray Birds"

reflections sketches, diana willard

Just a little hint of my process lately, which often begins by creating these fun and freeing mini-paintings. You can find the original (and its sister painting) in my Etsy shop and prints on Society6.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

xo Diana

Re:Make SF // craft fair September 13th!

Re:Make SF with Brit + Co

This is just a quick public service announcement to let those of you in the Bay Area (or farther afield!) know that I'll be showing and selling my art (and other various art-decorated items) at the Re:Make SF craft fair next weekend!

It should be a super fun and free event next Saturday at Fort Mason in San Francisco. For those of you wanting to get a leg up on holiday shopping (if so, please teach me your ways!), this might be a good place to start. For those of you not quite that organized, there should be tons of cool crafts, hands-on projects, and some good food.

Check out more event details here!

Have a great weekend everyone!

xo Diana

Art Process 11 // Mount Davidson

mount davidson series, diana willard (detail)

Lately S and I have been really enjoying exploring San Francisco's parks.

A lot of them are unexpectedly woodsy and wild-feeling for inner-city parks, which is a lot of fun for a pair of city-dwellers like us.

mount davidson series, diana willard (sketch)

I was inspired to create a painting based on one of my photos of our foggy hike on Mount Davidson.

When I sat down to create some sketches of the painting, I came up with so many fun color I asked on Instagram for some advice. Thank you to those up you who weighed in on which one you liked best. . . but I have to admit that in the end I couldn't choose just one!

mount davidson series, diana willard (detail)

mount davidson series, diana willard (detail)

These were a lot of fun to paint, and I love how the different colors can bring such a different mood to the same scene.

mount davidson series, diana willard (detail)

Three of the original paintings are available in my Etsy shop and I'm offering $10 off each painting if you wish to purchase more than one!

xo Diana

Blogversary! (plus vote on the giveaway prize)

DW Draws Blogversary Survey

I can't believe it's been a year since I started this blog! My goodness that went by fast!

I began this blog as a way to keep myself on track as I dedicated a year to artistic exploration. Nw that the year is up, and I've decided to extend it for another (yay!), I want to make the blog a much more intentional place.

I'd love to hear what you would like to see more of here. . . and what giveaway you'd be most interested in winning! Yep, I'm going to be hosting my first giveaway, and I wanted to make sure the prize was something you'd love to receive! :)

It would mean so much to me if you would take a moment to fill out this super-quick survey -- thank you and have a lovely weekend!

xo Diana

Press Pause

Wildflowers at Lassen Volcanic National Park, Diana Willard

Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
~ Guillaume Apollinaire

After getting back from my short trip to Connecticut, I dove back into work and found myself -- for the first time since starting out this adventure -- stressed out about how much work I had to do, instead of how much work I didn't have.

It's scary to have actual deadlines suddenly, and thrilling to have a couple of opportunities to show my work coming up, but by Friday afternoon, I had completely worked myself into a state.

So it felt both good and completely irresponsible to take the weekend off for a long drive and hike and then (full disclosure here, of course!) a massive Pinterest session.

Sometimes, it seems, you have to press pause to be able to get started.

I hope you're all having a great week!

xo Diana

The Reservoir

the reservoir, diana willard

the reservoir, diana willard

the reservoir, diana willard

While traveling back east, I was able to deliver these paintings to a sick friend.

I came up with the idea and plan with my mom, created the paintings in a quiet frenzy in my studio, and presented them to her with my family.

It's not often I know the difference that my work makes in people's lives -- one of the great advantages of my time spent as a medical student -- but this was one of them. It felt good.

Have a great weekend, friends.

xo Diana

Art Process 10 // Cotopaxi Valley

cotopaxi valley, diana willard (detail)

I'm off to the east coast for a short trip! I grew up there and it'll be my first trip back in three years, so I'm pretty excited to get to see friends and family.

I'll be taking a short blogging break while I'm away, but wanted to leave you with some images of one of my recent paintings.

cotopaxi valley, diana willard (sketch)

I've been working hard to do more drawing and painting lately, and this one I'm particularly happy with. . . especially since it took me almost three months to make!

cotopaxi valley, diana willard

I based the painting off of two photographs I took during my trip last year to Ecuador. There was something about the expanse of land below us and the clouds beyond that really drew me in.

Unfortunately, that didn't translate easily into a painting for some reason. After doing a bunch of sketches, I jumped into painting. . . And got completely stuck! For months!

It took a lot of staring at it -- and it staring back at me -- before I impulsively decided to repaint the entire piece.

cotopaxi valley, diana willard

The orange was definitely an experiment. I was so frustrated with the painting that I initially added it to cover up some parts I was unhappy with. . . but ended up liking it so much I decided to keep it.

cotopaxi valley, diana willard

It's funny because during those months when the painting was hanging half-finished on our wall, and I was sighing about it, S reminded me that my favorite paintings are often the ones that take me the longest to figure out.

I'm happy to say this time that he was definitely right. Thanks S!

The original painting is available in my Etsy shop. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

xo Diana

Little bits // 03

untitled work on paper 2, diana willard

Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.
R. J. Palacio, "Wonder"
Sketchbook // 02

Sketchbook drawing - succulents

Reference image source

About, oh, six months ago I decided to start sharing pages out of my sketchbook. You can see the one and only time I did that here.

I decided it was time to revive that post series as a way of sharing some of my sketches from my ongoing practice project workbook.

(Apologies for anyone who follows me on Instagram, these might look a bit familiar.)

Sketchbook drawing - garden

Reference image source

Sketchbook drawing - bag

Reference image source

Sketchbook drawing - woman 2

Reference image source - they seem to have changed their catalogue image slightly, so you can find this particular one here.

Sketchbook drawing - victorian

Reference image source

I'm excited to do a bunch more of these this week! You can follow me on Instagram, if you want to check them out as I do them. :)

xo Diana

Little bits // 02

Blue boy, Diana Willard

The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
Little bits // 01

Orange painting, detail, Diana Willard

detail of a current work
Its beauty stirs the imagination, and I wonder if the last refuge of all that is truly wild lies not on earth but in light.
Ellen Meloy

I've been feeling a bit blah about my blog lately (which seems to be a common ailment amongst bloggers recently), so to keep myself feeling creative here, I'll be sharing more of my work (finished and unfinished!), mixed in with a healthy dose of inspiration from elsewhere.

I hope you enjoy!

xo Diana

P.S. I was inspired to start this series by the photography blogs Petal and Plume and Nice and Quiet. Definitely check out their beautiful work!

The Practice Project, Part 2 // DIY Workbook

Workbook perspective drawing

Last week I talked about how I'm tracking my hours spent practicing painting and drawing, with the end goal of reaching 10,000 hours -- at which point, according to Malcolm Gladwell, I'll have mastered that ish.

I thought I'd share one thing that has really helped me focus on the specific drawing skills I wanted to master: creating my own workbook.

This probably goes back to my time as a teacher, but when I realized I had two specific goals for my sketching practice (improving at drawing faces and buildings in perspective), I decided to create a workbook especially for these skills.


MATERIALS: blank notebook or sketchbook, printer and paper, scissors, super pretty washi tape (ok, or any tape)

STEP 1: Decide what types of images you want and gather them up -- you want to collect all your inspiration now, so later on you can focus on practicing. . . not on pinning. :)

You can see some of my images on my Reference Faces and References Places boards. I also used some of my own photographs. If you're more into hand-lettering, you might want to type up some quotes, phrases, or words you'd like to try drawing.

Quick side note: make sure you use these images just for practice, not as reference images in works to be sold, which can become a copyright issue. Just FYI. Also, I'm (for obvious reasons) a big advocate of crediting and/or paying for people's creative work.

Workbook image 1

STEP 2: Print out all your images and cut them out.

I formatted my images really quickly in Powerpoint and used the black-and-white "rush" printer settings to save ink.

Workbook image 3

STEP 3: Tape each image into a left-hand page of your sketchbook. Do them all at once so your workbook is ready to go!

