My first guest is Ms. Debbie Carroll, a painter of landscapes and wildlife, presently residing in Austin, TX (though perhaps not for long). Debbie came to painting via a long and winding road, and is refining her voice as a painter and artist while building her collector base. Sit on our talk about finding a way to doing what you love, acrylic paints and art shows.
00:01:07 The Path to Painting
00:08:24 Practice & Process
00:15:14 Art Shows / Commerce
00:20:33 Public Response
00:28:34 Work/Life Balance
00:37:06 Advice for Beginning Painters
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Interview with Debbie Carroll, Acrylic Painter
WG: First question’s first: how did you start painting or how’d you get into it?
DC: I had a teacher my senior year in high school, an art teacher, and he took me and two other people kind of under his wing and said, “Hey, you three really need to go to college. You need to study art,” and helped us put portfolios together, and he was really supportive, and I feel like that was a key thing for me going forward. So, I went to Northern Illinois University, it was just a couple hours away from home, started out as an art major, but I had that nagging feeling, “Oh, what am I gonna do with this?” I even had a teacher who, my sophomore year, was drawing, and she took me aside and she said, “You know, I really think you should major in studio art with an emphasis in drawing.”
WG: Oh, wow.
DC: I was like, “Well, what am I gonna do with that?” I ended up going into the graphic design direction and ended up in fashion merchandising of all things.
WG: Oh, wow.
DC: I say, “Oh, you use everything you learn,” and, eventually, you do.
WG: You do.
DC: So, I have used those things that I learned in other areas, but I had a very Securitas route through all of this. Then, when I got out of college, I didn’t even go into fashion merchandising. I ended up going into travel. I went on a student trip right after I graduated.
DC: Seven weeks of travel through several countries.
DC: It was so worth it. I don’t regret-
WG: So, you did, like, the whole, the backpacking thing.
DC: Well, no. We were a little bit more pampered than them. We had a Motorcoach with about 40 people and we had a guide, and I met a lot of people, and that’s how I ended up in Texas. I met several Texans, and they all really … You know how Texans are. They’re very proud of Texas.
WG: I do.
DC: Texas is great, and I really have wanted to move somewhere warm because growing up in the Chicago area, I knew early on I wasn’t gonna stay there. I couldn’t stand the winters, so-
WG: So, you traded the cold for the heat?
DC: Oh, yeah. I still don’t regret that. I’m good with that.
DC: When I went on that trip, I took a lot of photos, and had it kind of filed away in my mind, like, “Oh, someday I’m gonna paint some of these. This is great,” but it did take me a very long time. Once I had my kids, I really started feeling that deep need to do something creative. I had stopped working full-time and I had a little bit more time to think about, “What do I wanna do next?” We, at that point, had started going to New Mexico a lot. It’s so cliché. Everybody always says, “Oh, the light, the scenery, the color.”
WG: The light is really, like, markedly different.
DC: Oh, it is. It is. That was a huge impact for me as far as wanting to paint. It was one of things I always knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t even really know if I could do it.
DC: Then, I signed up for a workshop in Taos. We knew this potter and painter, Steven Kilburn, and he does these great, real colorful, abstract paintings, and I saw … We were in there one day buying pottery, that we collected his work … that he was gonna do a painting workshop, and I’m like, “Oh, my God. I have to sign up for this.” So, I had my big, one of my other milestone birthdays, and signed up for the class, and it was really kind of outside my comfort level because it was abstract, it was watercolor,-
WG: Right. Yeah.
DC: … two things I really didn’t do, and so I thought, “You know what? I’ve been really wanting to loosen my style. This’ll be good.” So, I just went in with an open mind, and the way he does his workshops, he kind of focuses on a subject, and so our subject was adobe churches.
DC: A lot of what he was saying spoke to me as far as simplifying the shapes. He said, “When you do your sketches, don’t get every detail. Get your shapes, your contrast,” and really broke it down. It was helpful to hear it and then see it in action. And also, I love the workshop because you don’t learn from just the artist teaching it, you learn from all the other people that are in the workshop, too. The first day, I had definitely loosened my style, but the first piece that I did, it was the backside of the famous church in Rancho de Taos that everybody paints, and I did the back with flowing buttresses, and Steven came around and he looked at my piece, and he’s like, “Is this the way you usually paint?” And I was like, “No, not really. I’m trying to loosen my style,” and I said, “I love what you’re telling us, but I can’t make myself do straight lines.” With that subject and the curves, I just kept wanting to do more of a curved soft shapes. He said, “You know what? It’s working. Just go with it.” So, mine ended up looking different from everybody else’s because they were all trying to do exactly what he was doing, and I was doing something a little bit different.
