Where I am
Belfast, Maine, USA
Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I was Born in Maine and still live in the same area.
I grew up on a horse farm. We raised Appaloosa horses, showing them, breeding them and riding them. A lot of family members owned various breeds of horses and that’s what I was raised on, the horse life.
I came from a history of Artists on both parents sides. I started painting and drawing our horses early in my life. As a teen I started selling works, doing commissions of the neighbors animals and homesteads. I always have had supportive parents, and they have encouraged my art throughout my life.
When I graduated from High School I took various art courses. One was a correspondence course through a college, The Kachina School of Art In Arizona. I recieved my diplomas in Painting Landscape in Oils and also for Painting the Figure & Anatomy in Oils. I then took Watercolor workshops at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland Maine with a well known (In Maine) seascape artist, Carol Seabold and several other artists. On the most part I am a self taught artist. Horses have always been my love and depicting them with children has reconnected my love and memories of them.
When did you first start drawing & painting?
I started very young. What I can remember as soon as I could hold the pencil, and crayons. My parents and grandmothers always kept me in constant supply of materials to work with. I had watercolors and oils at a very young age. I also loved those paint by number sets and coloring books. It didn’t matter as long as I was being creative.
I knew I was an Artist and I knew no matter what…that was my career goal. It was and still is a passion. Because we raised Appaloosa’s, my mother subscribed to the Appaloosa Journal Magazine. In that magazine they always had a ‘kids corral’ where the young readers could submit their works of art. My work landed in that several times. All of these little stepping stones, fueled my passionate fire to create art depicting the horse.
You paint a wide variety of subjects, which one is your favorite to capture?
Oh gosh, That’s a hard one to pin down.
I think my favorite is painting children with animals, especially them with their horse. I feel the passion that they feel for their horse. I know the emotions and spiritual connection. That always carries over in my work.
I also love working on the Belfast’s past series. With this series, I am bringing awareness to the past in my City and how they lived and worked. As I dig into the History I also dig into my own ancestory. My ancestors settled in this City and outer towns. I feel I am keeping their story alive. I also donate a percentage of sales from this series to the Belfast Historical Society Museum. They have many things in there that are connected to me and I want to help keep this museum alive, no matter how small the contribution.
You also have a blog dedicated to painting a child a day. That is a serious commitment, can you tell us a little about the project?
Over the winter of 2008-2009 I self published a book of my Watercolor paintings of children and horses. Titled: Children & their 4-legged friends, a series of watercolor paintings and poems.
With the release of this book, came great interest from people in the Childrens book illustrating world. I have always loved children’s books and I like writing poetry and ‘picture book’ type things. With a nudge from a few artist friends, I joined the Society of Children’s book writers and Illustrators.
I’ve been reading all I can about this industry and meeting new artists who are book illustrators and writers for the children genre. The more I learned, the more I realized that I had better hone my skills and become better at creating quality, creative work within deadlines. What better way, than to promise to paint a child a day for a year and post it on a blog and a google group to keep me going.
If I didn’t like painting children, this never would have worked for me. It would have been more like a ‘job’ and labor. I started the project in April of 2009 and it has already started to take on a life of it’s own. It has brought more awareness to my art, and also more interviews, as well as improving my painting skills and staying on deadlines. It has been and still is a wonderful adventure.
Who are your main influences?
When I was young, my love was (and still is) wildlife art. I just love Robert Bateman’s work. For Equine art, I was always drawn to paintings like Bev Doolittle and Artists like that. Those were artists that I was able to view, because they were popluar/famous at the time and in Magazines that I read.
I also loved the artists that were on Greeting cards, such as works that The Leanin’ Tree published. This was the only access I had to good art.
Once in a while my grandmother would take me to local Galleries and we would drool over and pick apart paintings (quietly).
Later in my life I was able to visit the Boston Museum of Art. There I got to see the greats, up close and personal. John singer Sargent, and the like. Those human portraits just popped off the canvas.
Here in Maine we have the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. This museum holds a large collection of Wyeth work. N.C Wyeth, who was an Illustrator for young readers, has many original large paintings in a room just for him. Another room holds a large collection of Andrew Wyeth’s works.
I also love Mary Cassatt, with her paintings of children with their mothers. I have several books about her.
Another Artist is a cousin of mine, Percy Sanborn, who was a well known artist here in Belfast. Many of his marine art and animal art is hanging in the Belfast Historical Museum. I go there to admire his oils on canvas and watercolors. I also was influenced by the great detailed ship portraits that my grandmother painted in oils on canvas when I was a child.
Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
Yes. He was an Appaloosa that was born on our farm when I was maybe 5 years old, Snooper’s raindrop. He had such presence about him and personality. My dad showed him, trained him to ride and so on. When I became a teen, I rode him a lot. He was always depicted in my drawings and paintings. I had a very close spiritual and emotional connection to him. The whole family did, I believe.
He was one of those “Once in a life time” horses. He had a sudden unexpected death, that could not have been predicted by anyone. After his death, I pretty much stopped painting horses.
I even kept his saddle and bridle for about 20 years after his death. It was about that time, when I finally sold the saddle, that I found a great group of Equine Artists, the Equine Art Guild. I had sporadically painted horses off on, but not with a lot of passion, until I found the EAG and became a member in 2003.
Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone for your art?
Well, if it’s a secret, it’s a secret to me too. I suppose it is my photos that I have. I take so many photographs, that at the moment I took them, I was thinking that it would make a great painting or a reference image for a painting.
When I go browsing through my photos, I always get inspired. I try to keep my days organized. I have certain times of day for computer/marketing work and chatting, and I have time for painting and time for housework and errands. I break the jobs up into sections throughout the week and I stay on schedule, as much as possible. There is always leway for things that come up unexpectedly. I’m good at organizing, multi tasking and working under deadlines.
Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
My surroundings bring me inspiration. Just driving to town, I’ll see something that catches my eye. I frequent local horse shows and find so much there with the kids and horses.
I love canoeing and hiking in my area. I can sit in a chair outside of my home in the sunlight, peacefull and quiet, close my eyes and things will come to me. Nature inspires me and being alive to enjoy it. I’m so blessed everyday to be a part of this world.
What effect do you think the Internet will have on art in general?
The internet has already had a large effect on art of all genre! It helps artists to get their name and their art out. Websites and Blogs and the social media is so great for today’s artists.
Entering art shows can now be done online, art groups are formed, and staying in touch with Galleries is easier. It’s also easier for our images to be lifted and stolen, which we have to be cautious of. But with anything, we should be cautious.
Has it had an effect on yours?
My career has grown so much because of the internet. I have artist freinds now, that I never would have dreamed that I would have known these people.
People I would admire through magazines and greeting cards, that are now conversing with me through emails. It just blows my mind, the kind of doors that have been opened because of the internet.
I also have been able to sell works globaly. I have many originals hanging in Australia and Europe that never would have happened without the computer. I have met some great clients who have also become great freinds.
Which one is your personal favorite piece?
I think it is the piece I haven’t created yet. My favorites are changing all the time. Because with each new painting I create, it is better than the last and I then love that one. I do have one of my youngest son, sitting on the rocky seashore, back to us, brooding. I have that one on my wall in front of my computer desk. I enjoy it a lot, but I still see things in it that I could probably make better.
Would you ever sell it?
I made Giclee reproductions of it, so I can sell the image that way. I was going to offer it for sale and I think there is a price on it on my website. But lately, I’m thinking I may keep it, and only offer the Giclee from it. I have sold original paintings of my kids, and I know the feeling of handing it over to someone else, but it is usually someone who connects with it deeply and loves it so…how can I deny them those feelings & the painting?
That’s my purpose of painting. To connect with others and help them see and feel the passion.
What else are you passionate about?
My family, husband, and kids and our dog. I love gardening and cooking. The gadening and cooking are all forms of creativity too. History of my City and of my family also are very strong interests.
Working on anything new?
I have a couple oil paintings on my easel, that have been sitting for awhile. I was having a bit of difficulty with a white horse that is spooking with a young cowgirl riding. It’s the color of the white horse that I have been dealing with. The rest of the painting is fine. The other is an oil of my son sleeping with horse toys and stuffed horse toy.
The thing that takes most of my time is the Child a day project, as each painting is new every day, Monday through Friday.
I also have some ideas in the works for picture books, and I’m compiling a book(s) of the child a day project.
One other project I have been working on is called ‘TrayChic’ for the Maine’s Childrens Discovery Museum Auction. It’s an end table with a matching serving tray. I have created a Mustang theme on the tops of the table and the tray. These tables will be Aucitoned off in November 2009 in Bangor, Maine.
I do a lot of outside art festivals in the summer, so right now, my time is consummed with the booth shows.
More to Come
Thanks to Debbie for answering the interview and sharing her work. Be sure to check out her art website periodically for updates about her latest works.
Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.