Workbook image 4

STEP 4: One each right-hand page of the sketchbook, practice drawing the facing photo.

If you don't like one drawing, move the photo to the next blank spread in the sketchbook and try again. But keep the original drawing! You may dislike it, but it's seriously rewarding to look back at your older sketches and see how far you've come.

Step 5: Carry it around with you and keep sketching!

This is all about developing a habit of practice, and making it easy to do that practice, and, hopefully, a bit fun!

xo Diana

Creative essentials // Guest post on Pen + Peplum

art supplies

I'm thrilled to be posting on Pen and Peplum today, the lovely blog by letterer and stationary designer Miranti!

I've been so inspired by reading about her journey through career changes, creating her own business, and developing her artistic style.

Miranti is currently taking a much-deserved vacation and I'm so happy to be sharing some of my favorite creative essentials for painting on her blog. You can pop over and check them out here!

xo Diana

The Practice Project // part 1

The Practice Project, DW Draws

Now that I'm my own boss, one of my biggest day-to-day challenges is knowing what to actually work on. Sure, if I have a deadline for a project, I'll work on that, but otherwise. . .

Maybe I should read up on marketing?

Or web design?

Or photography?

How about I just get some of the laundry out of the way?

Not that doing any of those things is necessarily bad (ok, I'm trying hard not to do housework during work hours), but I noticed these types of activities were taking up more and more of my day.

Eventually, I realized I could go an entire day without painting or sketching at all. And that was a problem because it meant I wasn't growing in my real field of choice: art.

The Practice Project, DW Draws

Yes, art is a business, and I want to improve at the business side of things, but what I really want to become great at is painting and drawing.

Which is where my Practice Project comes into play.


I'd previously heard of the 10,000 hour rule from an interview with Malcom Gladwell. Studies have shown that it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you can achieve mastery in any complex skill. This goes for anything: from composing music to public speaking to skateboarding to being a doctor.

And so, of course, it also applies to art.

10,000 hours always seemed like an unattainable ideal until I saw this infographic, which broke down the hours a bit better for me.

10 hours of practice per week >> mastery in 20 years

20 hours of practice per week >> mastery in 10 years

40 hours of practice per week >> mastery in 5 years

60 hours of practice per week >> mastery in 3.5 years

I realized that at my current rate of painting, oh, maybe two hours a week, I was headed for mastery around retirement age. Not super ideal.

Mastery tracker 1


So I set a very basic goal for myself: to spend at least 20 hours every week with paintbrush or pencil in hand.

Being the list-oriented person that I am, I decided to track my hours spent painting and drawing.

I felt really motivated to get to mark another hour well-spent and it was incredibly satisfying to see how quickly I started increasing my practice time.

Within three weeks, I'd more than quadrupled my time spent. (Note: it didn't take a lot. The first week I painted exactly zero hours and sketched for two.)

The Practice Project, DW Draws

I wasn't sure how interested other people might be in tracking time spent practicing different skills -- I'm also tracking my yoga and Hindi practice for fun -- but I thought I'd include the worksheet I used for the first month. You can download my Practice Project tracker here!

I'd love to hear what types of skills each of you is working on mastering. How are you going about developing your skill? What ways of practicing or learning have worked best for you?

xo Diana

Trying out a Gallery Wall

Gallery wall

As I mentioned in a previous post, I set a goal for myself to learn how to hang a gallery wall. After a whole bunch of research, I ended up creating one for myself using my paintings.

Gallery wall

Gallery wall

The key to making the wall look somewhat organized -- or at least not haphazard -- seemed to be aligning a lot of the edges of the paintings with each other.

Gallery wall

It's definitely still a work in progress, but I'm pretty happy with how it brightened up our living room and unexpectedly made the wall seem taller!

Next project: learn how to style a couch! :)

xo Diana

P.S. Several of these paintings are available for sale here!

Iowa summer storms

Iowa storm painting

We haven't been getting particularly summery weather here in San Francisco (I guess what they said about summers here was true!), so I've been reminiscing a lot about my summers in Iowa with my parents.

There's something I just love about the heat and storms of the Iowa summer, and the feeling of driving across the plains with the windows down.

Iowa storm image

Iowa Plains painting

Iowa Plains painting

I hope this painting captures a little of that feeling!

The original painting is available for purchase on my Etsy shop, and prints are available at Society6.

xo Diana

Red white blue

Red tomatoes

Red for the best time of year for gorgeous, juicy tomatoes.

White baseball

White (or not-so-white) for being outside and playing sports.

Blue ocea

Blue for beach days.

I hope everyone's having a great summer so far. Have an amazing holiday weekend!

xo Diana

Art process 08 // orchids

orchids watercolor sketch

Normally, I have a semi-elaborate story about my paintings, my inspiration, my ups and downs through the process.

photograph of orchids

But this painting I created in the frenzy before the art show, running mostly on adrenaline. (Ok, also caffeine.)

Fortunately, I channeled some of that extra energy (read: panic) into heavily documenting the painting process.

By the time I finished the piece, I had a whole series of photographs that I wasn't sure what to do with. But after seeing Miranti's sketchbook video, I decided to try my hand at creating a time-lapse video myself.

I hope you'll forgive how rough it is around the edges -- next time a tripod is definitely required! I had a lot of fun making it and am excited to make more in the future!

The song in the video is "Dissolve Me" by Alt-j -- as you may remember, it's one of my favorites.

orchids, final painting

The original painting is available here.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

xo Diana

art show confidential

hanging the art show

I've had a lot of surprises this past year.

I didn't expect to love painting so much that I took a second year off school to pursue it further.

I didn't expect to meet such an amazing and supportive online community through blogging.

I didn't expect to find myself creating abstract paintings, or getting into calligraphy, or actually enjoying a spin class (!).

And I definitely didn't expect my first art show to be. . . kind of blah.

paintings for the Diana's art show

Ok, there were a couple of warning signs: the mid-week one-night-only night club event wasn't exactly my scene, the event organizer wasn't familiar with the area, and there were a couple of reviews of the event online that I studiously ignored.

So I started out cautious. But somehow, in the frenzy of painting and varnishing (those fumes!) and wiring canvases like a mad woman, I developed some pretty high expectations.

I was going to sell a painting, no two, no, I might actually sell out the show! I'd better bring all the prints I had lying around, because those would probably go too. I'd meet some of my future long-term collectors. I'd meet some amazing fellow artists, form lifelong bonds, and maybe set up some awesome collaborations.

Long story short: I talked to a ton of nice people (mostly youngish men who actually go to nightclubs but may or may not be interested in art), gave a really awkward video interview to an eleven year old (yes, really), met a couple of friendly artists, handed out a bunch of business cards, and didn't sell anything.


paintings for the Diana's art show

To be completely honest, it was pretty disappointing. Afterwards, I felt like I was fleeing reality as we headed off for Utah, and I definitely took advantage of the wilderness's poor cell reception to avoid responding to excited calls from friends and family asking how it went.

I just needed a bit of time to process. (Ok, and cry a bit. That's important too, right??)

Fortunately, I ran into a bit of good luck about a week later: I went to a talk by an actual, real-life, full-time artist, Josh Coffy.

Among other things, he spoke about his on-going journey as an artist and specifically referenced an early group show. At a nightclub. Where he hung out and talked to other artists and didn't sell anything.

I wanted to jump up and shout, "Me too! I just did that, literally just this last week!"

I resisted the urge, but it was so completely reassuring to hear that even a meh experience like that could be a part of my journey to become a successful artist. And it was a good reminder that we always see people once they've made it, but that everyone has crappy experiences, rough patches, and uncertainty at the beginning. Something to keep in mind.

paint tubes and blank palette

That's not to say there weren't also some amazing parts! It was such a joy to see my friends come out and support me, and S really pulled out all the stops (and all the paid time off!) to make sure I was set up and feeling good about the event.

Thank you so much everyone who came out to support me, and everyone who couldn't make it but sent me lovely messages! You guys are the best!

