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Ignoring the ‘experts’

Diana Holcombe follows her dream to become an artist

February 19, 2013
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

The dream and ambition to become an artist since childhood was not diminished for Diana Holcombe during her school days at Warren, Ohio.

It was during her junior high school year that an art teacher told Holcombe that she was not talented enough to become an artist. But she didn't accept that assessment and neither did she take it at face value when a college professor told her she could paint but could not draw.

"This was wrong, they didn't try to pull out the talent in me," she said with a smile.

Article Photos

DIANA AT WORK — Diana Holcombe puts finishing touches on an oils portrait at the Center of Music and Art in Wintersville, an art form she has wanted to do since she was a young child. She started as a tole painting teacher at the center, and as art teachers retired or moved away, she started teaching children. - Esther McCoy

"So I worked in a bank for 21 years and didn't like it one bit. Then I was tested for my abilities, and it noted that my interests lie in carpentry and art. They were entirely right. I have built my own furniture, including a dry sink, a china closet and a baby cradle to name a few things. And I loved it," said Holcombe of Smithfield.

"My job at the bank was eliminated, and I was put in a job that required repetitive motion, and I just couldn't do it. I applied for and received a Hilda Burroughs grant for dislocated workers and went to work at the Belmont Technical School in a building, preserving and restoration program. This involved making and repairing stained glass windows," the artist explained.

"At that time, I was also painting on canvas and read an ad for the need of a tole painting teacher at the Center of Music and Art. When I showed (Center of Music and Art owner) Carolyn Glaub my work, she hired me on the spot. As time passed and art teachers retired or moved away, there was a need for instructors, and I was asked to teach. I was hesitant at first, but the kids and parents loved me, and I loved them. My faith in the Bible told me that you can move mountains through God, and this happened for me," she said.

Over the years, Holcombe brought Jerry Yarnell, who has a public broadcasting art program on Sundays, to the center and she took his course as well as Terry Madden, a Florida art teacher, and another artist, Cecile Baird.

In tribute to her father-in-law, John D. Holcombe, a World War II veteran, she started working on a military picture called "I'll Always Remember" in sepia. This was done with the intention to add color but when it was done she thought it looked wonderful "as is." She vowed to made a contribution to the Blue Star Mothers program for each of those pictures that is purchased.

She is working on a Marine subject now and will turn a portion of the proceeds over to the Wounded Warriors project.

"I have been passing on all I learn to the kids. I always tell them that I believe in them. I don't discourage anyone. I just want them to do to the best of their ability. You can do no more than that."

She spends about 75 hours each week at the center teaching such classes as Mini Michaelangelos, Little Picassos, as well as artful adventures, private lessons, drawing lessons, home school art and adult and teen classes. She also offers lessons at the School of Bright Promise.

"My hours are crazy. There are times when my husband, David, and I say hello while passing in automobiles, with him coming home from work and me heading in that direction. This is all done on a five-day-a-week schedule," she said.

Diana met her husband while taking karate classes, with David as her instructor. He is a third-degree black belt, and she is a first-degree black belt.

The Smithfield artist is very excited to have been invited to the Summit Gallery Artist Reception opening April 4 at the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau in Weirton. The artists' reception is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the show can be seen during regular opening hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"They are looking for originals or prints of art work. This must be reviewed and accepted first. The public can come to buy art work and prints," she explained.

"I belong to the Steubenville Art Association, have put my work in the Algonquin Mill Festival, the pumpkin fest and the apple festival. My students are selling their works now, too. That makes me very happy," Holcombe smiled.

"I love dogs and I love painting dogs. They each have their own personality. I will take camera pictures of animals to work from. Those interested can go on my website and see my work at," she explained. "I do commission work as well."

"I saw an ad for search and rescue training, and I started by training a big white dog that was so smart that he was a washout. He would do what was commanded several times and then it was like he was bored and would just quit. Then I got a little brown dog who was wonderful at the job. I have been in search and rescue for 16 years and am now just involved as a member and vice president of the organization. I'm too busy and have stepped into too many groundhog holes to keep going," she said.

Diana's dog was responsible for the locating of two drowning victims at Piedmont Lake, a father and son, several years back. Mad Max was the dog's name, she noted. She has Bailey now, and Moochie is in training. She has trained five dogs total.

The Holcombe home and art studio is located at 1230 Main St. in Smithfield. The large double house once belonging to Mary Pietrangelo is located next to the sidewalk so Diana can see people walking by.

In the summer her windows are open, and she extends a greeting for people to stop in and see what she is doing on weekends, when she is not working at the music center. She said she has made many friends this way.

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