Artist Denise Burns in her studio

Denise Burns has a natural ability to design, compose and create beautiful artworks from the things we often don’t notice in nature and man-made objects. From the complex mechanisms of a spectacular horse carousel to the tiny markings on the surface of a lily pad, from the soft glow of a child’s skin to the rugged texture of a pumpkin, Denise is able to bring out the beauty and wonder in all that she chooses to create.

Over the past few years, Denise has grown from a beginner to an award-winning artist and this is only the beginning for her. Denise Burns is a natural-born artist and she is still discovering her unique inner voice. Walking beside her is an honor. It’s exciting to see her artistic and creative journey unfold. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I have. I believe we are witnessing a star in the making. Denise has a big future with drawing and art that’s for sure.


Interview with Denise Burns by Cindy Wider


Artist: Denise Burns Title: Carousel Medium: Coloured Pencil Size:


Q: Please tell us where were you born and where do you live now?

A: My name is Denise Burns and I was born in Detroit Michigan, USA. By the time I was 3 years old my family had moved from the city to a farm.  A farm offers a different type of life for a child.  We had apple orchards, berry patches, corn fields, pigs, cows and chickens, everything a child would want to be surrounded by.  Most children had a dog or cat, my father bought me a lamb from an animal auction to raise.  Those days are over now and I’m back in the city.  I’m married with 3 grown children.  I have a Bachelor Degree in Computer Management and I worked in Computer-Aided Design for Automotive for over 20 years.  I took early retirement to peruse more things in life besides work.  One of those things is studying Art full time.

Q: How did you get started with art and drawing?

A: I have always liked to draw, I just couldn’t do anything beyond basic sketches. My brother drew an album cover of Jimmy Durante playing a piano for his class Art project.  I’ll never forget it.  It made me think about learning to draw better.  Then, the years got away from me and some 30 years later I started doing sketches again.  Small sketches of a picture that caught my attention.  Just to see how close I could come to making them match.  Working a full-time job means taking traditional classes near impossible.  This is when I started looking at online art classes.


Artist: Denise Burns Title: Baking Cookies (early work during mentoring) Medium: Graphite Pencil


Q: How did you find us here at DrawPj?

A: I was already looking into online classes when a student of the DrawPj’s beginner class posted her drawing of the “Shoe Well Traveled”. As soon as I saw it, I thought this is what I want to do!  I started Cindy’s DrawPj beginning course and I have been hooked ever since.

Artist: Denise Burns Title: Left side image is the pre-instruction drawing before classes. The image on the right is her After drawing at halfway through the course Medium: Charcoal


Q: When students start to study with me I ask them to create a pre-instruction drawing as a record of their ability before they start the course. What do you think when you look at the pre-instruction drawing you created way back then?

A: I think you mean the self-portrait drawing. I looked like an alien.  My eyes were huge and my nose tiny.  After instructions on how to set up for a portrait drawing, it was much easier and more lifelike.  I have used the same concept on other portraits that I have drawn and they come out very well.

Artist: Denise Burns Title: Watering Can (final course graduating piece) Medium: Coloured Pencil


Q: What was it like studying with mentored support?

A: Once you start into the mentorship it’s different. You’re not working on tutorials anymore.  The work is your own.  My choice was to get more involved with colored pencils.  Colored pencil art is a slow tedious artwork.  There are times you need your mentor’s encouragement to continue on with more and more layering.  Sometimes you need a nudge to get you in the right direction.  Remind you to break things down into smaller tasks and remind you of lessons already learned.  Most of all the mentor is always there if you run into an issue.

Artist: Denise Burns Title: Dogwood Tree Medium: Coloured Pencil


Q: What’s happening with your drawing journey right now?

A: Right now I am working with realism in coloured pencil. I keep pushing myself to another level to experience all I can in this journey.  I want my drawing to say something to myself and to others.  My first major breakthrough was when I did a drawing of a Carousel Horse.  I had my own reference material but it wasn’t enough.  I went back to the village numerous times to see how the pieces of a carousel actually came together.  It gave me a better understanding of what I was drawing. I liked the vivid colors of the fall pumpkins, the softness of the pond lily, or the sweetness of a little girl’s face.

Artist: Denise Burns Title: Peace and Tranquility Medium: Coloured Pencil


Q: Do you have any favourite drawings that you’ve created since studying at DrawPj?

A: I have to say my favourite drawing is the pumpkin. It was as if a light bulb went off in my head and I could put the colours together on the paper without a struggle figuring everything out.

Artist: Denise Burns Title: Finding The Perfect Pumpkin Medium: Coloured Pencil


Q: Have you won any awards, or held exhibitions, sold your art since you studied at DrawPj?

A: I entered my Carousel Horse in a few competitions and received an Honorable Mention. It has also been added to an online exhibition.  Totally exciting.  Then my husband had my pumpkin drawing put on canvas for me.  Totally freaked me out when I opened up the box and saw my drawing inside.  I think at that point is when I felt, I made it, I can do this.  I’m an Artist.

Artist: Denise Burns Title: Green Parrot Medium: Coloured Pencil


Q: What are your favourite art materials and why?

A: I am using Derwent Light Fast Coloured Pencils. They hold a sharp point and rarely break.  The colours blend well together too.  As for paper, I have tried quite a few but I keep going back to Saunders Waterford paper.  It takes a lot of layers.  If you want to do coloured pencil art you need a lot of layers.


Artist: Denise Burns Title: Gingerbread Dreams Medium: Coloured Pencil


Q: Do you have any words of helpful advice for beginner artists?

A: The best advice I can give is to always look at your reference picture. You might think you know what the reference photo looks like, but you don’t.  I also found it helpful to get into art groups within your community so that you can share your work with others, your successes, and failures.  It also helps to motivate you into trying other things.  Most of all, don’t give up.  It’s easy to get frustrated.

To Contact Denise Burns:

Email: dburnscoloredpencilart@gmail.com