I know this post might sound like a bit of a downer, but I really don't mean it to be. I think often people are willing to share their trials and struggles only much, much farther down the road (when they have some reassuring successes to hold up as well), but I wanted to be honest about where I currently am. It may not all be pretty sunshines and rainbows, but it's real, and it's my beginning, and at the moment I'm ok with that.

And then much, much farther down the road, we can all look back at this documentation and chuckle. :)

xo Diana

Cotopaxi Storm

cotopaxi storm 1

This painting came about in the midst of a struggle.

I was fighting with an entire painting series that wasn't going well, and decided to take a quick break. There was a photograph that had been on my mind, and I wanted to see what I could do with it.

cotopaxi storm 4

This image comes from my trip to Ecuador, where we explored Cotopaxi National Park. While we hiked around a lakebed, the wind picked up, some dark clouds rolled in, and a storm threatened.

Fun fact about me: my absolute favorite weather is the quiet moments just before a storm.

We used to get great summer storms when I was growing up in Connecticut, and even better ones now in Iowa where my parents live, but we are seriously lacking them in California.

So you can imagine how excited I was.

cotopaxi storm 3

The new technique I wanted to try was based off a new way I've been creating sketches: I do a really fast, rough sketch with a ballpoint pen and then added in a layers of color on top.

Pens aren't exactly standard materials to use on canvas, but after struggling with not getting the fine lines I was looking for in other paintings, I figured I would it a shot.

cotopaxi storm 2

Love. Even though the finished piece doesn't look much at all like the original photograph (one of my standard problems!), I adored its luminous, half-sketched/half-painted look and how it captured that threatening weather that I love.

I'm excited to try this technique on some of the images from our Utah road trip, and maybe go a bit bigger?

You can check out the original painting here, or find prints here.

I hope everyone's having a good week! We're almost there!

xo Diana


artbook image

Hello all,

Apologies for the unexpected hiatus! I've really missed writing blog posts here this past week (although it was fantastic to get to share some art-related thoughts on Bethany's and Emma's blogs), but as you may notice, a lot of stuff was going on in the background in my absence!

Typically we ended up finishing up all the blog changes this week, in the midst of preparing for my art show and starting up a new commission piece. Yeah. Thank you so much S for your incredible patience and coding skills!

So, two quick notes before I disappear again for a few days:

  1. My posting may be a bit spotty until next week, when we get back from our first solo camping trip ever (wish us luck!).

  2. Please let me know in the comments if you notice anything janky on the blog. It's definitely still a work in progress (for example, we're still working on labels), but I'd love to know if something appears broken. Thanks so much!

Have a great week everyone!

xo Diana

P.S. I still have a few tickets left for the art show, so if you're interested and in the area, shoot me an email -- Hope to see you there!

Lately I've been feeling myself sinking back into my old I-work-from-home-alone bad habits.

Munching on snacks constantly.

Not going outside.

Watching Netflix while I browse Pinterest. Oh yes. Both at the same time.

Back in March (ack, almost two months ago!) when I wrote out my Life, Designed post, I had some seriously big plans. It was like New Year's resolutions for my entire life. But, at least in my mind, all totally doable since each item was a simple thing to change about my day.

What I kind of forgot was that, put together, those simple things were designed to change my entire life. And even getting one of those good habits in place was going to take some effort. Whoops.

While I've been good about some of these goals (learning to use my camera, setting up a great workspace), there are a lot that are just falling through the cracks (full disclosure: exercising and eating healthier). And naturally I have plenty of excuses really, really good reasons for why I haven't gotten around to these things. But focusing on the why not wasn't really getting me to make any changes.

So I decided to ask myself a more helpful question: how had I effectively made some of these goals happen? 

I came up with a quick list of strategies that are working for me, and that I hope to try to leverage to make the harder goals happen as well.


I wanted to do more reading and eat better lunches. I also wanted to practice taking better photos and build up my Instagram account. I began documenting my weekly book/lunch pairings (check out #dwreads on Instagram)...and realized how much I now look forward to coming up with a salad for the week, finishing my book, and getting to put up the photo!
  • Getting outside more -- share the best photo from my daily walk via Instagram
  • Collecting great recipes --  share my favorites on the blog
  • Get to know San Francisco better -- aim to highlight one neighborhood each month on the blog


There is not a class I have paid for that I haven't completed. My DSLR online course. Skillshare courses. Heck, even that random talk I'd bought tickets for and had to drag my sorry butt over to (and it was absolutely worth it). Call it my naturally miserly ways, but it's pretty clear that if I've paid for it, I'm way more likely to use it.
  • Getting an exercise-related membership going
  • Paying for a CSA


I've got to be honest: when I was a teacher, bribery was an essential technique for survival. Call it rewarding good behavior, call it incentivizing (incentivization?), call it whatever you want, it totally works. Even on myself. Ok, most of my bribes to myself involve chocolate and a very short timeline, but I think I may be able to get more creative here.
  • Reward for a week of healthy snacking: get to buy a new houseplant
  • Reward for a month of exercising 3x/week: get to pick a piece of jewelry I've been coveting.


I've managed to coerce a friend into going to a number of spin classes with me (the pain!), and even though our schedules don't always align, knowing that she's gone to a class or talking about them later is always huge motivation to get me to actually do it.
Ok, that was a little awkward, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, if any of the items on my list were ones on your list also, and you want a buddy -- I'm your girl! Just let me know in the comments what your goal is and how we can help keep each other on track.

Also, if you have any other suggestions for how you've been able to build up healthy habits, I'd love to hear them!

Let's do this thing!

xo Diana
FIRST ART SHOW // excited + nervous
Hello all,

I hope you had a great weekend!

I've been a bit hesitant to share this, mostly out of one of those pre-emptive fears of opportunities not working out. It's silly and self-defeating and I'm doing my best to move past it.

So, in that vein, I'm really excited to share that I was selected to show my work as part of the RAW: Revolution showcase later this month! This will be my first art show since starting painting full-time in the fall, and I'm so thrilled to get a chance to participate and meet other local artists.

RAW is an organization that promotes artists of all types -- visual artists like myself, dancers, musicians, and fashion designers -- who are just starting out in their careers. I went to the event run-through last week and got to meet some of the other creatives who will be showcasing their work, and let me tell you, they were all super inspiring, talented people. I'm so excited to get to see their work in person at the show!

For any of you who are in the Bay Area, I'd love to see you at the event! Buying tickets through my link below helps support my participation in the event, and it would mean so much to me to see you all there. :)

WHAT: one-night-only showcase with art + live performances

WHEN: Wednesday, May 21st from 8pm-12am

WHERE: Motif Nightclub + Lounge in San Jose (389 S 1st St)

PRESALE TICKETS: Tickets are $15 online via my artist link until next Wednesday, then $20 at the door. Everyone is welcome! 

I hope to see you there!

xo Diana
MOOD BOARD // re-thinking the blog

It's that time again: lately I've been feeling antsy with my current blog design, even though it really wasn't that long ago that I was redoing it for the first time.

The trigger for this particular blog overhaul actually came from some frustration with my own work. I felt like my current batch of paintings weren't giving off the vibe and look that I wanted, so I decided to create a sort of inspiration board/style guide for them. 

I'd never tried this with any of my work before, but before I knew it, I was obsessively collecting images, whipping them into a mood board (above), taking a Skillshare class for branding advice, and painting up a storm (we'll see if any of the paintings see the light of day, but at least I'm enjoying making them!).

This process also inspired me to redo my website and blog design to better align with and highlight my painting aesthetic. I'm still working on that part, which will take a while longer since web design is not something I've ever studied. I'm hoping to also take a Skillshare course on logo design -- any recommendations?

And finally, because one of my pet peeves about mood boards is how infrequently they credit their images (I'm guilty of this too!), the sources from my mood board. If anyone knows where the "move me" image comes from, let me know so I can credit it properly! 

albert weiss b+w abstract painting | my makeshift logo | britt bass "swoop" painting | move me - source unknown

xo Diana
ART PROCESS 06 // escape from the cubicle + first commission

When Susan first approached me about the possibility of creating a set of abstract paintings for her dining room, I was thrilled. Not only was it an exciting opportunity to create a larger work, but Susan herself is extremely creative, so I knew she would have lots of interesting ideas for the paintings.

