About Djana Bayley

From the time I could hold a crayon I loved to draw and it wasn’t long after I learned to read that I began writing my own poems and stories. My two favorite places in the Bay Area were my Grandmother Mae Dora’s apartment with its view of San Francisco Bay, and the small library in San Leandro where I was encouraged to take out and read as many books as I could carry. The fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault were my first favorites, and the first books given to me.
The beauty of the natural world proved a wellspring of happiness for me from my earliest years. I clearly remember a large swallowtail butterfly alighting on my arm when I was about seven – I held my arm statue still in a paralysis of awe combined with sharp awareness of the creature’s exquisite beauty, hardly daring to breathe as it walked along my skin. Flowers in every guise, from the smallest violas to rainbow garden plantings, always reduced me to silent wonder.
As the years passed, I never stopped attempting to capture the natural beauty of the world in drawings and in words. But my path to being a full-time artist was never straightforward – through the decades my journey along life’s twisty roads took me through bleak deserts, mires of confusion and into dead ends – a few times the energy to work on my projects was so damaged the creative impulse dried to the merest trickle. But even in times of greatest discouragement, some reflection of the beautiful would finally break through – a sunset over the Olympics, a bird hopping close to me; sometimes paging through one of my myriad art or landscape books a reproduction would unexpectedly catch my heart. A new idea will strike, re-igniting my desire to create, and I’m back at work attempting to make my own vision of the beautiful stand clear and bright.
Like that once-upon-a-time child, I still create drawings to show the pictures constantly forming in my mind, and stories and poems to extend these images in time, beyond the frame of a drawing – nor have I ever been able to decide which art form I prefer. One of my drawings often suggests a story or poem branching from it, and the poems often make me envision a drawing – so I continue to do both. Through the decades, my subjects have been remarkably consistent. Inspiration for each piece, whether drawing, textile picture, poem or story, still arises from the things I held dearest as a child: the beauty of gardens and the natural world, and the fairy tales and mythologies that have resonated so deeply with me.

The Art

Over the years, my drawings have evolved into several distinct types, each created with specific materials.

  • Fairy tale landscapes done in fine point hard and medium-soft lead pencil; these often show wide-spanning views with a road winding up hill and down dale to distant castle or temple.
  • Neo-impressionist landscapes created with pastel pencils for textured effects in a blending of Impressionist and Pointillist techniques.
  • Still lifes in pencil or crayon; several combine naturalism with distinct elements of folk art stylization.
  • Folk art designs in fine lead pencil conjure new takes on traditional flower, bird and heart motifs.
  • Textile paintings of fairy tale scenes and still lifes are constructed from multiple layers of cotton, corduroy, velvet, satin, taffeta, gauze and lace, with additional embellishments of beads, crystals and charms.

In January 2012 The Edmonds Library sponsored an exhibit of my textile works.

The Words

As with my drawings, I’ve written poems and stories throughout my life, but the path to realization of a style right for me and the worlds in which to set my stories was far from straightforward. Eight years ago a mentor suggested a formatting change to improve the readability of my poetry; I quickly realized this would put me on the right path, giving my poems tighter structure that would make it far easier to follow their story lines. I undertook a gigantic rewrite of my poetry to salvage the best, then continued on, writing new works in this more accessible style. This bore positive results: in September 2017 The Scales of Astraea, my first poetry collection, was published by the Bywater Press in Bellingham, Washington.

The subject of the poetry in this first book is the natural world. Most of the poems depict characteristic behavior or an incident in the life of an individual creature or species – birds, lions, a whale – while a few use a broader brush to express my fierce concern regarding the damage ‘mankind’ is inflicting on our beautiful planet. In the wide-view poems, Old Gods from ages long past sometimes make appearances; their images – used, burnished and transformed in tales told since the dawn of the age of man – are powerful symbols, retaining a certain force even in this fractured modern era.

Bywater Press published Landscapes of the Heart, my second poetry book, in November 2019. Three separate collections are included in the book, each with a different primary theme. The first section is elegiac, evoking places and people lost and gone but still alive in memory; the second contains vignettes illustrating fragments of women’s lives in times from ancient Greece through the Middle Ages and on to our modern age; in the third part are found poems tracing the myriad effect of love, whether these be mood or physical actions.

The storylines of some poems are quite brief, occurring in moments or minutes, others take the protagonist – whether ghost or flesh and blood woman – journeying for days or years in lost kingdoms of the world, or through fantastic dreamscapes – even along pathways leading across the starry heavens.

Both books include my own illustrations.