At a time when it’s easy to find conflict in the world, Diana Vining’s paper dolls are a welcome ray of sunshine. She mixes colored pencils, ink, markers, and digitally created backgrounds to produce pieces of art that radiate off the page with their uplifting presence.
“My style is very traditional,” Vining said. “I appreciate the artistry and beauty of fashion dolls, but drawing children comes more naturally to me than drawing adult characters. Fortunately, I don’t base my artwork on trends; I create paper dolls (and custom dolls) that exude sweetness and traditional innocence.”
Combining her passion for dolls and drawing, Vining started creating paper dolls for private collectors and her young cousins in the late 1990s. By the year 2000, she was receiving commissions as a portrait artist. She said, “Through portraiture, I could ‘create’ a family portrait that never truly existed — for instance, something as simple as drawing siblings sitting nicely together (when they just wouldn’t sit still for a photo) or something more ethereal, such as an angelic grandparent holding their grandchild that they were never able to meet in real life.”
In time, Vining began submitting her paper dolls to a variety of magazines. When one was chosen for publication, it gave her the confidence and motivation to keep pursuing her talents, and in 2008, she entered DOLLS magazine’s paper doll contest. Readers were asked to draw a paper doll based on a doll by Susan Krey. Vining went on to win the contest, and her paper dolls have since been included in every issue of DOLLS, making this her 15th year as a contributor to the magazine. She said, “It’s been a wonderful part of my doll life, and I would love to ask readers, which paper doll has been your favorite?”
When asked about her own favorite creations, Vining said she loves her custom-painted vinyl Helen Kish and Beverly Stoehr dolls but when it comes to her child paper dolls, she has no favorites. She explained, “I grew up in a very diverse, very nurturing community, and I’ve always had a deep-rooted love for people of all races. I’m fascinated by the beauty of the endless combinations of skin, eye, and hair colors, as well as lovely hair textures and styles. So, any time I draw a paper doll, I try to make her unique, and a reflection of God’s creative beauty that I see in all people.”
Over the years, Vining has drawn thousands of paper dolls and other illustrations, including Ginny doll designs for Vogue Doll Company, exclusives for UFDC, and authorized paper doll versions of modern collector dolls by renowned artists. “One of my greatest joys has been to design limited edition dolls for Vogue Doll Company, Lee Middleton, Madame Alexander, Diamond Doll Designs, and most recently clothing for the Virtual Doll Convention fashion label,” she said. Without divulging specific details, Vining also said multiple doll luncheons and events will be featuring her creations in the coming year, further demonstrating the popularity of her work.
Vining is currently the creative director of Virtual Doll Convention and runs the Paper Darlings Club — a monthly paper doll subscription service she started that is going into its third year. She has a series of paper doll coloring books in the works as well; they will have a nursery rhyme theme. On top of all this, Vining paints, restores, and customizes dolls, breathing new life into each of them. In the future, she hopes to learn the craft of vinyl doll sculpting from one of the great modern doll artists, eventually producing her own line. She has her hands full, especially as she also holds a job as a teacher’s aide, but she can rely on the help and support of her husband and two children.
Seeing the quality of her dolls and the success she’s experienced, it’s difficult to believe Vining is a self-taught artist. “I never attended art or graphic design school. For years, I thought this would prevent me from having a satisfying art career. When I finally realized I needed to focus on making my creations from my own heart, not out of a desire to be trendy or keep up with the styles, methods, or themes of other artists, it all became so much more enjoyable,” she said. “When I look back at all I’ve accomplished in the doll world, I realize that I’ve always been right where I needed to be — on my own path. And so it continues!”