I wasn't wrong. Often I look to my environment for painting inspiration (such as my breakfast!), but Susan actually picked out one of my favorite paintings as a starting point: Geometry of Arrows.

She was drawn to the colors and simple geometry of the piece, perhaps because of her interest in quilting. I got straight to work creating some sketches of other geometric compositions.

These are actually just our three favorite compositions -- I kind of went nuts on this stage! I loved doing this painting and I hope to use some of the unused sketches as a starting point for future paintings.

We originally thought we would pick three separate patterns and create a series of paintings that could fit together. However, after I experimented with a deeper-edged canvas that allowed me to paint around the edges of the piece, we decided to choose one pattern that could flow across all three canvases.
Next we choose a color palette that incorporated a lot of secondary colors -- Susan is a wonderful gardener and very drawn to greens -- and I created a miniature painting on a piece of canvas.
To maintain the strong geometric pattern and allow the design to line up across all three canvases, using a grid was essential. You can see my math in the margins as I figured out how to scale the grid up onto the full-sized canvases. :)

I did about three layers over each painting, working on the shapes, colors, and composition. This process felt almost meditative somehow, and I barely noticed the time passing as I worked through each stage.

It was almost a surprise to me when it was finished.
Working on a commission piece was very different from my usual style of painting. I was much more meticulous about how I progressed and collaborating with someone else forced me to really honestly evaluate each stage. One of the best parts for me was getting to see the space where the paintings would live, and tailoring the piece to its future environment.

I think the painting is all the better for it. 

If you're interested in commissioning a painting, I'm currently accepting work for May. Just send me a message -- I'd love to work with you!

xo Diana
CAMERA GIVEAWAY! // celebrating with latrina from of trees + hues

Some pretty awesome news: one of my blogger friends, Latrina from the gorgeous blog Of Trees & Hues, just had her 29th birthday and, to celebrate, we're giving away a DSLR camera!

Yep. It's pretty good, right? The camera is a Canon EOS Rebel T3i, which I'm especially excited about since I've been using this camera since last summer. I absolutely love it and have been blown away by the photos it produces! (For the lucky person who wins it, I totally recommend investing in the "nifty fifty" -- a relatively inexpensive 50mm prime lens, which I can't get enough of.)

A big group of people -- all amazing bloggers, designers, and shop owners -- joined Trina in making this raffle possible, so definitely check out some of these lovely people! And feel free to hop over to Of Trees & Hues to send Trina a birthday message, or, like I do, just drool over her photography and design skills. :)
Of Trees and Hues | Lorelai's Things | Cocorrina | Melissa Alam | Buckets and Spades | Whisky & Tinder | Thatch & Thistle | Thou Swell | Writers Block Near You | A Lively Blend | Tara Victoria | Fashiony Fab | My Life Box | Kyla is Inspired | Star Crossed Smile | Love Grows Design | Coco and Mingo | J for Jamie | 45 Wall Design | We Resolve | To Adventure | Team Wiking | Hanna's Places | Clear the Way | Diana Willard | Pen & Peplum | La Designerie | Witty Title Here | Cambria Grace | Mamages | Emma Lou Designs | Safaris and Sunsets | Tori's Tales | Folk & Fest | Lucky Number Seven | Likes of Us | Ex Vitae | Horses of Ares

How the giveaway works:

>>Enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter below -- signing up for the first entry will open up a ton more ways to earn more entries!

>>The raffle ends midnight on May 6th and is open to international readers.

Good luck everybody!

xo Diana

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I've been feeling the fear a lot lately: that paralyzing feeling of uncertainty and self-doubt.

There have been a lot of moments in the past few weeks where I really doubted that I could make this work, or that this was even a good idea. This includes being an artist, running my own business, even blogging -- everything is new for me, and even some of the little parts of it can be intimidating.

This weekend I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the De Young Museum and was really interested to learn many of her paintings came out of moments of negative feelings -- pain, sadness, maybe even anger. Yet (I think) they are truly beautiful paintings and create a lightness and happiness within their own world.

This quote of hers really rang true for me:

I've been terrified every moment of my life, and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to.

-- Georgia O'Keeffe

Yes and yes. Pushing through the hard stuff today. Best of luck with everything you're trying to make happen!

xo Diana

P.S. As I was working on writing this piece, Emma's post on a similar topic popped right up! Always reassuring to know that other people are going through similar things!
ART PROCESS 05 // soundwaves

It's funny how sometimes the littlest thing can trigger a big idea.

This week, I finally geared myself up to start practicing yoga daily. An unexpected benefit of this was that it got me listening to music in the early morning. I was feeling a little bit stuck in my painting, but at least I was enjoying the soundtrack!

So I decided to do a little exercise for myself that I hadn't done since my days at music theater summer camp (yes, really, and you can bet I was the only tone-deaf camper there). I decided to "draw" the music.

This process turned into a series of sketches as I listened to one song and then another, and before I knew it, I had gone from is-it-naptime-yet to ready-to-paint-a-whole-series.

That's not to say there aren't some rough moments in the process.

As I shared on Instagram, greens just aren't my thing when it comes to painting. (This will be a real problem if I decide to start doing botanical still lifes, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.) I love blues, pinks, yellows... I adore turquoise and I can happily do a nice blue-green.

murmur, detail

But dark, moody forest greens are not something I've quite mastered.

This was an issue because I could see so clearly that one of the songs I really wanted to paint, The Mummer's Dance by Loreen McKennitt, was quite obviously a true, deep green.

After some significant pondering (plus two cookies) I think I have the pieces where I want them: a triptych of three songs all from my yoga music mix.
I often end up with leftover paint on my palette. Since I paint with acrylics, even slow-drying paints will dry within a day or two, so I end up wasting a lot of paint. This time I had an easy solution:
All five paintings are available on my Etsy shop and I'm offering a mix-n-match deal if you're interested a "mama" painting and "baby" painting together -- half off the small painting. Just convo me with your order and I'll hook you up. :)

Have a great weekend!

xo Diana
ART PROCESS 04 // looking back + older work
madonna, 2010

For me, moving is a time of purging. We toss out worn-out clothes, abandoned books, chipped plates, and the amazing re-generating clutter of everyday life.

It's refreshing to lighten our load, but the process always also highlights the few items that I can never part with.

Anyone who's visited our apartments in maybe the past four years (or seen this blog post from our old space) has seen these two paintings. They are among the first things to find a place in our new homes, always finding some highly-prized wall space.

I just like seeing them.
I'm not sure what it is about them, but at this point they fit together as a pair for me (someone suggested that perhaps they represent myself and my husband for me -- but let's be real: neither of us looks this dramatic).
the cosmonaut, 2010

I painted both of them in a flurry of activity -- finding an image online that I loved, dashing the paint on any way that pleased me, and stopping abruptly, suddenly satisfied with the end result.
I think it's good to look back at older work -- to see the patterns and trends that emerge, and to a sense of an overall direction.

There are definitely things I would do differently if I painted these now, and sometimes I've been tempted to go in with a paint brush once and for all.

But I've never made the plunge, and I think that's because these two paintings were my first baby steps after taking art classes into painting rule-breaking: creating works that are fun to make and please my eye, even if they look unfinished, have weird colors and lumpy textures, and aren't necessarily perfected.

Things are looking a little bare around here as we wait to get the rest of our furniture out of storage, but maybe a pair of paintings and a pair of houseplants is really all I need.

Do you ever take time to look back at your body of work? What have you found in the process?

xo Diana
DIY ART 02 // five tips for looking at in-progress works with fresh eyes
There's a principle in psychology called habituation, which says that if we are exposed to something for a long period of time, we get so used to it that we no longer sense it. This is why we don't usually feel our clothes on our skin after we put them on, or why we can eventually drown out a boring teacher's monotone.

The same thing happens to me when I'm painting.

