Coming from a traditional family, Diana Joleen’s father refused to let her study art, so she studied Business Administration instead. For almost two decades, like most people, Diana’s focus was on her family and building her career. Unfortunately, she stopped creating art entirely.
After climbing the corporate ladder, everything was falling into place - until one fateful day. In the spring of 2011, Diana was involved in a serious car accident. “The first thing I remember is lifting my head from my steering wheel and then having a police officer talk to me, while a fire-fighter held my head in place. I was so scared and had no idea that life, as I knew it was over,” Diana recalls.
After sustaining head trauma, a concussion, neck and spine injuries, she was left with permanent disabilities - forced to leave her career in 2014. Diana then fell into a severe depression, developing anxiety and panic attacks. “I felt lost. Everything that I knew, and worked so hard for was gone overnight. It was a dark time for me. Some people are embarrassed to talk about their mental health challenges, but for me they were just as debilitating as my physical disabilities,” she confesses.
Years pass and one fateful night in 2016, something instantly clicked for Diana. She remembered her art! After working with old, used material she had in the basement, Diana lost herself in being able to create. She felt whole again. Diana posted a picture of a painting on social media - the next day she was asked if it was for sale, and just like that, she recalls, “Everything just took off naturally and it only reaffirmed my life-long dream, to become an artist.”
From 2016 to 2019 Diana created and sold almost one hundred works of art. Her hands shake at times due to her disabilities, so she learned to manipulate the paints and used her breath or straws as tools. Later, she experimented with palette knives and created impasto works. Each series was embraced by art lovers and quickly sold, fuelling Diana to continue.
In early 2020, Diana was signed by a fine arts curating company. Then, as the whole world experienced, the pandemic hit and she was forced to terminate her contract, returning to self-representation. On the heels of getting back on track, Diana explored several avenues and one magazine agreed to take one of her pieces as a giveaway. Before the painting was due, she had a dream about a bunny. She woke up at 3AM and drew it on her iPad so as not to forget the image. For reasons she can’t even describe, she wrote, “Bunee” next to it. The next day she brought the first Bunee to life. It was launched in July 2020 on Instagram as a giveaway and it took off from there! The “Couture Series'' sold out.
Diana then did an “Artist Series” on local renowned artists and made the Bunee into the artist themselves. That is when Diana realized how versatile the simple, yet memorable image was. Within four weeks of Bunee being launched, it was being unveiled in a private rally in the Muskokas, and had a wait-list of bespoke Bunee paintings well into 2021. Bunee was also associated with luxury brands, especially due to Kam, Lamborghini Specialist with Grand Touring Autos commissioning a “Lamborghini Bunee''. Bunees are now being completed with luxury mediums like 24 karat gold leaf, 925 silver and even Swarovski crystals.
Diana proudly pauses to reflect on 2020, “Prior to Bunee, I sold almost 100 works, and the only commonality is my unique way of signing my initials “DJ” at the bottom. But now, people see Bunee and even if they don’t know my name, they remember Bunee and that is so rewarding in itself!”
2021 will be another positive year for Diana Joleen, as she continues to complete the commissioned Bunees, including one for BMW. She is also launching a collectable sculpture series along with limited edition gender neutral merchandise. Proceeds of every sale will be donated to the SickKids hospital. She is also working on abstract and contemporary Bunee paintings, continuing to freely create and grow Bunee’s potential.
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