Artist Diane Wigell Bledsoe
story and photo by Paige Langenderfer
Diane Wigell Bledsoe has taken a lot of hits in life, but there are two things that have always kept her going: her faith in God and her love of art.
After beating breast cancer twice, Bledsoe now suffers from heart failure as a result of the chemotherapy. She said art is her escape from the pain.
“The chemo destroyed my heart muscle and forced me to quit working,” she said. “I have to take it easy, but I can still do my art. It takes me away.”
Bledsoe said she has loved art for as long as she can remember. She describes herself as mostly self-taught.
“I took a semester at the Herron School of Art and quickly realized that school wasn’t for me,” she said.
Her first projects were pen and ink. She quickly mastered the commercial art world, producing logos and promotional materials for various companies in Indianapolis.
While successful, Bledsoe knew something was missing. She wanted to reconnect with her two childhood passions of animals and art. A move to Brown County was just what she needed.
Once settled in her new home, Bledsoe began her career in the fine arts industry by learning a new craft of painting.
“There’s a big difference between drawing and painting,” she said. “I had a lot to learn, but loved seeing the finished pieces.”
Pen and ink gave her work fascinating detail, but painting made her work come alive. Details as small as a twinkle in an eye jumped from the canvas. Her first paintings focused on objects in her life, her horse named Blue and a neighbor’s cow. She worked tirelessly, learning how to perfect the shadows on a face and the curve of bodies.
Not long into her Brown County career, people began to take notice of her expertise with animals. She painted countless pet paintings, often as a memorial to the animal.
A moment in a local frame shop solidified her spot in the Brown County art world. As she stood at the counter waiting to get a painting of her horse framed, a local artist spoke up from behind her. He told Bledsoe, “Those are the best eyes I’ve ever seen.”
Today, Bledsoe sells her work through word of mouth and through Etsy, an online store. She has sold paintings to customers from Maine to New Mexico, and even in Australia. Prominent photographers from around the globe contact her and ask her to create a painting based on their photos.
“It’s really neat to think of my work being in all of these places,” she said.
She also still does commercial work, including the Brown County Winery bottle labels, the Indianapolis Fire Department Logo, and drawings for the National Institute of Fitness and Sports. Her paintings are hanging in Brown County schools, the Brown County government buildings, and numerous local businesses.
Sherry Poore Roberson displays Bledsoe’s work in her two Nashville stores, J Bob’s and Main Street Images.
“Diane’s art is exceptional. She is truly gifted and talented,” Roberson said. “She has done many pieces for us and our stores in Nashville. We value her as an artist and a great friend.”
Bledsoe recently learned a new medium. While browsing the website Pinterest one day, Bledsoe stumbled across a figure of a chicken made from a gourd.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s really boring. I can definitely do better,’” she said.
With the help of a little clay and just the right paint, Bledsoe transforms simple gourds into chickens, whales, and flamingos. She can make just about anything out of a gourd now.
“People love them. They are sold before I even start them,” Bledsoe said.
The most recent project involves creating a personal oasis for herself. A place she can go to relax with her dog Dee and her cats Louis and Max. She has painted the room to feel as though she is at the ocean. She reupholstered a large, old arm chair with painters canvas and painted the sand and sea on the seat and a pelican perched on a dock post on the back.
“One of my friends always asks me where I come up with these ideas,” Bledsoe said. “And I always say, ‘It has to be a God thing.’”