Interview with artist Deborah Pryce

August 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm 1 comment

Interview with Deborah Pryce, artist with the Uptown Gallery, Waterloo

Deborah Pryce, at the UpTown Gallery.

Carolyn Wilker: Deborah Pryce is a freelance artist from Kitchener, Ontario, with more than 20 years of experience in a variety of artistic endeavours. Welcome to my blog, Deborah and thanks for your time.

Deborah Pryce: You’re very welcome.

CW: At what age do you remember knowing that you wanted to be an artist? Who were your early influences?

DP: At home, I watched my Mom paint. She took some oil painting classes and people began asking her to do commissions. At some point housework and family responsibilities took over and her art went by the wayside. She’d say to me, “I wish I had more time to study art” and “I wish I had more time to paint.”

She told me I was lucky to be able to focus on art and have the advantage of better materials and more opportunity to learn and study. I didn’t want to look back and say “I wish I had done more with my creativity.”

My father is also very creative. A bricklayer by trade, he was proud of his work and often took us (children) to show us the current building he was working on at the universities or downtown Kitchener or Waterloo. He also showed me his trade school exercises and the drawings he had done, and so the processes of designing and building became familiar to me. I think my father’s work was a subconscious influence on my choice to study Interior Design and my love of architecture.

Grade 7 is the first time I recall enjoying the process of creating art and saving the things I created. I remember a picture of a butterfly in oil pastels. In high school I chose art as an elective all the way through and that was when my journey to becoming an artist began.

CW:  You said that you were encouraged by your art teachers in school. Can you remember a particular teacher or two who did that?

DP: My high school art teachers Mr McCarthy and Mr Miller where an amazingly positive influence. Mr Miller introduced me to painting techniques and styles, art history and art reflection. With Mr. McCarthy I experimented with three-dimensional mediums and learned freehand pencil drawing, a skill that helped me to get into College for interior design and enabled me later to teach freehand drawing.

CW:  At what age did call yourself an artist?

DP: After completing the three year Interior Design course at Humber College in Toronto, studying design, colour theory, drafting, freehand drawing, and photography, that’s when I called myself an artist.

CW: Why not graphic arts, like drawing or painting?

DP: It was more serendipity that I took Interior Design than anything else. When I was trying to figure out what area of art to study someone asked me if I’d ever considered interior design. I had a good eye for colour and imagining in 3 dimensions, and I felt excited about the thought of Interior Design, so I applied.

CW: You’ve had a variety of experiences with art, and not just interior design. Can you tell a little about the work you’ve done?

DP: My husband’s profession has involved moving from time to time, and so each time we moved, I had to ask myself, “What can I do with my design background for companies here?” Moving around meant I met more people and built more connections. In Toronto, I worked on exhibit design for trade shows.

In Collingwood, a place with a vibrant arts community, I worked as a freelancer with interior designers, decorators, developers and real estate agents. I created presentation drawings from architect’s blueprints, and my drawings were used to sell work to their clients. While we were there I took art classes from several local artists and became very involved in the arts community.

In Wellesley, a small community in Waterloo Region, there were no interior designers, but I met Murray Leis, a custom home builder, and he hired me to paint house portraits of his homes for his clients. Also, living on the main street, where students passed our home every day on the way home from school, we got to know more people. When they knew I was an artist, I started teaching classic pencil drawing in March break and summer vacation and then to private students.

On the Mary Allen studio tour in Waterloo one year, I met David Antscherl who did theatre set design. He took me under his wing for three seasons and taught me about painting theatre sets for Drayton Theatre.

When we moved to Kitchener, that’s when I began doing fine art full time. I had my first solo show at Kitchener Public Library. Soon after, I met Podi Lawrence who invited me to join Artbites. Artbites eventually changed its name to UpTown Gallery.

This Collective had been a very positive thing for me where I have enjoyed being challenged and inspired by the other artists. My involvement with the group has helped me to be more professional and network with other artists. It has given my art exposure and helped me to learn the business part of art, including running a collective.

CW: More recently, you’ve been working on illustrations for children’s books. Can you tell the reader how this came to be and a little of your experience with it?

DP: Jan Hansen, a friend from our church, bought several of my paintings. He was writing stories and approached me about illustrating them; he knew I was a competent artist. Painting from my imagination was outside my experience at the time and was a huge learning curve. Working with him on The Cat, his first book, I learned on the job, a process that can include some frustrations. However, I integrated my experience with the new venture.

an illustration from Going on a Lion Hunt

The Cat is a story with little animals introducing children to the concept of looking after each other. The project opened a whole new world for me and allowed me to be playful in my work. A side benefit of illustrating this book has been watching small children notice the details I intentionally placed in the illustrations.

In Jan’s second book, Going on a Lion Hunt, again I didn’t want to say no, though I had never drawn people. I learned a whole new skill set.

CW: I was so excited about your art in those books that it made me want your art on the cover of my book. When we first consulted about the cover art, you shared some pictures of acrylic paintings you had done. I particularly liked the one called “Cradling the World.” Can you tell the reader your thoughts on how this work evolved?

DP: The idea for “Cradling the World” came in a half-awake, half-dream state. There had been some issues in the news about our impact on the environment, a subject dear to my heart, and I wanted to express my ideas and faith through my art. What came out of the experience were two mixed media, three-dimensional paintings. My questions leading to the creation concerned our care of the earth. Are we doing it well?

Creation Cries               Cradling the Earth

In “Creation Cries”, the earth is crying, and clay tears hang in front of the painting of the earth. “Cradling the Earth” expresses the idea of how fragile the earth is; a clay ball hangs in a string hammock that’s somewhat precarious but still holding together and supporting the earth.

This project was one of my first attempts to let my personal ideas come out in contrast to interpreting something beautiful.

CW: Deborah designed the cover art for my book, Once Upon a Sandbox, that was released in June this year. The art is presently being displayed (August 2011) at the Uptown Gallery in Waterloo, Ontario.

I’ve had many delightful responses to my book cover, including my cousin, who said, when she first saw my book cover, “That’s the sandbox I played in.” It looked so real to her.

Deborah, thank you for your artistic vision for the piece. Any comments you’d like to share with readers about the process?

DP: Your poem “Once upon a Sandbox” is so delightful and evoked a lot of images for me. It was easy to imagine the silver birch shading the warm sand in the sandbox scattered with colourful farming toys. I wanted to convey a sense of time gone by, playfulness, and warmth. I hope the onlooker feels like they are in the sandbox too, remembering their own childhood.

CW: Any hints on future projects or desires of something you’d like to try? New showings coming up?

DP: I always stay open to possibilities of trying new projects, including continuing with mixed media and allowing my personal ideas to come out. I love working with the UpTown Gallery collective and plan to stay involved there.

As for upcoming projects, I will be participating in ARTifact(ory) at the new City of Waterloo Museum in Conestoga Mall. This show will highlight architecture of the city of Waterloo, including its historic buildings. The show will run from September to February.

CW: In art and freelance work, it can be hard to keep pushing forward at times. Who are your main encouragers?

DP: My husband Rick has given me the gift of being able to spend time on my art, and has been my constant cheerleader. My family and friends, particularly my parents and mother-in-law, have been excited to see where my art is taking me and they come to my shows as often as possible.

In trying something new, it is important to find someone who can support you, since that can be very daunting. Alan Daniel has been that mentor.

CW: Thank you for your time today and for sharing your artist’s journey.

I enjoyed collaborating with you on the art for my book and in watching the piece of art develop. I am delighted with the results. Best wishes with your future projects and showings.

DP: Thanks so much, Carolyn


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