We like to talk with our artists to get a sense of their beginnings and inspiration, as well as their current work and where they see their work evolving in the future. Today, we’re speaking with abstract painter Debra Delbecq, who is our Featured Artist in April.
What are your earliest memories of art and how did you become an artist?
I am a twin and one of seven children who grew up on a farm. We had a unique, beautiful thing about how we worked together and played together. If we were canning or if we picked a bunch of raspberries, we always had all these colorful visuals sparking our imaginations. I did barn chores and drove the tractor, always helping my Dad. That’s how I fell in love with the Indiana landscape.
Our parents always taught us that everybody has a talent and you need to figure that out. Beyond my work on the farm, I began painting watercolors and won ribbons in the 4-H program. There were achievements like that that encouraged me and then in high school my twin sister Darlene and I were encouraged in an independent art program. Darlene focused on photography and I continued to paint even in oils, selling my first painting at our Senior Art Exhibit. We were both accepted at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis and then I went on to the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. I came back to the Midwest and began my professional career exhibiting in juried shows as well as in the Indianapolis gallery art scene. I’m a lifelong Indiana artist; I knew I wanted to be an artist and I had the passion inside me and always wonderful family support.
Which artists have influenced or inspired you in your work?
Darlene of course is first for me. We do collaborate on projects from time to time and her input is invaluable. Major museum exhibitions like the Matisse Retrospective at the MOMA still stick in my mind. Also, Bauhaus artists Paul Klee and Josef Albers always top my list.
Can you describe your process of creating a work of art?
It’s always about what is going on around me. As we speak, I can tell you that there is wheat planted in my fields this season and that my studio is on the second floor of my 1860s brick farmhouse. My studio is up high and overlooking my vegetable and flower garden, so from there I have an aerial view of my land. I can easily observe changes such as growth, blankets of snow, the wind, the rain and even sounds. For example, in January a huge flock of geese had landed. I heard them; it sounded so loud. I went out there and I looked and they were feasting in the field. Happenings like this are how I record moments on canvas; from this experience came the painting Landing In The Wheat Field. In this one, I used rhythm and repetition as my tools to give the painting energy and excitement.
Can you talk about your use of colors?
There was a segment of time where I was teaching Photography, Painting From Your Imagination and Color and Design Theory. Teaching color theory sharpened my knowledge of how color interacts and why my eyes would see hues differently from my brush to the canvas. I had to explain it to others. It was good for me. Painting is about the collision of colors and that’s why I love to paint. It’s never boring, you just have endless options. I do want color to speak first along with the other elements of art, which include line, shape and texture. Honestly, reading color is such a personal thing. We all see it differently and with different emotional reactions.
Tell us about your current work and where you see it going in the future.
Sometimes in winter, my palette is very quiet like everything is sleeping. My works often reflect the season; it’s how I put titles on my abstract paintings. For example, the painting titled Breaking Dormancy is red-orange and magenta; it’s 48 x 60 inches and screaming spring to me. I just recently finished it. The other pieces in the show are all quite large and mostly all about the sleeping wheat plants waking up and slowly turning green from the sunshine and all the rain we’ve been getting.
All seven large paintings in this show are a segment of my work from the last four months. I finished the painting titled Full Wolf Moon happily on New Year’s Day after enjoying the full moon shining brightly out over the snow. Now it's spring, the garlic is up and I have 200 bald cypress trees to plant. My future new paintings for certain will include the wheat as it continues to grow and ripen here at the Delbecq Farm.