After working on a painting for long time, I get used to it. I think: the piece is coming along pretty well, in fact, it's looking pretty great. Then I talk it off the easel and catch a glimpse of it upside down.

Holy cow! It's a complete mess. All its asymmetries and flaws jump out as I see it from a new perspective.

I've developed a couple of little strategies to see my paintings with "fresh eyes" as I work on them, so I don't end up at the oh-god-what-have-I-done phase after a month of work. These would probably work for other visual media -- graphic design, textiles, photography -- but I'd love to hear what other strategies you've found to get a new perspective on your work!


1. Take a step back. Or ten.

If this calls up to your mind artists in cartoons leaning away from their canvas and squinting, I'm right there with you! But it's so easy to stay a certain distance (usually super close) to the piece, so you can't get a sense of it's overall composition. I've worked this into my workflow by take a circuit around my work table every few minutes to make sure I get farther away from the piece.

2. Turn it upside down. 

(Or sideways. Or the other way.) This really helps in looking for balance within the piece -- if everything is on one side or the other, or all the bright colors are in one section, the piece may feel imbalanced.

2. Look at it in the mirror. 

This is so, so helpful for me when I'm doing portraits, as the asymmetries in my piece just jump right out! (Taking a photo and flipping it horizontally would also work great.)

4. Take a photo and make it black and white. 

Obviously this only helps with colored pieces, but this is fantastic for seeing the true range of lights and darks and level of contrast in your piece. I've occasionally been stunned by this technique, realizing how all my colors are basically the same darkness.

5. Take some time away from it.
Before I decide that a piece is finished, I usually let it sit for a few days (or much longer) and "stare" at me, or put it away and forget about it. After a while, I'll have a better sense of how I feel about the piece -- if I can live with it, or if there are certain things I just have to fix.

What are some of your strategies for getting a new or better perspective on your work?

xo Diana
ART PROCESS 03 // sunday brunch
Whew! We are finally in our new apartment, tucked in our newly-reassembled Ikea bed, and completely exhausted. I think I have amnesia of some kind when it comes to moving -- I somehow always forget how ridiculously complicated, time-consuming, and draining it is!

But on the bright side: now onto decorating our new space, exploring our neighborhood, and finally, finally back to painting!

Sometimes it takes me a really long time to create a finished painting (proof: my amazingly circuitous process for Avalanche and Butterfly Wing).

And sometimes it comes together very quickly.

A couple of weeks ago, S and I visited some friends in Davis, California. These friends are far, far better cooks than either of us, so we took advantage of their expertise to have a brunch complete with real from scratch pancakes, homemade jam, and eggs.

It basically blew my mind, and I took a photo to document the momentous occasion.

The photo was kicking around in the back of my mind for a few days, mostly because of the memories of the food, but also because I loved the repetition of differently sized and overlapping circles.

So I sat down and recreated the photo using only basic lines and circles. And then I went to town with the colors.
In the end, I think the finished painting (and the art prints) reminds me less of the photograph, and more of a bouquet of ranunculus, but either way, this painting really flowed for me.

I'd definitely like to try the process of turning a photograph into an abstract painting again -- it was just too fun! What are your favorite sources to get inspired to make art?

xo Diana

P.S. Thank you so much for those of you who purchased art during my spring Etsy sale! You totally made my week! :)

This is sort of a homework assignment I gave to myself. (And a bit of a different type of post from my usual, just a heads up!)

I spent a good chunk of the past year thinking about how to structure my life, and also wandering around the internet having a lot of "I wish that was my life!" moments. Between the two, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with choices and a bit defeated about my lack of direction.

I got the idea for this project from an unknown designer (if anyone has heard something similar, I'd love to know who said this!). This designer said to truly be a designer, you must design all aspects of your life: your work, play, clothes, home, and even your speech.

This idea really appealed to me, so I posed the question to myself: if you designed your life, what life would it be?


Find a new apartment that prioritizes window space and lighting. Done!
Develop a space that maximizes productivity, relaxation, and a sense of well-being.
Create a separate quiet workspace besides the bed and reserve the bed for non-work activities.
Build up our house plant collection and learn how to properly care for them.

Edit my closet down to only those items that I love and feel awesome in. (Some ideas here, here, and here)
Invest in curated and well-made pieces occasionally to build up a great closet.

Shift the bulk of what I eat to fruits and vegetables. (Inspired by Michael Pollan, of course!)
Invest in a juicer, once we have the space.
Subscribe to a CSA and actually utilize the things in it. (Thinking about this one, but would love some San Francisco recommendations!)
Get myself to try lots of recipes until I build up a collection of ones I love. (Thanks to the Minimalist Baker for easing me away from my cooking-induced anxiety.)

Create an exercise plan that makes me feel great.
Stick to it.
Build up my practice of yoga.

Take my time and properly learn the skills that I need and want to master.

Seek out mentors in the fields of painting, art, small business owners, authors.
Find a great community of creative people to get inspired by and participate in. (Working on it! Here and here.)
Start myself on a career path that I feel excited and confident about.

Take time to visit wonderful and beautiful places nearby and farther away.
Get to know San Francisco really well.
Be intentional about staying in contact with friends and family.
Splurge on great and inspiring books and magazines. (Possibly this one?)
Do something fun and out of the ordinary every weekend.
Get outside more!

I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with this list, but I keep coming back to it, and it always makes me feel more centered. Maybe I'll add to it, maybe I'll substract from it, or maybe I'll just annotate it. I'd love to come back to it this time next year, and see where I took it.

What types of things would you put on your "Life, Designed" list?

xo Diana
MOVING ON UP! // 15% off etsy sale
For the past two weeks, S and I have been braving the total free-for-all that is apartment hunting in San Francisco. After attending fifteen minute (yes, really!) open houses, giving all our financial and personal identification information to complete strangers, and bickering while trying to find street parking all over the city, we've managed to find a new place!

We move into our new apartment in Noe Valley next weekend, and to celebrate, I wanted to host my first Etsy shop sale! It's spring, we're moving to a new apartment with space for a real studio, and I'm feeling pretty excited about this whole adventure!

You can get 15% off all prints and paintings in my Etsy shop by inputing the code MOVINGONUP15. I'll be running this sale until next Saturday, when our actual moving will begin!

I've been sharing the stories behind a couple of my paintings over the past few weeks, but I figured I'd share some of my personal favorites from the past six months of painting below!
Fear of Flight, 9x12 acrylic painting
Avalanche, 18x18 acrylic painting (read about my process of creating this painting here!)
Gold Chevron, 8x10 acrylic painting
Butterfly Wing, 9x12 acrylic painting (read about my circuitous path to creating this painting here!)
Teal Water, 9x12 acrylic painting

Have a great weekend everyone!

xo Diana

P.S. My cover picture for the sale is based off of two paintings in my "Seasons" series -- Spring and Summer. I'm obviously ready for some warmer weather! :)
DIY ART 01 // picking your paint palette

I've been loving Erica's recent series of art-related tutorials -- especially the ones that discuss which materials to get! Art supplies are expensive, and art stores can be really overwhelming, so I decided to share some tips on choosing paint colors if you want to get into painting.

Setting up your palette is really important. If you have a good set of colors to work with, you can create pretty much any color you can envision.

And there are some colors that are so easy to make (I'm looking at you, orange!), that it's kind of silly to spend money on them. Better to mix up the perfect shade for yourself!

I love painting with acrylics, and I especially like Golden Heavy Body Artist Acrylics. The photos below show Golden Open Acrylics, which dry in hours instead of in minutes, but the color principles for choosing a palette apply to really any type of acrylic paint.

My plan when buying paints is to do two things: purchase some basic neutrals that can be combined with any color, and get a cool and warm version of each of the primary colors.

These are are nice because they are cheap and great for mixing. White and black tend to be crucial for me, followed by yellow ochre. The two darker browns are especially good for getting skin or earth tones right.

WHITE - I like Titanium White and, as you can see in the photo, I run through it really fast. If you're going to buy a larger sized tube of any color, this should be the one!

