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Art from the Heart

By Sallie W. Boyles | Artwork by Diane Naylor

“My artwork always needs a purpose beyond just being pretty,” says Diane Naylor. “A painting is just like a person. Outward beauty is nice, but there must also be depth, substance, or purpose. It must evoke a feeling, whether happy or sad. As long as the viewer is able to feel something, then I believe my work is a success.”

Bee the Light, 24 × 24 × 2 inches | TheBlueGiraffe30A.com

Distinguished as an artist who portrays nature, Naylor’s passion for animals and the environment stems from growing up amid the rolling hills of eastern Iowa. Relaying her experience, she says, “Its rivers and woodlands were an inspiration. I rode bareback almost every day on my horse for a country block—four miles—from age sixteen onward. I rarely liked to stay inside, and God’s works of nature gave me great peace and happiness.”

Although each of her series is visually distinctive, their common thread is Naylor’s kinship with the natural world.

Referring to a collection she calls The Early Years, the longtime vegetarian says her animal paintings (seemingly from the pages of storybooks) “were made anthropomorphic to let the viewer understand how precious the animals’ lives are, just as ours are.” In her Labyrinth series, portraits of enlarged pods and seedlings, which are typically hidden or overlooked, allowed Naylor to express “how valuable life is—and we aren’t to take it for granted.”

King Heron, 35 × 35 × 2 inches | ArtistDianeNaylor.com

Likewise, Naylor explains that the recent decline in the bee population inspired a series about the planet’s crucial pollinators. “The first painting sold to a client in Seaside, Florida, during October 2016—the same month and year that the first bee went on the bee extinction list.” Rather than taking a doom-and-gloom stance, she has her bee paintings “popping more with color than my previous series of animals.” Additionally, she reveals, “They have an almost graphic look to them, as I wanted to keep the backgrounds in sync within the series so they could be mixed and matched in the future.” Thus, they harmoniously illustrate her self-published collection of Bee books (Bee Kind, Bee Cause, and Bee of Good Cheer), which deliver positive, introspective messages in quotes, Psalms, and other Bible verses.

Seated Pose, 23 × 18 inches | ArtistDianeNaylor.com

Guided by her faith, Naylor offers her latest series, God’s View, to “reflect God’s glory.” She says, “My life changed in 2019 on the morning of Good Friday. It’s a long story, but after that day, I had a new lease on life.” From visiting the coastal region of Northwest Florida since 2007, Naylor decided “what better glory” to showcase than the beach and the waves of that beautiful area. Fittingly, she would grant “a view from above.”

Describing her process, Naylor says, “With an aerial view, I start by painting upon panels with oils and then create the ocean with resin and powder in different aquatic colors. The contrast from the matte of the beach made in oils with the reflective surface of the resin ocean gives a 3D effect to a 2D painting.” Having worked in oils exclusively for some time, she says, “Resin is a new medium for me, and after all these years, to recreate myself is a blessing.”

Peaceful Waters, 45 × 28 × 2 inches | TheBlueGiraffe30A.com

While her techniques have evolved from learning and exploring, Naylor has never diverted from her calling. “In kindergarten,” she relays, “they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, ‘An artist.’ The teacher then said, ‘What do you want to do as a career?’ I said, ‘I am an artist now, and I will be an artist when I’m old.’ I was then put in the corner for being confrontational. Go figure!”

She’s grateful her parents and grandmother, who repeatedly asked the budding artist to draw, encouraged her. “Some people make strong imprints on your life that help catapult your career,” she says. “When I was in grade school, I won a silver dollar award, given to me by my principal in front of my classmates.” Having her artwork displayed in the hallway, Naylor remembers, “was such a good feeling that I thought, ‘If this makes people happy, I’m going to continue.’”

Bee Amazing, 12 × 12 × 2 inches | TheBlueGiraffe30A.com

She went on to win a New York Scholastic Key Award for her drawings and later earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. “In art college,” Naylor says, “I majored in drawing and minored in illustration, so I believe it’s very important to have good draftsmanship before moving on to anything in a creative field. It’s the bone structure for all creativity.”

Drawing came naturally to Naylor, yet she admits, “I was always intimidated with painting, even in art school.” She “balked” when one of her art professors asked her to take a painting class. “He persisted, and I was glad he did. After my first painting, he said, ‘You’re a painter, and you must paint every day of your life.’”

An artist.’ The teacher then said, ‘What do you want to do as a career?’ I said, ‘I am an artist now, and I will be an artist when I’m old.’

Drawing came naturally to Naylor, yet she admits, “I was always intimidated with painting, even in art school.” She “balked” when one of her art professors asked her to take a painting class. “He persisted, and I was glad he did. After my first painting, he said, ‘You’re a painter, and you must paint every day of your life.’”

Naylor continues, “I used to do a lot of figurative work, and it was compelling for me as I was growing in my skill.” Aiming to “capture their essence in a drawing or painting,” she spent time talking with the models. Artist-model interactions, however, were uncommon, and she never understood why. “They were important for me, as the artist, to excel,” insists Naylor, who instinctively cares about her subjects. After bonding with a model who had AIDS, she even donated a portrait of him to the Art for AIDS fundraiser.

After a couple of years of doing life-size pastels in class, Naylor says, “The transition to acrylic was quick, as I could layer the colors easily. However, it wasn’t until years later that I tried oils and fell in love, as they are very forgiving. I don’t know why I had been so intimidated, but I was glad once I tried them.”

Exploring new avenues has been rewarding for Naylor in multiple ways. E-commerce site Society6 provides a platform and fun outlet to place her artwork on clothing, coffee mugs, shower curtains, and other items that anyone can purchase. “I’m not too proud to put my work on objects!” she admits.

Boyds & Phish, Naylor’s series of whimsical bird and fish sculptures designed as wall art, is something she similarly considers “just a fun project to do.” The collection has been featured on an episode of HGTV’s That’s Clever! When she applied to appear on a show, Naylor says, “I told them I was raised by small poodles that knew how to accessorize. It seemed to get their attention!”


Lighthearted and kindhearted, Naylor has captured the eyes of many serious galleries and collectors across the US and abroad by remaining true to herself. Looking ahead, she envisions “letting the Holy Spirit lead the way, so I don’t trip up!”

— V —

Readers should visit Naylor’s website, ArtistDianeNaylor.com, to learn more about her work, find art galleries and special exhibitions, and contact her about availability and commissions. You can find her art in the Northwest Florida area at The Blue Giraffe in Inlet Beach (BlueGiraffe30A.com) and The Studio Gallery in Grayton Beach (@studiogallery30a on Instagram).

Sallie W. Boyles

Sallie W. Boyles works as a freelance journalist, ghostwriter, copywriter, and editor through Write Lady Inc., her Atlanta-based company. With an MBA in marketing, she marvels at the power of words, particularly in business and politics, but loves nothing more than relaying extraordinary personal stories that are believable only because they are true.

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