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Debra Keirce - Art That Makes Admirals Cry

The BoldBrush Show: Episode #39

Show Notes:

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For this episode, we sat down with Debra Keirce, a realist artist who enjoys painting Trompe L'oeil miniatures and photorealism with a narrative approach. She began as a biochemical engineer but never gave up on her dream of one day becoming an artist. Since her career change, Debra has become an award-winning member of many prestigious artist organizations and recently she became the recipient of the 2022 Best of Show George Gray Award with the Coast Guard Art Program. This then led to her being invited onto an artist's residency out at sea. On this episode, we discussed her transition from engineer to artist, the importance of focusing on creating beautiful work that touches people's souls, the benefits of joining artist's clubs and organizations, and to not be afraid to "just do it".

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Debra Keirce: 0:00

And that's what I see as my job. It's not my job isn't to win. My job is to connect with humanity through my art, like I'm just an instrument and then the art has this capacity in a way that engineering never did. Like any other walk I've been in my in my life has never been able to touch people's hearts as much as my art has. And so, for me, if I can be the instrument that creates that feeling that experience that's the definition of fine art.

Laura Arango Baier: 0:30

Welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Arango, Baier, and I'm your host. But those of you who are new to the podcast, we are a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their career, as well as others who are in careers tied to the art world in order to hear their advice and insights. For this episode, we sat down with Deborah cures a realist artist who enjoys painting Trompe l'oeil miniatures and photo realism with a narrative approach. She began as a biochemical engineer, but never gave up on her dream of one day becoming an artist. Since her career change, Deborah has become an award winning member of many prestigious artists organizations. And recently, she became the recipient of the 2022 Best of Show George Gray award with the Coast Guard art program at the salmagundi club. This then led to her being invited onto an artist's residency out at sea. On this episode, we discussed your transition from engineer to artist the importance of focusing on creating beautiful work that touches people's souls, the benefits of joining artists, clubs and organizations and to not be afraid to just do it. Hi, Deborah, how are you?

Debra Keirce: 1:42

I know, right, virtual. Yeah. I was at the portrait Conference this past weekend. And I don't know I'm a hugger. So people who know me know to expect it, but I've taken a few people off guard because everybody is so air kissy now that, you know, after the pandemic and everything and I'm like, I survived it. I'm gonna go I'm going in.

Laura Arango Baier: 2:05

Yeah, that's true. I'm also a hugger. So I understand.

Debra Keirce: 2:10

But some people take a step back. Nice to meet you in person, Laura,

Laura Arango Baier: 2:13

you to virtually in person.

Debra Keirce: 2:16

I know. And I love your art. Oh,

Laura Arango Baier: 2:19

thank you so much. I love your stew.

Debra Keirce: 2:21

I'm like, I want to go to Angel Academy. I want to meet John angel. I want to go to Grand Central. i The last time we were in I was in New York for some Gundy thing. And I was walking by and I actually went to a talk with Mexicans, or Mexicans Burgum what was it Sunday, or whatever? Saturday, but, um, and he's an amazing guy. And I'm like, should I stop and talk? I'm like, You know what, the guy's probably taken a break like his Nomi from Adam. But it was I went and I toured through the facility. You know, just I mean, I know, it's small enough, but like the student, you know, showing that and their little story and everything. And I'm like, oh, what would it be like to be 18? And have done this instead of engineering? Like, you know, whole? Universe?

Laura Arango Baier: 3:05

So well, that's right. Because you did engineering? And that's Yeah, that's very different. Yeah,

Debra Keirce: 3:09

very different. But I'm excited to hear what what's been your most, I don't know, challenging, rewarding thing you learned the most from with all of the stuff you've done, and all those sorts of waves of, you know, washing up on different shores, like where was the most thrilling for you,

Laura Arango Baier: 3:24

you mean, like in terms of like, Angel Academy versus Grand Central versus, like, Odd Nerdrum. Or

Debra Keirce: 3:29

like, or even like the BoldBrush You know, excursion that this

Laura Arango Baier: 3:33

this has been this has been an exciting one. Um, you know what this reminds me a lot of like, when I was reading about you, and reading on your blog and stuff, which is like, it's, it's very much like that just do it thing that you said in your blog post. It's yeah, it's really nice. It's a what I like about that adventure is, it's recent, but I can carry it with me, right? Like, I'm living in Norway, and I'm like, remotely like interviewing people. And it's a, it's nice, because like, I can work remotely. And I also get to talk to and connect with other artists like you who are extremely inspiring. And I'm just like, sometimes it makes me feel kind of bad, too. Because am I doing what am I doing with all these people doing amazing things. But then I have to like, sit, settle myself down and be like, Okay, now, I know that it's taken them years to do that. Well, like

