An Artistic Approach to Health: A Conversation with Diane Heron

“Ever since I was very young, I’ve had the need to create,” she says, looking out the window of her car to the vast Californian landscape.

Oakland-based artist Diane Heron has always seen the interconnectedness of art, life, and well-being.

As a small child, growing up in Los Angeles, she took notice in the arts, architecture, and interior design, that would inspire her to disassemble Barbie houses, and recreate them into large fortresses, filled with handmade and found objects, to produce a very eclectic space for Barbie.

As far back as she can remember she was hypersensitive to sound, touch, and smell. The heavy, artificial lights that hung above her in class at school and the buzzing electrical signals from household appliances that permeated the air bothered her more than the average person. She would drape colorful scarves over lamps and could also sense the density of electricity in certain areas and locations.

Recently, Diane was tested and diagnosed as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), she says suddenly her calling as an artist, makes sense in so many ways.

With such heightened sensitivity to touch, in 1989, she was drawn to take a course in massage therapy. Over the years, without a college degree, she worked with some highly respected clients, in Southern California, ranging from Olympic Athletes to Rock Stars, people working in government and everything in between. Seeing how her extreme sense of touch aided in people’s health and healing, She was on the nursing track until she started painting and showing her artwork, had a positive outcome on her own health and well-being.

Today, she uses art as therapy for herself and for children with different disorders and diagnoses. One of her favorite jobs is working with children with autism and selective mutism. She is particularly sensitive to these children’s feelings, as she relates to them, through the act of empathy with her own diagnosis of HSP.

“Everyday, people with diagnosed disorders can be discouraged if they keep internalizing messages from other people and themselves, ‘What’s wrong with you?’”

She has been inspired by the children and their automatic approach to art and the power of genuine human a connection, never patronizing the children but respecting their creativity as artists, asking them about their art and specific techniques, the colors of the painting, and the different mediums and brushstrokes.

In multiple instances, while volunteering at the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center, in Long Beach, CA, Diane was able to encourage a child with selective mutism to speak, some of them, after months of silence.

“As someone with HSP, I am a divergent thinker and can relate to children with these disorders in a sense that we both think outside of rigidly defined norms, and, children with autism and selective mutism often have HSP as well.”

Diane hopes to use her process in art and the power of empathy to draw out the confidence and joy in more children.

Check out more of Diane Heron's work at dianeheron.com or @dianeheronart on Instagram.