DC: But it really was a definite jumping off point.
DC: That was a definite turn in the right direction.
WG: You got kind of immersed in it then, I guess, for however long that workshop was.
DC: Yes. Well, it was a whole week,-
WG: Oh, awesome.
DC: … and we would go out and sketch in the morning, and then come back and paint for the rest of the day. And so we were getting two 11×15 paintings done a day,-
DC: … which that was also good for me because I would get hung up before. I’m just overworking, reworking, and-
WG: When is the painting finished, right?
DC: Yes. Yes. When is it finished? And sometimes, I think, we all, as painters, all do that. I have a lot of friends who paint and will say, “Oh, my God. I have to stop before I ruin this.”
DC: So, I always laugh when I see people post things on Instagram and they’ll make that comment because I get it.
WG: Yeah. Well, that’s quite a route to becoming a painter, but it doesn’t sound like a terribly uncommon one. Everybody seems to wander around a lot and then end up … If it’s their thing, they’ll find it,-
WG: … which is cool. I’m trying it out myself, actually, for the first time-
DC: Oh, are you really?
WG: … in a long time. Yeah.
DC: Oh, well, when are you gonna post some of your work?
WG: Maybe when I finish something.
DC: Okay. So, you know what I’m talking about.
WG: I do. I do. Yeah. For now, I’m just exploring and doing [crosstalk 00:06:14]-
DC: What medium?
WG: Acrylic right now.
DC: You know, it’s funny. I think acrylic is one of the hardest ones.
WG: Why is that?
DC: Well, it’s … The qualities of acrylic, it’s great because it dries fast, but it’s hard because it dries fast.
WG: That’s what I keep … That’s what I’m frustrated with is that it dries so quickly.
DC: You know, you might … Try the watercolor. One of the things I did in that workshop that was different was before … previously, I always did the pan watercolor, and the tube watercolor, I just treated it like how I treat my acrylics,-
DC: … and I use as much as I wanted, dilute as much as I want, or even maybe lay it on a little bit thick at times. But I found it to be a lot more forgiving, and you could lift areas if you wanted. You could really rework quite a bit if you wanted to.
DC: So, I tell people, if you’re starting out, it’s not a bad way to go.
WG: Is there now?
WG: Okay. So, I’m curious about what is the difference between watercolor, like tube watercolor, and gouache or gouache or however-
DC: Oh, gouache? You know, I think the gouache is basically more opaque where it’s you get that prettier transparency with the watercolor pigment.
WG: Yeah, I just … I’ve never played with that or the mediums. It’s either gouache or watercolor, but sometimes they look very similar, and I think they’re made of similar material. Interesting. What is your paining practice like? Can you kinda talk through a process of making a painting a little bit?
WG: Where do you start?
DC: Well, what I like to do is when we travel around or just when I’m out and about, if I see something that’s inspiring, I’ll try to snap an image. I’m really using my iPhone camera a lot because I don’t always have the luxury of going and sketching.
DC: I really need to be doing that more, but the reality is with being busy with a lot of stuff right now, that’s the easiest thing for me. So, … You’ll laugh … even on a car trip, I’m out, I see cool little interesting roads leading, and I’ll get my camera out and start just trying to get a picture, or if I can get my husband to stop the car, I’ll get out and take pictures.
WG: And you’re just, like, hanging out the windows snapping.
DC: Oh, yeah. It’s crazy. But what I do is I’ll always take my photos to a sketch because sometimes there’s thing in the photo that I don’t want or I have an idea of how to make the composition a little better, and I like to have that level of separation between working from a photo to working with a sketch. I just feel like it’s better. And I refer to the photo, but sometimes I change colors, mix things up a bit, add things, delete things, but it’s a good jumping off point. Recently, I did a little painting that was of a garage of all things, but I modified a few things, and I liked how it turned out ’cause I think you have to realize as an artist, and that was one of the things I liked about seeing the art in New Mexico, it’s the interpretation of the artist that really gets me excited about a piece. I appreciate realism, but it’s really the more interpretive pieces that reach out and grab me, so that’s really what I wanna try to do when I’m working on my own pieces. And I really do like to build on the color. A lot of my pieces are just gessoed with black underneath, or I’ve started using a Vermillion, and I really like that, especially if I’m doing something with a lot of red rock-
DC: … that just really lends itself to the finished piece, but-
WG: So, like an opaque Vermillion or is it more like a wash?