BLACK - either Mars Black or Paynes Gray

BURNT UMBER - a very dark, reddish brown

YELLOW OCHRE - a light orangey neutral

BURNT SIENNA - a lighter reddish-brown

Yellow, red, and blue are the primary colors, but when picking paints, I like to get two of each: one that has a warmer (red or orange) tone and one that has a coolor (green or blue) tone.

COOL YELLOW - Hansa Yellow Light

WARM YELLOW - I like Diarylide Yellow, although I also use Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue (which is a more neutral yellow) a lot.

WARM RED - Pyrrole Red or Cadmium Red Medium Hue

COOL RED - Quinacridone Magenta

WARM BLUE -  Ultramarine Blue or Cobalt Blue

COOL BLUE - Manganese Blue Hue

Getting a warm and a cool version of each primary color makes it really easy to mix the secondary colors: orange, purple, and green.

It makes more sense when you arrange the paints in a circle.
If you mix each pair of neighboring paints together, you'll be able to mix the secondary colors and a more neutral version of each primary color.

Once you get started painting, you'll quickly figure out which colors you tend to use a lot, and which ones you aren't really drawn to. If you find one color that you are constantly mixing, it may be worth seeing if there is a bottled version of that paint.

For me, that color is definitely turquoise! (Proof, proof, proof, and more proof!)

xo Diana
ART PROCESS 02 // butterfly wing
As I mentioned in my first "Art Process" post, my process changes a lot from painting to painting.

For "Avalanche," I began with a photo. For "Butterfly Wing," I began with a rejected painting.

So I had this great idea.

My abstract paintings had been getting more disorganized, but also more static. There was no movement in them. You looked at them and -- splat -- your eye didn't move.

I needed a change.

So I decided to create a new series, based on a very ordered shape found in nature, but that was still full of motion: a nautilus.

Nautiluses (nautili??) are deep sea creatures whose shells follow a Fibonacci pattern -- a math sequence that forms a beautiful spiral. 

It seemed like the perfect solution to my issue, so I got down to it, pulled out my ruler and created my masterpiece.
[1] I created one painting that I liked, but later destroyed with too many overzealous top coats. Then I decided to get serious.

[2] I sketched the nautilus shell, learned how to draw a proper Fibonacci sequence and spiral, and planned some color schemes for the soon-to-be series.

[3] I carefully mapped the plan out onto a canvas.

[4] Whoa there! Things were getting a little crazy. More paint would probably help.
When I was done, I had ended up with something way, way more complicated and disorganized than I had set out to do. I had created chaos out of order.

This was disheartening, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. 

I actually really liked one corner of the painting.

So I ran with it.
When it was done, it wasn't a nautilus anymore. And it certainly wasn't a neat Fibonacci spiral. But it was something that I liked, that had motion and order and color. And it reminded me of a different, well-organized form in nature: a butterfly's wing.

Have any of you ever used a failure as a stepping stone to something you were proud of? I'd love to hear about it!

xo Diana

P.S. You can find the original "Butterfly Wing" on my Etsy shop or check out prints and iPhone cases at Society6.

PORTRAIT PROJECT 01 // dena evelyn shapiro

For the past few months, I've been really focused on doing abstract paintings as a way to ease myself back into art -- focusing on color, composition, and brushstrokes. But every since I was little, I've been obsessed with drawing faces, so I decided it was time to get back into it!

I was inspired by a photograph of Dena Evelyn Shapiro that Miss Moss (another Diana!) shared on her blog. At the time of this portrait during the 1920s, Ms. Shapiro had received her masters in sociology from the University of Chicago and had just returned from Palestine where she was studying the interaction between Zionism and the complex religious and cultural environment that existed there.

I love this type of intense, old portrait, and did my best to capture it in pencil and then in simple blue acrylic. I like the end result, although I hope to get better at doing portraits that look more like the original subject. New goal for the year! :)

I'm really excited to start this series and want to use my portrait project to learn about more awesome women in arts and sciences. Let me know if you have any suggestions for portrait subjects!

xo Diana

P.S. The original painting is available for sale here!
THE ART PROCESS 01 // avalanche
Last week, I was in FedEx getting some paintings scanned. (Side note: super cheap option for getting slightly larger pieces scanned!) The FedEx guy asked me about the paintings and guessed that an abstract 9x12 inch painting had taken me a couple weeks.

At first I told him "No way! It just took a couple of hours!" but then I realized that before those couple of hours were a couple of weeks of frustrating run-up time full of discarded pieces.

This conversation made me think about how opaque the artistic process can be (even to myself!), and I decided to start sharing more of my step-by-step painting process, warts and all.


[1] DECEMBER 2013 - While hiking in Ecuador over winter break, I took a photograph of the volcano Cotopaxi shrouded in clouds. I loved the abstract nature of the image and decided to base a painting on it.

[2] JANUARY 6 - Using the photograph as a guide, I did some pencil sketches, ambitiously planning a series of four related paintings.

[3 & 4] JANUARY 7 - On pieces of canvas pad (great option for getting some cheap, gessoed canvas to try out painting!) I tested out paint colors and techniques. As you can see from 4, I tried a thickly painted palette knife technique, but settled on a flatter brush-stroke option.

[1] JANUARY 12 - I purchased an 18x18" canvas with a thick edge (these are called "gallery" canvases and are especially great for hanging paintings unframed) and put down some nice, loose black strokes. I was actually pretty happy with the dynamic nature of this stage.

[2] JANUARY 13 - I "finished" the piece (ha!) with more detail in black and white and incorporating color. Stepping back (always the crucial test for a painting), I felt very meh about the painting...verging on a yuck.

[3] MID-FEBRUARY - I took a good month off from this guy and worked on a whole other bunch of pieces (most are up on my Etsy shop). When I came back, I painted over the piece in black and white simultaneously, producing a great "ugly mess" effect.

[4] MID-FEBRUARY - I decided the problem was the high contrast between black and white. In a sudden burst of energy, I painted over the black areas in thick gray paint.

LAST WEEK - I ended up really liking the gray and ran with it, refining its edges and adding streaks of color. As you can see, I had a lot of trouble deciding which direction was "up" (problems of a square canvas?). I ended up settling on one direction, but sometimes I switch it around, just for fun...

After some refinements and a few coats of varnish, I ended up being really happy with this guy! You can see more images of Avalanche or purchase the original on my Etsy shop.

Hopefully I can continue documenting my art process. I really enjoyed doing it and being able to look back on each stage. Do any of you have a good system for documenting your work process? How do you do it?

xo Diana

P.S. For those of you working on a larger scale, how do you get high-quality (but not prohibitively expensive) scans or photographs of your finished pieces? I'd love to make prints or iPhone cases available of this piece, but don't have a good enough image to use at the moment. Would really appreciate any tips!
LIEBSTER AWARD // a love letter to the blogging community
Earlier this week, the lovely Emma of Emma-Lou Designs nominated me for a Liebster Award -- basically a virtual high-five in the blogging community given to new bloggers. I was incredibly touched and excited. I've only been blogging for about six months and have been blown away by how supportive the blogging community has been.

Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought I'd use this post as a way of spreading the love for the blogging community (plus answering the questions that go with the Liebster Award, below).

The rules of the Liebster Award are to tag several other bloggers to then answer my questions, but I simply wanted to highlight some of the wonderful people (some new, some not) who've been inspiring me online!

LATRINA from OF TREES & HUES - a lovely blog that features Latrina's beautiful photography and writing -- I adore how she shares her personal life and works so hard to build community.

KELLY from BEHIND THE DESIGN - I love her minimalist approach to design, and can't get enough of her advice to designers!

SOPHIE from SPARK YOURSELF - a wonderful and honest blog to inspire aspiring writers

JAKE & JAMIE from A PAIR OF PEARS - a blog by a husband and wife design team that constantly inspires me with the variety of their projects, plus the wonderful artists that they find and share!

JESSICA from CREATIVE INDEX - another beautifully designed blog. In particular, I just love her calligraphy & hand-lettering work (check out some of her prints here!)

