Deborah Bigeleisen is an artist who lives in South Florida. I actually met Deborah and her husband Marvin very briefly in the art gallery building on West 57th Street in New York City. That encounter was the inspiration behind an essay called, "I Am A Sculptor," which appears in "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal." Since then, we've kept in touch www.deborahbigeleisen.com. I spoke with her about her art and life changes.
MICHAEL: Hi Deborah. Thanks for talking with me. First of all, I must ask about your art. Flowers are a huge focus for you. What is it about flowers? Is Georgia O'Keefe an influence?
DEBORAH: It's less about Georgia O'Keefe's influence and more about the beauty in nature....the variety, the colors, the texture in nature. Flowers have such an emotional connection with people.
MICHAEL: I must admit that as a collector, flowers aren't my thing, but I am intrigued by artists who focus on single subject matters. I assume flowers never get boring for you?
DEBORAH: Boring? For me, flowers are never boring. They never cease to amaze me. Their form, their movement, their texture, their colors! A single subject? How many thousands of varieties of flowers are there? It's all about how the artist sees the subject and how it's painted. How many landscapes are there? Wherever one looks is a landscape; some are more interesting or spectacular than others. It's all in the eyes of the beholder. For me as an artist, landscapes bore me as a subject to paint. But I can appreciate visually a majestic landscape. Take for instance, the rolling valleys in Tuscany, they generate a completely different emotional connection than a flower.
MICHAEL: How do you actually go about painting flowers? Do you paint from photographs, sit in a garden (plein air style) or can you just paint from memory?
DEBORAH: I was never skilled at painting from memory. I do use photographs for my reference. I shoot all my own photographs. I will not work from a third party's vision. In many instances, I am composing the canvas through the camera lens, especially for my shadows and highlights. For the technique I use for my paintings, I could not work from a real flower. The flower would not last long enough. I'm looking to capture one moment in the life of that flower. Because of all the layers of glazing used to create my effects and the medium I use for the glazing, the drying time needed between layers prohibits being able to work from the live flower. Once a layer is applied, it needs time to dry before I can go back into the same area. I generally work on 3 or 4 paintings at one time so I can move from flower to flower.
MICHAEL: Weren't you the CEO of a textile company at one time? How did you move from business to becoming an artist? Why? I'm sure the pay is less!
DEBORAH: Wow! What a loaded question! A slight correction, I was "CEO" owner/creative director of my own textile design company. We sold the print designs, the creative product to textile companies and manufacturers who then had the designs printed to their specific requirements. I had always wanted to explore painting in mediums other than those used in textile design. My education was exclusively in textile design and I worked in textiles for 30 years. Upon closing my company after 17 years and leaving New York City for the recreational life in South Florida, I had the luxury of time to pursue painting for fun. I was dying to try painting in oils. Little did I know at the onset this would blossom (forgive the pun) into a whole new career. I truly had no idea this "other person" was inside me just waiting for a vehicle for expression. Since it's not my style to do anything I enjoy half heartedly or with only half an effort, the sky's the limit with my painting. You ask why I paint? In 30 years of working in textiles, I never experienced anything close to the incredible joy that one feels when a collector tells you how much pleasure your art brings them. The emotional reward from hearing how your art impacts someone is way beyond the monetary reward. When a gallery calls to tell you that another painting sold, wow, the thrill is enormous. You never get tired of that phone call!
MICHAEL: You've done what many up and coming artists are attempting ... giving up their day jobs and working as full-time artists. As you know, it's a struggle for many. Any advice for them?
DEBORAH: As for my circumstances, I did not give up my day job. I "retired" from the fashion industry. It was my incredibly good fortune to discover a talent I never knew I possessed. I know that my paintings are of a very high quality of art and that my art sells. My best advice is never let the word NO set you back and diminish your confidence, never take it personally. This is the hardest thing for most artists, their egos are so easily shattered. Your art can't be for everyone and do not even attempt to think so. Just get your art out there, and approach everyone. I am very fortunate to have my husband marketing my art. His career was in marketing and sales. This saves me a huge amount of time so I can focus on my painting. There are agents for artists. The advantage of an agent is this frees up your time to be creative, your strongest asset. It is extremely difficult to do the business side of art and be creative ... spend your time and energy at what you do best. One of the hardest concepts for an artist to comprehend is that you have to spend money to make money; that applies to hiring an agent, creating marketing material, etc. You need to get your art exposed, and that takes time and money. I would recommend acquiring some knowledge of the business side of art and how to manage your finances. You should never put all your eggs in someone else's basket. That's dangerous. Admittedly, the years of owning my own business gave me the knowledge and tools to manage all this. My other tools for success: Always focus on the positive. You are what you think. Your thoughts are your reality. Visualize your success. Feel it, believe it and see it! If you don't, neither will anyone else.
MICHAEL: Thanks for talking Deborah. Like your art, you're an inspiration.
Check out Deborah's website at www.deborahbigeleisen.com.