DC: It’s opaque.
WG: Oh, wow.
DC: With the acrylics, I usually go opaque. I say that. Not always. Sometimes I’ll go with, like, a transparent wash of color, but generally speaking, it’s opaque, so I really have to build up those layers of acrylic because on the black gesso, especially, the black just absorbs the color. So, I really have to build up layers and layers of paint to make it really saturated-looking. But I like the black because you-
WG: Just a solid black gesso behind it.
WG: I’ve never heard of that.
DC: This was … Well, it’s something I picked up, actually, at one of the workshops.
DC: There was a painter there, and I liked the graphic quality it gave ’cause she would let some of the black show, and I’ve always liked letting some of the underpainting show through. A lot of people do that. I think it’s a really … an effective use of color. So, sometimes I’ll leave a little bit of the black. A lot of times, I’ll paint over that as well. And then if you really hate a part of the painting, you can just paint it out with a black gesso and start over. So, it’s-
WG: There you go.
DC: … kind of handy in that respect. It’s very forgiving, so I like that aspect of it.
DC: And sometimes I might not even have a real solid covering over the black. I like the effect it brings with layering a little bit of color over.
DC: So, it’s just another tool in the box.
DC: I do like to use outlining. Sometimes, I’ll use that as a way of shapes that I’ve just blocked in pretty loosely, I can start defining with a little bit of line. I definitely like to play it to graphic element in every finished piece.
WG: Do you do a whole drawing before you start?
DC: I like to take, like, a yellow ochre and just paint in my sketch very loosely.
DC: I think I’m a little bit of a lazy painter in some respects. I could sit there and draw it in and be a lot more exact, but trying to get away from being a tight painter and really focusing on staying loose, that helps me. I’ve been doing a lot of pet portrait commissions, for instance, and the people that come to me, I always make sure they know that, “Hey, this is not gonna be an exact replica of your photo. It’s gonna be my interpretation, and they’re coming to me because they like that.
WG: Right. Hearing you talk about your style being kind of loose, and it is visibly loose and whimsical, did that come from when you started first loosening up at that workshop? Did you keep that same style or did you bring it back in? How did you get to this point of view that you have ’cause it’s like your voice is becoming clear.
DC: Oh, that’s great to hear, and that’s really what I’m trying to do is really keep honing my skills and just keep bringing it up a notch and challenging myself. And my son actually made a really interesting observation one day ’cause he was looking at my work. It was the church piece I did, adobe church, and I hadn’t done one in a while, and he said, “You know, the difference between your early pieces and pieces you’re doing now is when you first started doing them, they were pretty stripped down, not a lot of detail,” and as I paint, I had added more detail in over time. I wouldn’t say it’s realistic by any stretch of the imagination, but-
DC: … a little bit more structure and definition. I still try to keep simple shapes and just really work on making the detail mean something in the finished piece.
WG: Yeah. Some of your paintings seem like they’d have a significant amount of detail. I’m thinking of some of your floral work, especially. Those are really nice.
DC: Oh, thank you.
WG: Really graphic quality to a lot of your work. And is that informed by your work as a graphic designer? Did you work as a graphic designer for a little while? We kind of-
DC: Very, very, very briefly. So, I didn’t finish through college graphics,-
DC: … but it was funny because I did pretty well in the two semesters I did do graphic work. And then after I met my husband, I moved to Houston from Dallas, and I decided to go to school at night at The Art Institute. I was doing their … it was their graphic arts program,-
WG: Oh, okay.
DC: … and, actually, I did pretty well. Even won a scholarship for one of the quarters and thought that was the direction I was gonna go, and got a very entry level job at Bates Southwest Advertising in Houston, then we moved to Austin, and … Well, I’ll tell you what. To do the same kind of job I had at Bates, they were paying a whole lot less in Austin at the time, and so I went back to relying on some of my other skills, jobs I had had before, so I could just make ends meet. I talk about using everything you know. I have ended up using those skills. But yes, I do think having that kind of background and training definitely … And I think with the drawing, too, lends itself to that graphic approach. I think that’s part of why I do it the way I do it.