And there are so many more amazing bloggers doing beautiful work out there! I want to start sharing them more often -- the blogging community is just to good to keep to myself. :)

Lots of love to all the bloggers out there! 

xo Diana

p.s. I used images from my Turquoise Water painting as the background to these designs -- you can check out the original here or get prints here!
Hi everyone! I hope you're having a good week!

This week has been a bit weird for me so far. Some of you may have noticed that my blog was down for a couple days...not exactly what I'd hoped for, but I think it's all set now.

On the bright side, I'm really excited to get to share some changes around the website with you guys! A huge thank you to S, who definitely went above and beyond (and then beyond that) to make this happen.

The biggest change is probably the name of the blog. "Not What I Planned" served me really well as I started experimenting and exploring this little corner of the internet (not to mention directed a weird amount of web domain search traffic my way). However, as things progressed and, well, became more planned, the name seemed to fit less and less.

For me, "DW draws" is a space that can grow and change with me. I wanted a name that conveyed a work-in-progress, since that's definitely how I feel about this journey I'm on.

The smaller changes have more to do with streamlining the blog's design -- I like how the more minimalist look lets my photographs stand out -- and with setting up a professional website for myself. The new site will make it easier for me to combine the different things I do (the blog, my Etsy and Society6 shops, a more complete portfolio of artwork, etc.).

Since I'm brand new to web design, I'd love any feedback you guys have on the blog redesign and :) I hope you like them!

xo Diana

P.S. If you follow my blog on Bloglovin' (or if you're looking for a really nice way to view your blogroll), you can switch your subscription to my new blog here!
NEW ART! // paintings & prints from january
What a crazy month this has been! I feel like it just flew by!

This month I made it a big priority to try to paint every single day. Well, that seriously did not happen (nor did the daily exercise -- surprise, surprise!), but I am loving the new direction my work is going and really glad I spent so much of the month with paintbrush in hand.

You can check out my original paintings and some prints on my Etsy site, or see how the paintings look on a phone case at Society6

I have to say, my favorite piece is my first attempt at hand-lettering (below), which also happens to be my not-so-secret Valentine gift for S! "Te amo" means "I love you" in Spanish. I may be keeping the original for myself (er, giving it to my lovely husband), but you can snag a print or stationary of the design. :) 
I hope everyone had a good January! Have a great weekend!

xo Diana
SWATCHES // color combinations for paintings
I've begun the process of creating a set of paintings for a family friend. It's my first commission* and I'm definitely putting a lot of extra effort in to make sure it goes well. 

Besides creating about a million sketches, I painted some color swatches for possible color combinations...and ended up kind of liking how they looked all together. Funny how sometimes the most random things in the studio turn out!

xo Diana

* Ok, besides that time my mom wanted some Iowa-themed paintings when my parents first moved to the state...not super glamorous. :) I obviously chose corn as my subject matter.
STUDIO TOUR 2 // the studio-studio apartment
 Our apartment definitely gives new meaning to the term "studio apartment." Not only is it literally one (it's single room measuring a shocking 10x19 feet...yes, really), but it also is packed with my art supplies, easel, and stockpiled paintings.
It's actually been a very cool experience to learn to streamline and organize our belongings to make the space functional, and even fun. I never thought I would appreciate the benefits of the fridge being so close to the bed, but there it is... :) 
I actually think the hardest part for us was consolidating -- and not increasing! -- our bookshelves. Totally painful.

Another downside of downsizing was having all our belongings in much closer proximity to each other. At which point we realized exactly how much the two of us like colors. Bright colors.
Probably the part of our space I'm most proud of (besides my actual painting set-up), was what we fondly call our "media center." Combine a 10-year-old printer, some shelving abandoned by a neighbor, an oversized computer monitor, and some speakers, and there you go! Best part is, I took this picture from our bed, so you can get a sense of how truly convenient it is.

At this point, we may only be in our current apartment for a couple more months (so obviously, this was the perfect timing for this blog post, ha!), but I'm having trouble picturing what to do with a larger space. :)

Do any of you live/have lived in tiny apartments? Do you have any tips or tricks for making the most of a teeny space? My dream is (if not a bigger place) then something as beautiful as this Brooklyn apartment, and I love reading these survival tips for small spaces.

xo Diana
Hello all! 

I hope your January is off to a good start! I've definitely taken more of a break from the blog than I intended, but I'm really excited about some of the things I've been working on: changing up the blog (if you poke around, you'll notice some things that are seriously still in progress), creating a functional artist portfolio website, and making a ton of new art

All good stuff, but as I mentioned in an Instagram post a couple of weeks ago, when S and I sat down to draft some New Year's resolutions...we were only able to come up with plans for January! Not exactly what we intended, but I'm working at embracing the unknown that comes with a year that is still really up in the air. I have to say, I'm starting to get excited to see what it holds for us.

I'll be back to posting more regularly soon (mostly a back-log of some travel photos, sorry!), but I'm hoping to gradually focus the blog more on my art and art process -- plus continuing to share other projects and fun things I'm up to.

Thanks for sticking around the past few months and I hope everyone has a great new year!

xo Diana
Well! These past few weeks have been a serious whirlwind! S and I just got back home from what felt like a full month of travel.

It was absolutely amazing -- getting to see our families who live far away, catching up with old friends, and meeting so many new people -- but now I'm pretty ready to curl up at home and catch up on things. I'm planning on making some changes around here, so will be taking the week to set things up for the new year.

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and has a happy new year!

xo Diana

P.S. Above are some quiet moments via Instagram from our stay with S's parents in Delhi -- these moments always end up being my favorites!

I've been looking for a fun update for the plain black iPhone case I've been using basically forever, and after reading this review of the updated and improved Society6 iPhone cases, I decided to make some custom cases with my paintings.
For those of you who don't know, Society6 is a website where artists, designers, or pretty much anyone can upload quality digital images to be available online as art prints, phone cases, tote bags, pillows... and Society6 handles the production and shipping. It's pretty amazing.
I'm still debating which one I want for myself (yeah, I can't resist!), and you can check out all the cases here. I also have larger-sized art prints available, and you can find slightly cheaper 8x10 prints or originals on my Etsy shop.

And just FYI, Society6 is offering free shipping on orders over $50 until Friday...for those of you, like me, who are still trying to figure out holiday gifts. :)

xo Diana

I live in a seriously tiny studio apartment with my husband -- no really, the apartment is less than 200 square feet! It's been an interesting adventure to figure out how to make the space work for us, and how to include a studio space for me to work in.

After a lot of experimenting, I think I've created a space that works for well for me -- as well as leaving some space for S to work in also. :)

I like to surround the workspace with colors and textures I like. I adore this vintage postcard we picked up in Austin on our trip earlier this year.

To fit everything in a tiny space, I got an French Easel to hold works-in-progress. As a bonus, it also doubles as a place to store my paints and brushes. Most of my paintings are done in acrylic paint, but lately I've been experimenting with more watercolor, colored pencils, and pen and ink.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the studio tour! You can also check out some of my finished pieces at my portfolio website or my Etsy shop!

xo Diana

I'm so excited to let you all know that after several months of creating art and figuring out how to set up a small business, I am opening an Etsy shop to sell my original paintings and prints! You can check out the shop here, or look at my online portfolio here. :)


I've mentioned before that I wanted to focus more on sketching, and even shared some sketchbook inspiration last week. To help motivate myself to keep working on sketching, I'm going to share occasional sketchbook pages. Here's the first one -- definitely drawing some inspiration from my medical school experiences!

xo Diana 
DAMN KIDS! // Documenting each generation's complaints about the next

Today I watched a Ted Talk by Eunice Hii, a fellow Millennial, where she discussed learning that our generation is referred to as "The Worst Generation."

While I agree with her that there is a need to balance passion with realism, I was saddened that she took to heart what I think of as the "kids these days" complaining that each generation ritually doses onto the next.