Debra Keirce: 4:21

I said, I was I spent the weekend at the portrait Society Conference, which is just, you know, hop, skip and jump from where I live in the Northern Virginia area. But I'm here like, basically in my own neighborhood, and talking with James and Jeanette gurney. Like, it's nothing right. And I'm going I you know, it pinched me. And then you know, there's all these other people that are all around you who you start talking with them and you like, it's easy to make assumptions, because a lot of artists that just the way we dress, the way we act, the way we're introverted and everything you never know who you're talking to when you go to a group of artists like that, right? And so this one guy, I was chatting with him and I had it in my head. I don't know why because you Have Jiang I guess that he was just you know, starting out or whatever. And the question was asking and everything. And then after we talked, I look and I'm like, Okay, so he's going to be painting deli pardons father,

Laura Arango Baier: 5:14

oh my god.

Debra Keirce: 5:16

You just never know who you're talking with or who like even if you've never heard their name before, there are so many little rabbit holes in the art world that people go down and become amazing and like, have their own sort of notoriety. But then you walk, you step back and you like, like you and you step back, and you go, you know, that just makes it so amazing, because that means there's so much more opportunity than what I'm aware of, right? If it's not on Instagram, or it's not on Facebook, or it doesn't somehow cross my path. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And so it makes me want to take more risks and jump into more things. And so I literally was sitting there after that experience, and I'm gone. I'm sitting in the lobby, and I'm thinking and there was I was waiting on some people, and they hadn't arrived yet. So I'm like, Huh, what is it that I've just done that I really enjoy. And I really enjoyed this one commission that I had, this guy found me out of the blue, and it was, he had me paint 11 pairs of eyeglasses, not like a painting of glasses, but he actually had me, he collected these vintage eyeglasses. And he had me paint the lenses of the glasses with little miniature paintings. So a total of 22 little miniature paintings on these eyeglasses, he saw that someone had done that somewhere, and it inspired him. And so he got on the internet, look for an artist that could do it. And I'm like, how does the universe drop these things in our lap? You know, like, because I think you found someone who would do a weird commission like that, who can paint a non porous surfaces from my experience in miniature painting, which, you know, under a magnifier, because he wanted extreme realism, like I ticked all the boxes? And I said, Yes, but I'm like, Do you know the odds of finding the exact person who would say yes to this. And then I thought about it. And I'm like, that was so much fun. And it was kind of like, like, when someone I imagine I've never been a tattoo artists, but when I look at these tattoo artists, and you're doing art on someone's body, I mean, that's pretty big commitment right there. Right. And so here I am, you know, I had to prepare as the lenses and so um, you know, altering, like, I can never give him back those collectible glasses in the state that he gave them to me. And so it's pretty, I'm thinking about like, should I have had him signed contracts if these get damaged? I didn't, but I'm like, I need to be smarter about that, you know, it all worked out fine. He loved him. But I'm thinking that kind of that level of working on someone's precious, you know, keepsake that led me to a bunch of conversations this last weekend where I'm like, I don't know if it'll work out. But I'm thinking up a new series, I'm gonna start painting on people's collectibles, you know, things that they, I'm gonna, and then it's like, well, how do you advertise that you're doing? It's so hard to explain? It just took me however many minutes to explain it to you? Well, I've got a whole two shows Kasko shelves, a floor to ceiling of still life props, I'm going to start painting on them and using those as example, you know, but that whole chain of thought wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been in the presence of all this greatness and all these people doing all these amazing and risky things that, you know, just inspire me all the time. So I think it's important. That's a long winded way of saying, Yeah, I agree with you. It's important to get out of your, like comfort zone, and just feel that little bit of, Am I worthy, you know, once in a while, but yes, I mean, I do, I've been doing these with the ANI art academy that I've because I always want to be learning so, and I haven't gotten had the opportunity in my life to go to Angel academy or any place, you know, that, I would assume would be very exciting and a different experience. So I currently I signed up to be one of the remote students with the ANI art academies. And so I hanging out with that crowd of people and just getting so much from interacting with all of them, just because, you know, this is my social life, otherwise, I haven't been right. But where was I going with this? Now I lost my train of thought I was gonna say something about how I think how analytical you can be about things like you can get down into the nitty gritty details of, you know, varnish, or you know, just pick anything, right, and you can take it, it's amazing to me how you can take it into a not just like a three hour conversation, but you know, three months, and we're still talking about the same subject or whatever, if you. And so that's kind of the cool thing about art is you can go as deep as you want, and still never get to the finish line, right? You get to keep on keep on keeping on. It's always fun, though, to solve a problem, I think and that's, you know why in for me, I feel like because I had the engineering training first. That's how I approach my art. You know, it's all problem solving to me, really. And like you're saying, if you don't have a problem to solve, it kind of gets boring sometimes. Right? If you were just doing something and it was easy. I don't know. I feel like maybe at the end of his career, Picasso got that way where it was just so simple. It's like, maybe that's what made people great. They did the switch, you know, and created a whole new type of of artwork because they got bored with what they were doing, or I don't know, but I'm just guessing.

Laura Arango Baier: 10:06

Yeah. And I think also, I think the other issue that maybe Picasso and some people have is, it's not just like, it becomes too easy, but it's also like, when you become so important or so famous, you suddenly become or you're more at risk of painting for the crowd, rather than doing it for yourself, which was the original, you know, birth of why you're even doing it, right. So I feel like it's a very, that's also why I haven't worked with galleries yet. Because I worry about, like, I feel like galleries sometimes. And I totally understand it's a business to try to make money. They know what sells, but I think sometimes a lot of artists can fall into the trap of allowing the gallery to dictate what they will be painting. And for some people, it works, because they do want to paint that thing. And then for other people, it maybe doesn't work. And that's also one of the reasons why, you know, I really like what FASO and BoldBrush does, which is it gives a little bit more independence to artists who don't want to work with a gallery. And they can just work exclusively online with all of their stuff. And then maybe work with galleries if they want to like it's like, it becomes optional. Now, instead of like,

Debra Keirce: 11:16

Absolutely. I've worked with galleries and I haven't ever worked with any of the, you know, like, Cavalier somebody, right? But, but the galleries that I've worked with, I've worked with people who invited me to be part of their family are part of their team. And so I feel like that meant that I had an opportunity, because I knew that they liked my work a lot. You know, it was amigo, it was like, changes the dynamic. And so they've become friends who I wouldn't even if their gallery closed tomorrow, I would still be their friend and interact with them. And that's happened, several of them they've closed and I'm still in touch. So I feel like, for me, it's I don't know, I don't want just the gallery experience, I have it be all about the sales, I want it also to be about, you know, a good relationship. And so I look for that opportunity. But I also think that like what you're saying, there's so many I feel like FOMO I guess you know, if I'm not, if I was only doing the one solo show a year and only with one exclusive gallery, then I'd miss out on all these other experiences I'm having, and I don't want to do that, because I started so late in life, you know, in the art world, I feel like I'm have to play catch up now. You know,

Laura Arango Baier: 12:24

you're doing amazing.