WG: So, you mentioned the Blue Genie show. That’s-
DC: It’s the whole thing. You have to think through your booth display, and I will have small originals and some larger pieces, too. They said, typically, they’re selling more gifty items, but they said, “Hey, if you have that $5,000 painting, go ahead and put it up. So, it’ll be interesting to see what people gravitate to.
DC: I look at it as a way of people who like my art, maybe paintings aren’t in their budget, it’s a way for them to have something in their home. It really … I feel like as an artist, it does seem a little bit commercial as far as fine art; however, recently, I was contacted by somebody who bought a set of cards from me 10 years ago,-
DC: … and she wanted to have some prints, and somebody like that, eventually, they’re gonna buy a piece, an original piece.
WG: Right. Exactly.
DC: They’re gonna say, “I want to have an original piece.” For a while, I was kind of on the fence about doing prints and [inaudible 00:15:45],-
DC: … but for some of these events, it’s good to have an option, so that if they really want to own something of your work, they can have that option. Course, my preference is always to sell originals and focus my time on that.
WG: I agree that there’s definitely a good entry point in printed materials for people that can’t afford originals. There’s a much wider audience of people who might be interested in your work, and that realm, I believe in original buyers.
WG: Even though the impact is much different in a printed piece verus a real one.
DC: Oh, yes. I’ve always encouraged people, when I do these shows, to come and see my work in person because I really don’t think photos or even images on Instagram, Facebook … It’s not the same as seeing work in person.
WG: The physical work is its own … it can be, like,-
WG: … a special encounter with it, you know?
DC: Well, it’s funny because last year, I did a show in Fredericksburg, and part of the challenge for that show is the space was a beautiful space with really tall walls, and so it was decided that, for this particular show, I would do large pieces, and for a few years, people kept asking, “Hey, you do large pieces?” and I’d say, “Well, I can,” but I didn’t really have anything really large to show anybody. So, err again, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I can do that.” So, oddly enough, it turns out, I love working large. I would work large a whole lot more if I had some place to put them. We’re trying to move, and that’s part of the whole thing with the move. I’m hoping to have a larger studio space that’ll allow me to do some things I’ve been wanting to do, but one of the things that I learned about having these large pieces was people were telling me, “Oh, my gosh. When I see this piece, it really just draws me into the scene.” I felt like they could walk into the scene, and I thought, “Wow, that’s really a great thing for me to hear,” and very encouraging-
WG: Yeah, definitely.
DC: … that they could relate to it in that way.
WG: That’s great. So, do you do a lot of shows? When did you decide to take your work to a show for the first time, and what was that like for you?
DC: Well … Okay, so I had been doing jewelry, which is completely …
WG: Oh, okay.
DC: And I did a lot of shows with that. I did local art shows, some junior league shows that were the big 200 to 300 people selling their work, including people that do fine art.
DC: So, I had some experience doing shows already; however, I will say this. Selling jewelry and selling art is completely different ’cause people can always justify buying jewelry-
DC: … for a gift, and it’s a lot less of a price point, too, of course.
DC: So, I did have some experience with that. So, what I did was I did a show out in Round Top that was kind of a folk art show, and I was accepted with my jewelry-
DC: … and asked if I could show the artwork, and I did, and so that was a way of getting some feedback on it. I think it was the second time I did one like that, a woman out of Dallas, she had a place she was opening in Vandera, kind of a gallery gift shop, and she blew through, and she’s like, “Oh, I like your stuff. I’m gonna put it in my shop.” So, pretty early on, I had some interest in kind of a gallery setting, so that was very exciting. But I think, for me, the first really big show I did with just the art was the Weems show in Albuquerque, which went on for years. Somebody that had seen my work on Etsy of all places said, “Hey, I do this show. I think your stuff would be great. You should try to do the show.” So, I applied to the show, and I didn’t even know. This was how much of a newbie I was with some of the art shows. Their deadline had already past and I had just sent in the stuff,-
WG: Oh, wow.
