About: Artist

Dianna’s life before writing…

I’m often asked about what I did before writing, which is hard to explain in a few words. Also, I believe in the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If I could paint a story it would take a lot fewer pages – lol.

 

Starting out as an Artist…

Living in Tampa, Florida, I remember drawing in first grade, and I still love the smell of newsprint paper (those big sheets they gave us to draw on). I thought I was in trouble when my first grade teacher called my mother to school to show her what I’d created (the entire sheet was squared off with drawings of a Billy Goats Gruff cartoon sequence, but oddly enough I didn’t gravitate to being a cartoon artist).

 

Thank goodness for teachers…

When I was in third grade, I placed second in an art contest held for the elementary school, which was first through fifth grades. Both sides of my brain were happy in school. I loved the library and was such an avid patron I was invited to work as an assistant there in the fifth grade.

 

 

Ten minutes of fame…

In sixth grade at junior high school, I had two six-week sessions of art. My art teacher entered a Batik piece I did into a national competition. I placed third, but first and second place were high school seniors. That was my first time on television. I remember the morning news anchor kneeling on one knee in front of where I sat to discuss the questions because she wanted me to be comfortable. I went on to win more art competitions, but I also loved math and English and competed in gymnastics. I loved learning and credit the amazing teachers who stoked that enthusiasm.


Life in the real world…

Once I was out on my own at seventeen, I started painting signs to fill in between working three jobs. It didn’t take long to figure out I’d found my niche because I loved working outdoors and painting really big walls. Within a couple years I replaced all three jobs by working seven days a week painting. This led to eventually doing a lot of unusual art and moving to Atlanta, Georgia where I created Art Productions, Inc.

 

 
 
 
True love and a new era…

I met my husband in the sign business when I started contracting mural painting work from the company where he managed the real estate division where he acquired land locations for billboards. He’d go to his apartment at the end of the day, replace his business suit with overalls and come back to the warehouse to spend time with me while I painted late at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being the talented guy that he is, he quickly learned how to paint parts of the signs with me and eventually started his own company not long after we became an item. During this time I returned to painting for myself, family and friends.

 

Ginormous art, Former President and the Olympics…

During the 1990’s we expanded our sign businesses to building huge electronic structures, three-dimensional creations for outdoor displays and more mural work. We had the great honor of working with international companies like Coca-Cola, which is headquartered in Atlanta. They occasionally wanted a historic Coca-Cola painting refurbished on old brick walls where the original painting had faded until only a shadow of the design was left.

 

 

One such wall was in Plains, Georgia, where I joked with the wonderful local residents that it would be nice to have “Jimmy and Roselyn” stop by. The next morning Secret Service pulled in ahead of a car with former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Roselyn Carter who are two of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. I asked if they’d like to paint on the wall and they said “yes” so I gave them each a brush and can of red paint. That was a fun day!

 

 

 

In 1996 we contracted projects for the top seven Olympic Sponsors and, of course, Coca-Cola was at the top of that list.

 

 
Days when I had to switch hats quickly…

While flying back and forth to Boston, MA in 2001 where I was building a 75’ wide iconic sign in Fenway Park [home of the Red Sox Baseball team] for the John Hancock Company, I started writing on my first book and titled it Angel On The Run.

 

 

 

 

I was standing on top of a building in downtown Atlanta, Georgia in 2003, surrounded by cranes and sections of a 50’ tall Coca-Cola sign we were putting up, when I got the call that Angel had finaled in the Daphne du Maurier contest.

 

Later that summer, right after winning the Golden Heart® for that same book, I flew back the next day to climb on top of 16’ diameter 3-D chocolate chip cookies (three of them) to complete the sculpting and finish work before shipping them.

 


“The Call”…

While my husband and I were in New York on business related to my company, I invited the editor who had my manuscript submission to coffee. What I didn’t know was that while I was meeting with this editor she had already decided to buy my book, but couldn’t tell me because she had to tell my agent first – protocol in the business. On the way to the airport right after this meeting, I got THE CALL from my agent about our book deal. It was so nice to be with my husband when that call came through. The book was released in 2005, re-titled as Worth Every Risk. In 2006, that book won a RITA® award. I painted murals the week before and the week after I won the award. In 2009, I had less than ten days off the entire year, and yet I squeezed in five days (between a book tour and a reader event) to paint a mural on a brick wall. That’s when my husband suggested it was time to make a decision.

 

Full Time Author…

I now write full time. We have several ongoing sign projects that my husband oversees. He’s always been my greatest fan and I’m his. He teaches motorcycle safety all over the state of Georgia and is a long distance rider. He recently finished well in the Iron Butt Association 5000 miles in 5 Days Rally, which earned him a berth in the big dance in 2011 – the IBA 11,000-miles-in-11-days rally that will have 100 riders from all over the world competing. We love riding motorcycles, fishing and sharing life together.