Artist of the Month
Debra KeirceAshburn, Virgina
Debra Keirce is originally from Detroit, MI, but now calls Northern VA home. She first became interested in art when she won several awards and scholarships in high school. Despite her love of fine art, she pursued a degree and career in biochemical engineering, while continuing to build a business painting commissions. It was during this time in 1988, when a coworker at a biotech company in VT started a custom puzzle company, Lucretia’s Pieces. Debra has been painting work that is mounted and cut into very high quality puzzles for Lucretia ever since. Her commissioned work resides in many private collections in almost every U.S. state, and also in Japan, Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Belize and Moscow.
In 1997, Debra was able to leave the corporate engineering world to focus on raising her three children and growing her commission business. At this point, she began painting daily and participating in local art fairs. By 2010, with children in high school and a growing desire to paint her own visions, Debra stopped soliciting commissioned work and focused on entering art shows in galleries and museums. In particular, she was drawn to the miniature and small format fine art exhibitions, where she began to accumulate awards and got to know several other top artists in the genre. She experimented with various subjects, and has settled on urban landscapes and still lifes with a Trompe L’Oeil and photorealism influence.
Clearly, her engineering background contributes to her love of detail, repeating patterns, and high contrast. Debra explains that she wants her art to “make people stop, draw closer, smile, and then think about the narrative.” Her small format artwork does this extremely well. Viewers notice the form and color, marvel at the amount of detail, move nearer to relax into the comforting patterns within patterns, and then consider what significance each element might have.
TAL: How and when did you start creating art?
DK : Like many artists, I was born creating art! At least, that’s what it feels like. My earliest memory of art is when I was about 7 years old, and discovered a kit with charcoal sticks and an instruction book about perspective in drawing. Their example was a view of an oncoming train and its track. I think I drew it about a dozen times before my parents discovered I’d gotten into the charcoal and made a mess. My drawings weren’t bad though, so I don’t remember being punished!
TAL: What media and genres do you work in?
DK : While I have used countless media, I always come back to acrylic paints. Especially nowadays, with all of the mediums and formulations that allow you to have the best attributes of everything from watercolor to oil to casein, I just love the variety and experimentation afforded by this single medium. Also, acrylics lend themselves to the bright colors and texturing techniques I use in my artwork.
TAL: Who or what are your influences?
DK : There are so many! I have been creating art on a regular basis for over three decades now. Early on, I was influenced by M. C. Escher and Salvador Dali. Later, because I was painting so many portrait commissions, I studied John Singer Sargent, but also was drawn to the contemporary photorealists like Richard Estes. Currently, I would say my biggest influences are the way Daniel Gerharz and Max Ginsberg work with color, the way Robert C. Jackson’s pieces sing with humor and narrative, and the way Pedro Campos makes it look so easy to paint with atmosphere. Contemporary Trompe L’Oeil artists are in my list of bookmarked links right now too.
TAL: What was your inspiration for "Escape"?
DK : This piece has a long answer to that question. In June of 2012, I went on a mission trip to Belize as one of the adult chaperones for our church youth. Going there, many people envisioned us “escaping” to one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in Central America. How rough could that be? When we arrived, we traveled to a rural area where many residents were grateful for people from the USA, land of opportunity, a place where they dream of visiting, taking the time to voluntarily work in their community. The photo in this painting is one I took when we were on a bus, driving through a city that was deemed too dangerous for our group to stop and walk around in. In a sense, we were trapped and limited by our need to experience the trip in the safest way possible. After the first six days there, every one of us was sorting through so many conflicting emotions. There was the desire to escape the unrelenting heat and humidity and bugs, and the joy of getting to know the people in this loving community that was a high crime, poverty stricken area. With money and a passport, you can escape to just about anywhere, but while in this third world country, I was struck by how as humans, no matter where we are, who we are, or what our circumstances are, we are always and forever dreaming of escapes.
TAL: Describe your creative process.
DK : My painting technique is a systematic deconstruction and reconstruction of either photo references or live models. I literally dissect the subject into its subtle changes of shapes, values, colors and tones. I use a magnifying lens when I paint, to capture the smallest detail in the tightest of renderings. Similar to the way a computer composes an image from seemingly random pixels, I paint colors and shapes with little or no regard to the entire subject until the very end of the painting process. One of the joys of painting for me is being surprised by the realistic compositions that evolve from a very abstract, emotional creative zone I strive to be in.
TAL: What are you working on currently?
DK : I am composing and painting a series of small format still life paintings that draw from my Trompe L’Oeil influences, but also have a fun narrative of their own that I hope will draw viewers in, and get them to think deeper on each element.
TAL: What are your near/long term goals as an artist?
DK : I want to create art that is memorable. My near term goal is to create a large enough body of work that I can solicit and provide paintings for one or two reputable galleries. I am in a place now, finally, where such a platform of representation is possible. Long term, I hope to use that platform to create widely distributed art that makes people smile, stop and think.
TAL: Where can people view/purchase your work?
DK : www.DebKArt.com is the link to my website. I post my in progress and latest pieces and exhibitions there.
All Images © Debra Keirce
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