An innate knack for drawing, an encouraging art teacher, and a passion for wildlife have inspired and motivated Debra to take her art to legendary levels.
Debra was born in Manistee Michigan, a little tourist getaway on the coastline of Lake Michigan. Most of her schooling was in the Manistee area, and she graduated from Manistee High School with three passions: her family, her community, and her talent.
Like any artist, she had a number of influences in her life which have guided her style, the greatest being that of her high school art teacher, Ken Cooper. Ken was always a source of encouragement; he knew she was mostly self-taught, but often reminded her that the origins of one’s art didn’t matter – it was just the talent and desire to run with it. It was his words that gave her the drive, and self-confidence, to take her art even further. And it wasn’t until Debra started working for Legends, that she began to see other styles that resonated with her, the most influential being those of John Benovich and Craig Bone. Their paintings depict a hauntingly realistic perspective of the wildlife they portray and, said Debra, “It was wonderful to meet these great artists in person at some of the venues I have attended.”
Debra has chosen to focus on wildlife for one particular reason – the animals. As a young girl living in Michigan, she was blessed to have the opportunity to witness the antics of the local wildlife. From her back door she could see a whitetail deer nibbling on fruit in the orchards, a groundhog chasing around the yard, and even the entertaining hunts of the family cat! Animals are an intricate part of our environment, and it is her desire to capture it in her artwork.
With her current position at Legends, she has had the privilege to appreciate animals, from around the globe, portrayed in their natural habitat, from the plains of Nevada, the snowy landscapes of Alaska, showrooms in Honduras, to the shores of North Africa. However, by far, her favorite creature to paint is the elephant. Awesome behemoths, these animals have an array of emotions that humans may find difficult to comprehend – they offer a subject she finds utterly fascinating.
Debra feels that painting creatures such as the elephant are essential for African conservation efforts. “We have such a Western view of conservation, we focus so much on preserving the cycle of life that we forget that hunting, and breeding programs are a part of that cycle. Working with the Legends Consortium, I have witnessed firsthand how artwork reminds everyone that in order to protect wildlife, we must accept the entire cycle. From birth, to play, to death, to exhibition, every step is a part of the process to save these great beasts.”
The mechanics of Debra’s artwork can be broken down simply: she is a huge fan of acrylic paints! “Acrylic paints dry fast and are easy to paint over which gives the flexibility to make adjustments after the fact. That being said, the speed of drying makes it difficult to make correction on the fly, so the greatest advantage is also the downside!” Typically, inspiration will strike when she least expects it. “I’ll be watching my grandchildren play outside, and then the imagery will begin to form. This leads to a bit of digging, through a variety of mediums, to better understand the scene in my head. I will look through a hodgepodge of photos and videos of the animals in question. Photographs will often illustrate muscles and how the limbs of the creature will stretch and interact in life. This leads to the work itself. Gradually bringing to life a creature via bits of graphite and acrylic paint, is an indescribable feeling of creativity.”
Debra has been often asked what makes her artwork unique, something she finds difficult to answer. “I suppose it is because I paint on animal hides, which is a bit of a rarity! For me, to see an animal painted on its corresponding hide just has a certain amount of finality, a fitting tribute.”