Given the flurry of articles bashing Generation Y, and Gen Y in return bashing the Boomers, I decided to collect "damn kids" complaints through the ages. Ok, through the last century. I wanted to take a look at what parents really think of their kids, and whether we really are "The Worst Generation" ever.

[To clarify: dates are a rough estimate of the birth dates for a given generation]

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: They were the badasses who defeated the Nazis, held down the home fort, and ended the Great Depression. As Tom Brokaw declares: their "sacrifices" and "sense of duty" literally "saved the world." Ballers.

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: They came of age between WWII and the cultural revolution, so seem to be overshadowed by their neighboring generations. If anyone ever mentions them, they are considered to be an industrious, adaptive bunch who basically never complain about anything.
  • "Taking no chances and having a gray-flannel mentality." (Fortune, 1949)
  • "Withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous--and silent." (Historian William Manchester)
  • "Opportunities missed and chances not taken." (Historian Neil Howe)

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: Former anti-establishment hippies and civil rights advocates who are now the establishment. They are currently in power and taking a lot of criticism for "causing" the economic meltdown and political stalemate.
  • "The Now Generation has become the Me Generation... more interested in an afternoon nap...than a speech by a Democratic House candidate." (New York Times, 1976)
  • "Serious youth crime grew twice as fast as the number of youths." (Generations, William Strauss)
  • "Pot is entrenched in our society...We have passed the point of no return." (Time Magazine, 1969)

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: They're not getting a whole lot of press at the moment -- like the Silent Generation, they may be a bit overshadowed by the bigger-in-numbers Boomers and Millennials. As an interesting side note, check out this article on Gen X's lack of spokespeople.
  • "Preening narcissists who have to document every banal moment with their cutting-edge communications technology." (Newsweek, 1985)
  • "They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial." (Time Magazine, 1990)
  • "[A] metaphor for America's loss of purpose, disappointment with institutions, despair over the culture and fear for the future." (Atlantic magazine, 1992)

CURRENT STEREOTYPE: Damn kids. The current generation of young adults, myself included, who are generally considered to be entitled little brats and the worst generation yet. (All the articles below unless otherwise noted can be found here, gathered up beautifully by Kate Dries for the New York Times.)

  • "Could kill the NFL." (Christian Science Monitor, 2012)
  • "Spending more than they earn." (Forbes, 2012)
  • "Lacking enough money to meet their basic needs." (The Boston Globe, 2012)
  • "Killing the housing market." (Forbes, 2012)
  • "You don't get a trophy for not getting your work done...for an entire generation of young adults, this is a very difficult reality to face." (Business Insider, 2012)
  • "I can't stop thinking that not only corporate loyalty but commitment to building a career may be a thing of the past." (Fortune, 2010)
  • "Subverting the rules of courtship...leaving an entire generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend." (New York Times, 2013)
  • "Think the Boomers are self-absorbed? Wait until you meet their kids." (The Washington Post, 2006)
  • "Significantly more narcissistic than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers." (Harvard Business Review, 2010)
  • "Three in four Americans believe that today's youth are less virtuous and industrious than their elders." (Pew Research Center, 2009)
  • "Inflated sense of self...unrealistic expectations...chronic disappointment." (New York Post, 2010)

    CURRENT STEREOTYPE: The jury's still out on this generation, some of whom are...still being born. Good luck kiddos!

    A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM? It seems pretty clear that each generation, just as it comes of age and begins to differentiate itself, is criticized by the previous one. Or that the whole "generations" idea is made up by magazines to sell really bad headlines. 

    Either way, I would love to see the constant recycling of disdain and despair for the future get sidelined for a more optimistic attitude: perhaps one in which the previous generation mentors the next one, while learning from them in turn.

    Too idealistic? Well then, maybe we can at least finally leave Gen Y alone and move onto bashing Gen Z together? :)

    What are your thoughts on the topic?

    xo Diana
    Maybe it's just that time of year, but I am currently really motivated to get organized! After making several handmade books (check out the DIY directions here) and using them to jot down ideas for projects, I've been wanting some sort of weekly or monthly planner for myself.

    Some options I'm loving right now: (clockwise from top left)

    INNER CIRCLE PLANNER } in custom colors by Arte & Luar Bookbinding.

    { SKYLINE PLANNER } by Dozi.

    FIRE ENGINE RED CALENDAR } by Rockpile Bindery.

    { CUSTOM ORGANIZER } by Bubbo -- sadly no longer available. But perhaps a great model to base a DIY off of? :)

    Do you have any favorite organizers or organizing methods you'd recommend?

    xo Diana
    A good chunk of today went into formatting the blog, which hopefully won't happen again for a while! After trying out Blogger's Dynamic View options, I decided it wasn't really working for me (and took forever to load anything!), despite some features that I liked.

    Now it's back to real work...more painting! :)

    xo Diana
    I just started Molly Jacques' online Skillshare course on calligraphy and cannot. stop. drawing. There's something strangely addictive about practicing and perfecting letterforms. Loving it.

    xo Diana
    Today it's back to basics: figuring out color palettes, brush strokes, and composition. I'm enjoying keeping things simple with classic colors and geometric shapes today -- not to mention way too much milky tea. :)

    xo Diana
    I hope you all had a good weekend!

    After a few weeks of setting my own schedule, I've realized that I am far more motivated by diving headfirst into a huge project and hammering it out than by doing pieces of many projects daily. I totally embraced this new attitude today by throwing my plans out the window and hunkering down to learn a new programming language and make a portfolio website for myself. Hopefully I'll be able to finalize and share it soon!

    xo Diana

    Part of what makes this year so exciting is that I don't really have a plan. Sure, I have some ideas of things I want to try or projects I've been putting off and finally may get to.

    But really, I don't have any commitments to myself or anyone else, which feels completely bizarre but also ridiculously liberating.

    Most of my experimenting has been within my studio -- trying out different mediums (hello watercolor!) or styles or subjects.

    But today I thought I would just completely toss out my blog design and try something totally different. I'm still trying to decide what I think of it and still making little tweaks, but I would love to hear what you think -- which version you preferred, what is working for you and what isn't. Because, as I mentioned, I really don't have a plan.

    xo Diana

    I've been working on a series of small abstracts the past few days and it feels so nice to experiment with colors and shapes! I've never been into abstract painting before, but somehow it really frees me up to focus on brush work and color. I'm thinking this trend may last!

    xo Diana

    The tiny apartment that S and I live in turned out to be a great excuse to buy a real easel -- there's no room for a work table in here! The easel arrived yesterday and since then I've moved nearly every piece of furniture we have to set up my little studio. By next week it should be ready!

    S and I are taken a quick trip to Austin for the weekend, just for fun. It's going to be over 100 degrees (!) but I'm excited for a last weekend of real summer. Have a great long weekend everyone!

    xo Diana
    I've been messing around with fonts and ways to use my photos (this one's from a drive to La Honda beach), and came up with this design. Download a full-size image here if you'd like to use it desktop wallpaper!
    Inspired by this piece by Sean Wes on hand-lettering, I decided to sketch out a blog logo -- I wouldn't call it finished (or anywhere close!), but it was fun and inspired me to spend more time sketching -- not just on logos, but on everything. I tend to jump into projects as soon as I think of them, so here's to spending more time planning!

    xo Diana
    I haven't painted with acrylics in months and I was pretty rusty! To cheer myself up afterwards, I used the leftover paint to do a simple abstract piece, and ended up liking it more than the larger painting I'd been working on. Hooray for improvisation!


    I suddenly got really into logo designing today, inspired by this satirical poster, of all things. Ah, hipster logos... I'm planning on making some playlists to go with these logos -- have to put them to good use!

    xo Diana

    Today I went shopping for art supplies and shelving to create my "studio" for our miniature apartment. Going to the art store -- the same one I went to in college! -- really reminded me of being an art student. Makes me want to take an art class of some sort again...

    Hi! I'm Diana, a medical student taking advantage of a year off to explore art, writing, and anything and everything else that inspires me! I'll be sharing my daily projects, travels, and some diys. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy!