Top Australian artist, Deb, took a few minutes out of her hectic schedule to sit down with VNA for a chat about tattoos, going solo and hamburgers. Here’s the result:
So, Deb, tell us how you first got into art?
I was always painting and drawing all over everything since I was a little kid and even in school I always got into trouble for it, because everything was covered, all my books, all the desktops in my classrooms, my bag, the bathrooms, my school dress… I was only really interested in art as a kid and always knew I wanted to do something with it.
More jump off after the jump off
You make a living from your art now, was it difficult to make the transition to being self-sufficient?
It was difficult for the first few years. I had been attempting it straight from high school. I worked in retail and hospitality, but in all my free-time I’d work on pursuing my art. Around 8 years ago now, I decided to ditch my part-time work and start working freelance – I have been ever since. The first few years were very hard financially, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I don’t function very well if I’m not doing some kind of art-form on a daily basis.
Who have you found to be most supportive of your work and why?
My friends and the fans that love my work, by far. They have given me so much support with so many things over the years, in so many different ways – buying my original works, prints, private commissions and wall paintings, voting for me in art competitions, coming to my exhibitions and spreading positive messages about my work. All of these things add up and are a huge part of being able to maintain a creative living. I have also had an amazing artist residency over the last couple of years at the Westsyde Connection Studio in Dulwich Hill, Sydney. I love working in my studio, the guys there have always helped me up and it has been a solid backbone of my work since I have been there. I think this is the main thing I will miss about Sydney when I move overseas.
What is the most enjoyable or rewarding aspect of your work?
Probably that every day is different for me, Every job is in a different place, a different city and different people. You make a lot of amazing friends. I love that I get to travel with it. Also, in my fine art world, I love that I can paint whatever I want and create other worlds away from this one we live in. I also have loved being able to collaborate with some other artists that I have admired for years and never thought I would meet when I was younger.
A lot of your work features animals, what is the resonance for you in your artwork?
I love animals. I don’t like to eat them. I drive through a field of cows and think ‘God they are cute’. I also have cow eyes so I think perhaps I am somewhat related, so you’ll never catch me with a hamburger. To sum it up, I adore all creatures and therefore enjoy painting them. I especially like to paint creatures that are endangered to draw attention to the fact. My favourite animals to paint are big wild jungle cats, birds and fish.
What is the worst experience you have ever had and how has it affected you?
I am honestly not sure but after doing heavy research, I wish I could take back all the times I painted with out a mask and knock on wood I will be ok. This is something I tend to worry about. But I try stay as healthy as possible now in the hope I can regenerate any damage I have done. I try and keep my mask as freshly functional as possible and wear it!
If you could have any kind of impact in the world on the whole, what would you do or change?
Oh dang! Wrong person to ask! I could go on for hours about this. Firstly, I would change everyone’s eating habits, as I am 100% sure that if this was adjusted everyone could have enough to eat and no one would have to starve. Secondly, I would dramatically change the rules and regulations on adoption so all children that are orphans could be adopted! Thirdly, I would do anything to stop the over population of domestic animals on the streets and find them a home so none of them would have to go to shelters and be put down. Whenever I think about that one I feel ill. I could go on forever with this one… Couldn’t we all?
What is your biggest dream as an artist?
My biggest dream right now, in reality, isn’t too fancy and unrealistic. I wish to be able to be granted a visa so I can move to the states and keep working as an artist over there. Preferably in San Francisco…
Your work seems to feature a lot of traditional tattoos, what’s your fascination with ink?
I love tattoos and tattoo culture since I was a teen so it’s weaved its way into most of my work
You have a large fan-base of young girls and sexualize the female form a lot in your artwork, do you see that as a positive or negative?
I purposely create my characters to be as healthy and curvaceous as possible, I don’t want to be responsible for portraying an unhealthy body image when there are so many girls in the world struggling with their own body image. Statistically, there’s a very high number of girls suffering from eating disorders worldwide. It’s an issue unfortunately too close to home as I have been through it all in a pretty bad way, now it’s just something I have to stay on top of. Painting my characters in a way that may be influential to girls feeling good about themselves is very important to me. The part about sexualizing them, for me, is more about portraying them as strong, empowered woman who are comfortable with their appearance and their sexuality, as comfort in sexuality plays directly into comfort in body image, it’s the salt and pepper of confidence. Having been on the recovery side for years now, I feel it is my duty to be a positive role-model for body image. If I can even help one girl not go down the path I fell into, I feel like I have achieved something really positive. The way many models are portrayed and have been for over 2 decades is really not ok. Bring back the 60’s and 70’s, I say!
You Recently did a collab with UK Label Any Forty and t-world, on the Australian invasion series, how was that experience for you.
When I was asked to be a part of it I was super excited. I put a lot of effort into my design, especially knowing it would have such amazing global exposure. All the artists involved had amazing designs and I think this was a really uplifting project for Australian T-shirt culture, as well as the quality of the work being very high, so I think it was a really good representation of the kind of art Australia is producing right now. We all had a little 24-page mini book made up with our T-shirts and there was only 100 made, so it made it really exclusive and now it’s a collectors item. I can’t say anything negative about it, it was a super fun project and I’m wrapped to have been a part of it!
Check out more of Deb’s work here:
Also, look out for a new, exclusive Deb print coming soon on: