A Finer Point: Meet Colored Pencil Artist Diane Simmons

Written by Artie The Panda

First, it was showing horses. Later, it was raising kids. After several decades of deferring her classical art education, Diane Simmons now happily portrays pets, wildlife, and people with colored pencils. She even found a way to keep her new favorite medium from fading.

"Pugs and Pencils"

When Diane returned to creating art, she wasn’t keen on the messy oils she used in college. Fortunately, she stumbled upon a renowned colored pencil artist, Bonny Snowdon, who taught Diane techniques for wielding the precise medium. Now Diane uses photo references and applies her colored pencil skills to create detailed renderings of animals ranging from bunnies to bobcats and poodles to penguins.

Glass for the Win

Diane created “Wolf,” showcased above, during a tutorial by Bonny Snowdon Academy using a photo by Susan Richardson. She framed the piece in Frame Destination’s contemporary Angular Blue Wood Picture Frame P435. Below, her “Descent” drawing of a leopard is displayed in our Silver Picture Frame Nielsen 117A, a classic, gallery-style frame inspired by the Bauhaus movement of the 1900s.

Because colored pencil art can tend to grow pale over time, the right framing glass is key. “I love that Frame Destination offers Tru Vue Conservation Clear Glass (formerly UV Filter ArtGlass 99). It is essential to keep colored pencil [artwork] from fading,” Diane says. 

Cheetah drawing on tree trunk
“Descent,” showcased in our Nielsen Profile 117A.

See More of Diane’s Work

Lions and tigers and bears are all on display at AnimalCreationsByDiane.com, her Facebook page by the same name, and pugsandpencils33 on Instagram. You’ll also discover adorable pets and farm animals and get a peek at her people portraits. See my Q&A below to reveal Diane’s secret for adding interest to shading in her colored pencil art.

white tiger above bed
Diane’s studio mates in the foreground, White Tiger colored pencil drawing on the wall, displayed in Frame Destination
Gallery Style Black Metal Picture Frame 2 in matte black.

Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Diane Simmons…

1. What is your background; how did you get started?

I majored in art at UCLA and UCSB in the 1970s but put that on hold when I got involved with riding and showing horses. Everything was put on hold when I got married and started a family. The only art I did during those years was when my kids needed help with a school project! Recently, my daughter was going to buy a custom portrait of her cat on Etsy, and I said, "Let me try to do it." I went to a local art store and purchased some pastels because I needed more time to fill my workspace with all the tools and supplies required for oil paints, my preferred medium at the time. I gradually shifted from pastels to colored pencils. Granted, it's a very slow medium, but very satisfying!

2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?

I believe God put creativity in all of us. As artists, we bring beauty into people's lives.

3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?

The best advice I've received as a colored pencil artist is to trust the process. Sometimes, pictures look like they aren't working, and I am tempted to throw them away. But as I continue to layer the colors, I usually am happy with them.

4. In what ways does your work reflect your personality?

I love animals, people, and color!

5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?

Since I work from photographs, creative blocks aren’t a problem. The real issue is finding time to do every picture I want to do!

6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)

Kneadable erasers, Tombow erasers, Magic tape, and slice tool.

7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?

I am starting to do portraits of people, not just animals. Drawing people was my passion in art school. I've started with my family to get a feel for which colored pencils to use before I offer commissions.

8. What is your favorite color to incorporate into your art?

I love using split complementary colors in shading. It adds more interest than just black.

Diane Simmons image

All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.

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Last Updated February 13, 2024