A short while ago I was nominated for a 7 day painting challenge by the wonderful and talented artist Janet Esseiva, but with numerous projects on the go I didn’t think I would be able to meet the challenge. Instead I decided to stir it up and share a short journey into my artistic past! It has been a bit of a bumpy road but I now feel like I can break free of the growing pains of my artful adolescence and begin to embrace the  journey. And so I gathered together 7 works that help show my progress over the past 21 years:

Age 8 – The Garden

The Garden - Age 8I think I had artistic talent when I was quite young. Of course I didn’t know what it was I just heard others talking about it. I knew I liked to draw but my talent brewed from my inner desires, like dinosaurs and fairy tale worlds. If asked to sit down and draw something in front of me I most likely would have totally failed. I recall a portrait exercise in Grade 2 where we had to draw faces. I wanted exquisite detail so I made sure to include red veins in the corners of the eyes and cracks in the lips. Shock and disappointment was spread over my teacher’s face. I wish I still had this drawing, it was horrific. By far the worst in the class.

In grade 3 we learned about Van Gogh and were asked to re-create one of his garden works using pastel. I remember really enjoying this exercise! My drawing won a free art class at the North Shore Artists For Kids, that was fun! My mom, ever supportive of my artistic pursuits, kept the picture and had it framed in our hallway for the longest time.

Age 14 – The Linocut

The next few years are a blur as I struggled into adolescence. In grade 8 I had a pretty awesome art teacher, she was old with wild hair and a take-no-bullshit attitude. She told me not to dot my i’s with circles. I still dot my i’s with circles.

In grade 9 that teacher retired and a new one arrived. This would mark the last official art class of my career. I often say it was the new teacher that put me off the institution of art, and while this is entirely possible, I think beyond the struggle with our personal relationship I came to the realization that you can’t teach art. Sure you can teach technique and have a lot of fun doing so but the emotion of art comes from within. I believe if you have something to say it doesn’t matter how you say it as long as you speak your truth, and one should definitely not be graded on speaking their truth. I believe art has intrinsic value no matter how technically advanced it is (or isn’t).

Perhaps the best thing to come out of that year was this linocut of a Mayan canoe (filled with Gods on their journey from this world to the next). Was it a foreshadowing of the archaeological illustration to come?


Age 25 – Archaeological Illustration

I had always loved science and history and found myself pursuing a career in archaeology. It wasn’t until after graduation when I was completing a lab internship at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu Hawaii that I started to illustrate artifacts. I think one day the department head was voicing her grievances over needing some things illustrated and casually asked, “Can you draw?”. I said I would give it a shot and the next day I illustrated this Poi Pounder. I was hooked! Since then I have had the amazing opportunity to illustrate for museums, books and countless publications. You can see some of my illustration work here: http://www.archaeoillustration.com


Age 26 – The Grand Tetons

Around this time my best friend was taking a mixed media art class and painting became a fun thing to do at her place on Saturday night. It was mostly just smearing paint around until one day I decided to try to actually paint something. This dramatic scene of sunlit Aspen against the shadowy Grand Tetons captivated me and I gave it a go. Using acrylic I just kept making layers ‘Bob Ross style’. There are parts I love: the trees and grassy meadow, the dark and broody mountains. There are parts I hate: the reflection. I started this painting 6 years ago and it is still in my closet… I cant let it go. Part of me thinks I might one day be able to save it. But it has taught me something special: that I don’t need to get it right every time. There is as much value in the failures as there is in the successes.


Age 27 – Birch Trees

Over the course of the next couple years I played around with some different things, painting infrequently in between illustration contracts. These misty birch trees were the third attempt on this canvas: underneath is a wintery scene with pale pinks and white trees. It was light with very little contrast and so I added bold colors, blues, reds, yellows. That was way too vibrant. Third time is the charm and I found a happy medium by going back to the softer colors but using green to give life and color to the scene. My favorite part of this painting? All the texture from the layers underneath!


Age 27 – Knox

During a trip to Hawaii I was super inspired by the bold colors I saw around the islands. I must credit one place in particular: Trees Lounge in Kapa’a (@treeslounge) because they displayed a wild and funky assortment of colorful art. I was enthralled and brought that vibe back home to Vancouver where I painted this pet portrait of my sister’s dog Knox. This painting marked the beginning of my funky bold style using bright solid colors.


Age 29 – Howe Sound

In 2012 we moved to beautiful Bowen Island, BC and in my heart of hearts I knew I was home. It is not hard to be inspired by the island landscapes; everywhere you look there is something special. One summer’s day my husband and I were on our boat behind Anvil Island and he snapped this photo of sparkling water amidst the serene blues of Howe Sound. It was the perfect opportunity for me to bring in those bright vibrant colors I so loved in Hawaii. Sitting in my little office/studio painting “Howe Sound” took me a world away as the rain poured down outside.


It has been a long journey and I know I am no where near the end. At the moment I love using solid colors and clean lines to create depth and movement across the canvas. Painting “Howe Sound” sparked an engine and I haven’t shut it down since- I absolutely love bringing color and funk to our beautiful West Coast landscapes.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Becky Dawson on 01/12/2016 at 9:10 pm

    Wow Diana – I had no idea from your last name if you were Rafal’s mother or wife! I’m glad this is now crystal clear! (I knew Rafal Izdebski was married with child) but I did not know his wife’s name! And because your paintings are so stunning I thought perhaps his mother with decades of experience in art painted, yet yes you have your own years of art! Thank you for sharing your history of art 🙂 via Dee :).
    I have seen your art in The Gallery and wish you much continued success you are a brilliant artist.
    I wish I had continued as a child! I used to draw detail decades ago and recently thanks to Janet Esseiva’s painting courses I love painting now and get it why it is all consuming making colour touch canvas.
    Thank you Art by Di,

  2. Ruth on 01/12/2016 at 10:08 pm

    Fantastic to hear your story and see your amazing work as it moved forward.

Leave a Comment