DC: … and then, like, a week later, I think they called me and they said, “Hey, we really liked your work, and we put you at the top of our wait list, so if something comes open,-“
WG: Oh, cool.
DC: … ” … we’d like for you to do the show.” And then a couple days later, they had a cancellation, so I ended up packing up and driving to Albuquerque, and doing the show. And thank goodness the man next to me, Steve Hunsicker, he has been in the business for years, he’s a painter, he really took me under his wing and he gave me all sorts of very good advice and information. So, it was a really good experience. In fact, I also met another painter who I am now friends with, and we’ve gone and painted together. So, yeah, I always encourage people that want to get into painting to not just pursue getting into galleries, doing some shows can be very beneficial. They’re a lot of work.
DC: Getting your work in front of just the general public can be pretty daunting at times ’cause not everybody’ll like what they see, and people are pretty free with their commentary, good and bad, but it’s good ’cause if you’re gonna be in this business, you have to be able to hear the bad stuff, too, or the critiques and maybe the things you don’t want to hear,-
DC: … but it’s all part of the growing process.
WG: Well, yeah. And then you’ve learned to filter through what-
DC: Oh, yeah.
WG: … criticism you want to take and what you don’t.
DC: Sometimes … I’ve been told certain things. For instance, I was at a show last March in Albuquerque, and a painter friend of mine came through, and he knows his stuff, and there was a piece … It was the piece you posted, actually, the [Chamisa 00:21:07], and he looked at that-
WG: Oh, okay.
DC: … and he said, “Wow. That just doesn’t looked finished to me,” and I said, “Oh. Well, I like it.” After he left, I thought, “Well, gee, do I need to go back and do more?” and I’m like, “No, that’s the finished piece. I like it. I’m not gonna listen to that.” And I was staying with my painter friend, and I said, “Hey, this was something that he said. What do you think?” and she’s like, “Don’t listen to him.” So, it’s that thing. Everything’s subjective. One person can come through and say, “Oh, I don’t like,” blah, blah, blah, and the next person comes through and they say, “Oh, I really love how you did X, Y, Z.”
WG: You have people who love and really dislike the same exact thing.
DC: Yeah. It’s interesting. It really is.
WG: But it’s also fun … it’s fun and worthwhile to hear things that resonate with a number of people, right?
WG: Then, you can-
DC: Well, you used-
WG: … take note of that.
DC: … the word “whimsical,” earlier, and it’s funny because … Okay. So, when I first started showing my work, that was a word that popped up right off the bat. I’ve decided, you have to embrace it. Obviously, that is a way people describe my work, and I do see that it has a whimsical quality ’cause it’s not super realistic, and I like to use that skewed perspective. It just kind of puts you a little bit off balance. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about that, like, “Why do you have that off balance perspective?” and I say, “That’s just the way I like to add a little interest.”
DC: And I feel like it sort of creates movement and gives people an entry path to the piece.
WG: Yeah. I would agree with that.
DC: ‘Cause you used that word, and I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna talk about that a little bit.”
WG: I know. I’m glad that you did. I said it, and I think that it’s a positive quality to your work. Something that is whimsical, I think of as being fun, and fun is always approachable.
DC: Yes. Yes.
WG: I’d rather surround myself with things that are upbeat and happy than things that … Maybe there’s space for some think pieces, but for the most part, what do you have around you will influence, I think, your life on a day-to-day basis. You live with a painting if it’s in your house, so I like to keep happy things on my walls, you know?
DC: Absolutely. I do, too. I do agree with that. You just surround yourself with things that you love. Happy is another descriptive word I’ve had, too. People will also say, “Oh, that makes me happy,” and I like to hear that because-
DC: … life’s too short. You need to make yourself as happy as you can be,-
WG: I agree.
DC: … and use any means to do so.
WG: Who are some of your influences?
DC: Well, of course, that whole Taos school of painters. I love that whole group. In particular, Maynard Dixon. I notice you post a lot of his [inaudible 00:23:57]. Love his work. There is a piece at the Panhandle-Plains Museum in Amarillo. They have a pretty incredible collection of art there. Georgia O’Keefe used to teach at that school back before it was a Texas A&M school.
WG: Oh, wow. Which-
DC: I think it was called West Texas before it was West Texas A&M.
WG: Okay. So, West Texas A&M.
DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
WG: Sorry. You got out just a little bit. I didn’t catch what the school name was. And it’s over … Is that up at-
DC: In Canyon. So, if you’re going to the Palo Duro … If you go to Canyon, you turn left, and if you wanna go to the Palo Duro, that same street, you turn right. That’s why you see some of my Palo Duro paintings because that was a gem to discover. Oh, my gosh. There are some cabins there, and I’m dying to go and stay there for, like, a long weekend and just paint. I’m gonna do it because-
DC: … it’s a beautiful … They say it’s the second largest canyon next to the Grand Canyon.
WG: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
DC: But yeah, Maynard Dixon, he is a favorite of mine, and Dunton, and-
WG: Oh, yeah.
DC: … Ufer. There’s all of those. Victor Higgins. The work is just amazing. And then, of course, there are a ton of more print painters that I just love. I really love the work of Louisa McElwain, who’s no longer with us,-
WG: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, her work is great.
DC: … but her work really speaks to me. Jivan. I’m never sure if I’m pronouncing his name right. Jivan Lee. He’s up in Taos, and he does those huge pieces that-
WG: I know.
DC: … are very expressive.
WG: They’re so expressive. Yeah.
DC: Love his work. Love his work. And then … ‘Cause we were in Taos last fall and we went into a little gallery there, and that’s … We had seen his work, I think, in Southwest Art Magazine, but she had his work there along with Jeff Cochran, who does lovely landscapes as well, and it was really fun to see those pieces in person. And then John Moyers is another-
WG: Oh, yeah.
DC: … gentleman that I’ve loved his work for quite a while. He’s got a graphic style. I find myself drawn to the graphic things. Like Logan Maxwell Hagege … Is that how you say his last name?
DC: Hagege. Okay. We love his work as well.
DC: Brett Allen Johnson, his work is fabulous. So, there is a lot of really talent people out there,-
WG: Oh, yeah.
DC: … and sometimes, I’m amazed that they’re not as well-known as you would think. It’s interesting to me.
WG: It is. The western art world in the West United States [inaudible 00:26:37]. It does seem like there’s kind of a small community of artists and then collectors and publishers, and within the grand art world, it seems much more smaller and personal to me.
DC: Oh, and another artist I love, Howard Post.
WG: Oh, yeah.
DC: I love Howard Post work, too.
DC: I could probably think of a million-
WG: He’s great.
DC: … that I just love, but his work is … It really, to me, looks like that Taos style. It really speaks to me, too.
WG: As an artist, do you have a favorite brush or a secret weapon?
DC: Well, I like those flat brushes, or, I guess, three quarter inch. I use that a ton ’cause you can get kind of a wash and you can get a straight edge with it. And I do find myself using just a handful of the same brushes over and over again, even though I’ve got a million brushes. I don’t really use the round ones very much, although, after dabbling in oil … I recently went on a very, very wonderful trip to the Abiquiu area-
WG: Oh, yeah.
DC: … with a friend of mine. We went to Ghost Ranch for an afternoon, and then we had a place that … She knows somebody with a home that’s ideally situated, and we stayed there and we never left. She kept saying, “Oh, we could go paint this and that,” but there were so many views. We just stayed there because it was a short time, so it was nice to just get as much painting done.
DC: Yeah. I think all we did was eat, sleep, paint, and then drink a little wine.
WG: Yeah. Sounds like a good time.
DC: It was a good trip. It was a good chance to sort of … I did some acrylics because that’s what I usually work in, but I did wanna try my hand at the oils, and I found I really like them, so I will be doing more of those, but you do have that drying time to wait for. I’m a little bit impatient, so that’s the downside to me.
WG: Right. Gotcha.
DC: When I have space and I can work on several things at once, that’d be ideal.
WG: Yeah, that seems kind of, like, maybe a solution for working in oils to be able to go from one painting to the next.
WG: Yeah. So, you were talking before about how it can be a lot of work to take all your stuff to shows and the whole practical side of things. How do you balance that with making time to just be creative?
DC: It’s definitely a balance because I do actually do a little part-time work, too, for an interior designer, which it’s nice because I feel like that sort of ties in with my love of design and color,-
DC: … and that’s super flexible, so that’s worked out great for me. If I need to say, “Hey, I’m leaving for a week to go do a show,” I can do it.
DC: But yeah, I try to block out time, so that I know there’s days that I can just paint. I do work out of my home, and it’s a challenge because you have a lot more interrupts. That was the thing that I noticed going on that painting trip were you could just focus. It was really wonderful-
DC: … to immerse, just to be able to be immersed in it without any distractions. I do try to block out time, but it is, it is a balance. Like right now, we’re doing remodeling, so I might have to stop and clear out a room. I already had to move my painting area once, and I’ll have to do that again, and eventually, find some outside studio space for an indefinite amount of time ’cause we’re putting our house on the market. We don’t know where we’re moving to yet.
WG: Yeah. I remember you mentioned that before. You were talking about potentially moving west. Are you thinking over there near Palo Duro?
DC: Well, my husband said, “Hey …” We considered Panhandle, maybe go crepes,-
WG: Oh, yeah.
DC: … and I like the wide open spaces. We recently went down to Alpine, Texas, Marfa, right in there,-
WG: Oh, nice.
DC: … and I really fell in love with Alpine and Fort Davis. It’s beautiful and it really spoke to me as far as doing landscapes. I love to do clouds, and the skies there-
DC: … are amazing, so I have … Actually, I have, from that trip … It kind of spawned an idea for a show. We stayed at the Indian Lodge in Fort Davis, and I had my work out at a little gallery/shop in Johnson City called Echo, and she features art and has had a couple major shows out there in Johnson City, and she had seen the pictures I had taken of the Indian Lodge, which is just such a gem. They re-renovated it, they painted it white, so it’s like a little pearl that sits there in Fort Davis in the park. The light on the building was incredible. So, she saw the photos and she said, “Hey, how about doing a show, a white show, where all the subjects are white?”
DC: And I thought, “Okay.” White is an interesting color because it isn’t just white, you know?
WG: Right. It never is, right?
DC: If you’re gonna paint … Right. If you’re gonna paint white, if you want it to look interesting or have any depth, you have to add other colors to it. Do you look at snow? You see blue, you see purple, you see other colors.
DC: So, I thought, “You know, this really could be interesting,” so that’s slated for the end of January-
DC: … to do this white show. So, I’m pretty excited about that. I think it’s gonna be yet another challenge, and I already have plenty of subjects that I wanna choose from for that one. So, that’s gonna be fun.
WG: But you haven’t started painting that one, yet?
DC: I’ve started yesterday. So, yeah, I really need to get to work.
WG: Nothing like a deadline, huh?
DC: I am one of those people that I work best on a deadline, sadly.
WG: Oh, I think … Yeah, they’re very motivating.
DC: It is. When I had the show last year in September, I really didn’t get going on that until probably June, and it was a little bit scary ’cause I was doing these big pieces, and I wasn’t even sure how long that would take. But I think it was nice for me ’cause I’d say, “Hey, I really have to immerse myself in this and block out the time and just set this one, and maybe don’t give me anything else.” So, it’ll be good. We do have the holidays in there, but-
DC: … you have to balance things around your personal life, too. I’ve started recently reading The Artist’s Way.
WG: Oh, great.
DC: I’m recommending it to a lot of friends because I think it really helps you focus on what’s important to you as an artist and how you use your time.
WG: It really is. It’s a very powerful book. When I first read it … I didn’t even finish it actually,-
DC: I haven’t yet either.
WG: … but I ended up moving from Austin to, ultimately, to Nashville to write country songs.
DC: Oh, you did? Oh, wow.
WG: And I did that for a while. And then after we had our first kid, we decided to move back to be close to our parents.
DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
WG: Also, playing music in the house is not really conducive to babies sleeping.
WG: That’s when I found … kinda rekindled my interest in visual art.
DC: Well, you’ll come back to the songs and the music. I think things always come back full circle, you know? I wish I was musically talented. The one thing I haven’t been doing … I do the morning pages pretty religiously, but I haven’t been doing The Artist Date,-
WG: Oh, yeah.
DC: … but I see the value in it. There is value in it because you do, you have to refill the well, as they say, and they even say, “The busier you are, the more you should do it,” so that’s a goal for me, even though it’s gonna be a crazy couple months with all these events and the show coming up. I’m gonna try to make time for that, refill the well.
WG: Yeah. In addition to finding the inspiration, it gives you time alone to actually think about what-
WG: … you want to do with your inspiration. That’s great.