Debra Keirce: 12:26

Oh, thank you. It's funny, because I talk with some of these artists. And I feel like, I don't know, I guess it's I have no apologies. But it sounds egocentric. When I'm like, you know, I did make sacrifices in the beginning. And we my husband and I worked for 40 years. But for me now, it's not all about the money. But then I talked to someone who's younger and just trying to make ends meet. And they have to make all the sacrifices and they say me see me doing this stuff, just for fun, like going to the portrait conference, and then going here and then going there. And it's like, well, I can afford it because I worked for four decades to get to this point. So no apologies. But on the other hand, I can see where if I if my life had gone in the other direction, and I'd gone into art instead of engineering and done it, you know, that way I would have had to have, I would have faced a lot of poverty, you know, kinds of situations to begin with. And so I can't speak from what they're experiencing. So I don't know, it's like, there's all these different, isn't it weird that way, in the art world where you're dealing with people that are coming at it, where they have an awful lot of money, a lot of wealth, right? And they're collecting or doing this just for fun, or whatever. And then you're dealing with the people who you know, haven't figured out how to make this work for them yet, or whatever. So it's great that we have all these opportunities facile included, that we can, you know, explore and figure out what works for us, right. And whether it's teaching or videos or, and the realism resources, let's be honest, I mean, when I graduated from high school in 1979, there was that I actually had a scholarship to the Cranbrook Art Institute, and I had been the illustrator for the city of Sterling Heights. And I had like I was all poised to jump into the art world. And I get out there, and I'm looking at these curriculums, you know, that they had at the universities and they're literally talking about Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. And I'm like, where's the Rembrandt? Where's the discussion? What didn't exist? So at least now, people are like this shift more toward realism. People have that option for me. I'm like, I knew I didn't want to paint like Rothko, because I didn't I still don't understand them. No offense to anybody out there as a fan. But the thing is, I knew that wasn't what I wanted to do. But like you said, there were no resources available to do otherwise, you know, and I lived in the Detroit area, and, you know, I wasn't into cars, so I couldn't do like auto art. Like, what do I do? And I hated chemistry, and I love a problem. So like, how much to chemical engineers make Okay, let's do this. Let's make a whole bunch of money real fast and engineering and then do our thing. So that was my tact or whatever. And it's, I think it worked. Now I I'm biospin So I worked in biotechnology. So I'm like, wow, nowadays people are lining up the whole world lined up for, you know, the recombinant vaccines. Back when I first started working, we had lawsuits because I was worried about technology company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the people in the community were concerned that we were don't remember that you probably don't remember this really bad horror movie, cannibalistic humanoid, underground dwellers should was the name of it anyway, they were seriously believe it? Yeah, seriously believed that we were creating in our lab, this biotechnology, you know, demon monster that was going to get in the sewers when we flush them down the toilet and, and, you know, attack everybody or whatever. And so we had lawsuits about that kind of stuff. And now we laugh. But back in the day, people were legit, scared, you know, and then, you know, there were all kinds of things that came along, like, you know, AIDS. And it was, it was a different era back in, you know, to challenger things are falling out of the sky and Skylab and all that. So it was a different time back then. And so I understand a lot of what the abstract and modern art movement was doing was, you know, in, I don't know, reactionary or whatever, to a lot of what was going on. But I just never left the Dark Ages. Like, I was always interested in the manuscripts and all that stuff. So in the midst of all that, for my realist painters, and just, you know, kept having to seek them out and learn what I could. And so I think it's wonderful what you're talking about doing because the more we can contribute to those resources, and now with the internet, they're available on such a larger scale back then, we had to walk through the rain and snow to the library, and then you get a card catalog and look up. Whatever we're

Laura Arango Baier: 16:40

Oh, man. Yeah, yeah. I mean, the example of you know, Michael, John angel, he, it was him and Daniel graves, and Charles Cecil, and they're the ones who got together. And I think it was probably Daniel graves, I can't remember. But he's the one who found the original Barbie plates at a flea market in France, which is insane. I think it was like the 80s or 90s. bird

Debra Keirce: 17:04

books. I've got, like so many of them now. Because now they've got the board. They've cleaned them up and put them in other people have published different and, and then the Julio ones as well. And yeah, now it's not just Berg. There are other artists that are Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 17:17

yeah. And it's, and I love that, you know, people like, you know, Michael, John Angel, and you and people who just didn't give up on the realism, even when, you know, in the 20/20 century was basically considered dead. Which was sad. I'm happy that people like you didn't give up. And, you know, kept that torch, you know, going into, like, cover up.

Debra Keirce: 17:42

times. I mean, you had it sometimes, you know, go to parties and go, do you know what this is for? If you're not, you can't be my friend, right?

Laura Arango Baier: 17:51

Oh, my gosh, for our listeners, she was holding up, she was holding up a cast of a nose of the David.

Debra Keirce: 17:57

Audio, it's part of MC Michelangelo's David. Yes, it is true. But even though I didn't go to the academic training, I seeked it out and was able to find eventually enough people that I could, you know, some of them, they agreed to be mentors, some of them might just didn't give them the choice. But, you know, over the years, I had to struggle. But I over the years, I found people so that I could learn to be a realist painter. But I look at that, too. And I'm like, now if life had gone differently, and if I had just been able to walk into a situation where I learned it all, it's kind of like, you know, if I don't know if you've ever raised chickens before age, but you know how they, they hatch, and then they are trying to struggle so bad. And the kids who peel away the shell to help them struggle, then they die because they can't breathe because of these, everything under their lungs or whatever. It's kind of that way. I feel like, gosh, I wouldn't be the same artist if I'd have just like found somebody who could have taught me everything right, right from the beginning, if I hadn't discovered, you know, the bar drawings, like two decades, sooner would I have been? You know, better for it? Maybe I'll never know. But yeah. Your struggles helped you, like be who you are. Yes.

