I have always been a figurative artist—even when I was a very young child. And though I’ve evolved as a painter, I still want to paint the objects, places, and people in my everyday environment. “Dog with Bone” is a good example of this. Of course, I love my quirky, funny-faced pug mix, but the graceful shapes and interesting angles of his figure, the language of his alert position and direct gaze strike me. This is a painting about relationship: his and mine. The bone is forgotten while he focuses on his human.
In fact, I believe that painting is about relationship. There are the obvious relationships an artist observes and works out in any composition: relationships between objects, placement, colors and so on. But there is another relationship that I am talking about: the encounter between artist and subject.
As in any type of relationship, the encounter between artist and subject involves attraction, emotional response, and intimacy. Imagine living your life, attracted by countless things you see in your every day life. Now, imagine that these attractions bring you such happiness or pleasure—or any other emotion. You absolutely need to spend more time with them through art making. This is how I experience life.
In any successful painting I think the viewer should to be able to take my place, to stand where I stood when I encountered the subject, yet feel his or her own emotional experience of the subject and form a new relationship.
I often use photography to record images that attract me. Consequently, my physical point of view comes through in my work. As in the painting “Sleeping Dog,” I was initially attracted by the shape of the dog when seen from above. I was also touched by the intimacy of witnessing the dog’s trusting, peaceful sleep to the point of wanting to experience it as fully as possible, which for me means by painting.
“Sleeping Dog,” 10 x 10, oil on canvas, c. 2017
There is an intimacy in my work reflected by the ordinary, everyday places and things I choose to paint. I think this kind of intimate sharing makes my work relatable. With “Grapefruit,” the viewer should call up the scent of pink grapefruit for breakfast and the feel of the serrated spoon, experiencing the moment of sitting down to eat.
“Grapefruit,” 10 x 10, oil on canvas, c. 2017
In thinking about my work and what I choose to paint, I believe that I am most attracted to relationships of joy or beauty, gratitude or wonder. Though this has not always been the case, it reflects where I am, right now.
See more of Debra's art on Instragram: Debrazart