DC: Yeah. I think people don’t always realize how much time is spent just thinking about a project before you even do any hands-on, just formulating your ideas, and letting them go off in different directions.
DC: Sometimes, you have an idea, a germ of an idea, but it takes the whole thought process to let it really fully formulate.
WG: Yeah. I like to think about things sometimes. And the 80/20 rule, like-
DC: Oh, yeah.
WG: … almost 80% preparation, 20%-
WG: … execution sometimes works out well. Sometimes, for me, it turns into too much preparation and not enough execution, but anyway. There’s definitely a lot of work in deciding what to paint or what your creative project is gonna be and how to do it.
DC: Well, and that’s … I have another friend. We often talk about … People will say to us, “Oh, isn’t it hard to come up with ideas of what you want to paint?” and it’s really the opposite is true.
DC: You, sometimes, have so many ideas, it’s almost paralyzing, and trying to decide, “Oh, well, gee, I could do this, but what if I did this,” and then [inaudible 00:35:32] direction. So, that is not a problem. It’s sometimes having too many ideas is actually a problem as crazy as that sounds.
WG: No. Then, you have to edit it. And you know what? I think … You were talking about your process a little bit … probably when you start moving things from photos to sketches, you start to be able to filter through things a little better, and then you’ve already got some moment going with some things, and maybe it’s easier to pick a direction.
DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
WG: That’s good.
DC: Oh, even with this Indian Lodge portion of the white show that I’m working on right now, I focused in on a particular image that was my favorite, So, I thought, “Well, I’ll start with this, and I’ll do just a small study first. I want to play with this and see how I like it before I commit,” ’cause I wanna do a larger anchor piece for the show. Now that I have it painted and blocked in, the window, to me, is losing its impact, so now I’m like, “Okay, maybe I need to crop in and really play this aspect up more.” So, I think doing these studies, I decided on this particular show, I wanted to do the studies first and then jump to the larger pieces, and just see where that process takes me ’cause I don’t usually do that,-
DC: … and I thought, “Well …” And I need some small pieces for the Blue Genie show, so-
WG: There you go. Yeah.
DC: … I was like, “Okay, let’s …”
WG: [crosstalk 00:36:50] studies at the Blue Genie. That’s good.
DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
DC: So, use everything. That’s another one of my mottos, especially if you have limited time and you’re trying to do that work/life-
DC: No, if you can use everything at your disposal, why not?
WG: Yeah. I guess if you have maybe one piece of advice for somebody who is getting into painting, what would that be?
DC: Well, I think not to be afraid to be willing to make mistakes and experiment. I don’t take as much time to experiment as I would like, and that’s something I’m trying to do because sometimes, through experimentation, you discover another direction that maybe you wouldn’t have gone in, and so I do feel like it’s very, very important, experimentation.
WG: All right.
DC: And also, getting your work out there. If nobody can see it,-
DC: … then nobody’s gonna ever wanna buy it.
WG: That’s the truth. Well, great. Thank you so much, Debbie. Also, before we go, I wanted to ask you real quick to summarize … I know you have the white show that you’re talking about in January, and what gallery was that at again or which boutique or whatever?
DC: It’s at Echo.
WG: Echo. Echo, echo, echo, echo.
DC: Echo in Johnson City.
WG: Maybe I can convince the family to let me go down to Austin-
DC: Oh, you should. That would be fun. That would be fun.
WG: Yeah. I’d love to come check it out.
DC: And I did just find out last night, I am a finalist in the William Christ Winery wine label competition.
WG: All right.
WG: Congrats. That’s cool.
DC: I was … I did it last year. I was one of the finalists. It was a lot of fun, lot of fun. It’s a beautiful winery. They have excellent wine, so I always encourage people to go check that out. And it’s supposed to be hanging there in December, in their members area.
WG: Getting the work out there. All right. Well, Debbie, thank you so much for chatting today, and-
DC: Well, thanks, George.
WG: … I am excited to come see your work in Austin or elsewhere.
DC: Yes. I would love that. So, it was nice to finally be in person, sort of.
WG: Yeah, it’s great to talk in real time.
DC: Yes, absolutely. Well, thanks for the opportunity.
WG: Yeah, sure thing. Thanks for chatting.