01 May Celebrating Artistic Excellence: Diana Shearon
By Tammy Keith
Even before she started school, Diana Shearon loved to draw and color.
Her canvas was the white butcher paper that came wrapped around meat her mother bought for their family in rural Minnesota.
Today, the national award-winning North Little Rock artist paints on fine linen from Belgium and Thailand, but her inspiration is the same — real life.
“I’ve always been representational,” she said. Shearon (pronounced Sharon) primarily works with oils, which she uses to create her sought-after lush florals, realistic landscapes, figures, and portraits. “One of the things that’s important to me is painting from life. What I enjoy the most is probably painting my flowers and my pots. [I enjoy] finding an absolutely gorgeous bunch of garden roses, or having my hydrangeas in bloom, or if I get lucky and find peonies in bloom. I’m in control … until the flowers wilt,” she said.
Shearon’s art is in venues such as Red Door Gallery in North Little Rock, which is owned by Melody and Steve Stanley. Mrs. Stanley said Shearon is “very easy to work with, and her work is so real. I love her florals, landscapes, and hay bales. Her florals are just beautiful. We had a show for her, and her florals were compared with the number one watercolorist in France, who also does florals. She’s very, very good.”
Shearon won a Best of Show Award in 2018 at the Memphis Germantown Art League’s 41st annual Juried Star Exhibition for a yellow rose floral, and it also sold.
Her dream of an art career was deferred for decades.
One of four children, Shearon was the artsy one. “We didn’t have a lot of white drawing paper,” so she’d ask her mother for butcher paper. “I loved art in high school, and I built my first paint box when I was 16 years old. I asked to take a shop class instead of home economics, but I couldn’t take it with the boys, mind you.” But the shop teacher taught her how to use the tools and helped her with the project, she explained.
When it came time for college, Shearon wanted to attend art school, but she said her hardworking father couldn’t fathom art being a lucrative career. “He didn’t want me living on the streets,” she said, laughing.
Shearon earned a degree in political science and American government from the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. She and her husband, Dennis, moved to North Little Rock in 1978, and she graduated in 2000 from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a degree in art with an emphasis in graphic design, photography and illustration. Shearon was a freelance artist until her younger daughter got out of college in 2009, and then Shearon got back into the studio full-time.
She has studied with top artists, such as Roger Dale Brown, an oil-painting master.
“When I was really getting serious about landscape painting, he told me something that really stuck with me. He said, ‘You can have certain types of paintings that you love to paint, but you need to have command. Your skill needs to be able to do every type: portraits, figures, florals and landscapes.’ One thing I’ve learned to do is to take figures and put them in landscapes, so it all comes together,” she said.
A perfect example is her oil painting called The Adventurers featuring boys playing in a Montana river; this was a work that started as a plein-air (outdoor painting) study with Brown. She was sketching when a bus pulled up.
“The boys came in their church school bus, and they all just piled out of the bus and started playing in the river. I just had a moment. I grabbed my little camera and just started taking pictures.” She took her painting of the river home, and she created a larger studio piece to include the three boys. “To me, it was such an iconic scene.”
In 2020, it won first place for portrait/figure in an Arkansas League of Artists show.
She earned a national honor in 2021 in the Steamboat Art Museum National Plein Air in Colorado, where she was accepted to compete with top painters in the United States. “Most of them were men,” she said. They stood and painted for days. At the preview reception, one of the sponsors snapped up her landscape Pleasant Valley in 15 minutes, and it also won an Award of Excellence.
Collectors of Shearon’s art include the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Community Foundation, and a long list of individuals. Her work can also be seen at dianashearon.com.
“I know my production has been high. At some point, I’m going to have to slow down a little bit. I’m going to keep painting as long as I can. I still love to draw, but I don’t get to do it as much as I used to. I’ve met a lot of my goals, and I never dreamed I’d be able to get to this level,” she said.
Even with Shearon’s accolades, Mrs. Stanley said the best is yet to come.
“She’s local, but she’s taken lessons from some of the greatest and she grows as an artist; she doesn’t just stop. She’s an incredible artist.”