Laura Arango Baier: 19:04

Yeah, I think I mean, in terms of actual, you know, normal struggles with like, painting and like, you know, getting better and stuff. Yes, when it comes to the struggle of you know, facing and and I tell this to my students whenever I have them, or whenever I have new students, and I tend to remind them to I'm like, when you're painting or you're learning how to draw from the very beginning, you are facing your demons, because you will have to face the fact that your work is inaccurate, and it's going to suck. But guess what, you can fix that. And you have to believe that you can fix that. If not, you're just going to be fighting with your demons all day. But you just have to push through it and trust yourself. And that can be really first of all surprising for some people because they don't think they think drawing is just another line. I just make it look good. No, I think it is a very complicated psychological battle with the self was most of the time

Debra Keirce: 19:57

and we do it because we have a passion We don't have a choice right that I think it weeds out. I think this business weeds out the people who just while maybe doesn't weed everybody out if you're just interested in marketing and you're really good at it, I think you can do really well. Right. But yeah, but people that have a passion for art. Understand that if you don't, it's not going to get you through those tough times. Like I was at Archer conference this weekend. And I was listening to Kevin McPherson. Yeah, he had a talk and he was talking about how he's down in Mexico painting. And there's these guys that, you know, in this area that he was in that look like they wanted to kill them, but then they come over and they look over his shoulder and go, that's pretty good. We won't kill you today. You know, like, you're, you're literally killing yourself. Or, you know, James Gurney was talking about how him and Thomas Kincaid right after they graduated from college way back when they were hobos, they jumped freight trains and lived in boxcars for years, you know, painting plein air, painting people and everything like you put yourself into those risky situations. Why? Because you're so consumed, and you're so all about the art. Right? And I mean, I don't think he normal. Not that we're all I think we're all insane. There were just on that continuum of insanity, right to the level that it interferes with other people in your functioning in society, you know, is whether you get the white coat or not, but I think you have to be a little bit nutty. And so like, taken by this whole, you know, passion for the arts and putting beauty in the world and being one of the creators. I have postcards over there from I was standing in front of these cave drawings that are like 30,000 years old. So in the Ice Age, there's these cave people, I don't know what CRO magnons, whatever they were called back then. And instead of making baby CRO magnons, or hunting for food, or doing whatever they could do, somebody probably with spit or something crunched up a whole bunch of Yellow Ochre and charcoal, and they crawled their way through because you could see the little hole through these stalagmites and stalactites that I mean, frankly, if you've ever been in one of those caves, if you tripped and fell on one of those it would it would spear you right. Yeah. So death defying to get to this place on the cave wall holding their torch, which if your torch goes out, then you're dead. Right? Yeah, find your way out, is holding their torch. And they found a way so that the cave wall creates a relief, you know, creates shadows, so and so they found a way holding their torch in this specific place where they could paint there. They think it was deer they had hit like humps, like camels have humps. But they're like prehistoric deer on this wall so that they were actually turning form with the light and the relief of the cave and the the paint that they had at the time, you know, and I'm sitting here thinking, okay, these are people who I don't know, even if they had language back then or I mean, nobody knows what it would have been like to be one of these people. But like, that speaks to me to how part of our DNA and our ancestry the whole idea of a passion for the art, even when we're at risk to create how inbred it is into some of us. Right? So I mean, I'm standing there going that's like, that's, that's crazy, dude, because I'm like, watching, um, did I wear the right shoes? I could slip and fall. It's very damp in here, you know, by break a hip and France, I'm really in trouble. Yeah. And yeah, and here's this, this person who did this, and all these years later, we're looking at it going, Wow. I mean, it's a pictorial representation of, you know, what they were, what their life was like, and who knows, I mean, I'm thinking they probably at other colors that have doubled over the centuries, and, you know, probably looked like some amazing, you know, yeah, Leonardo da Vinci kind of Sistine Chapel thing when they did it. Now, this is what we're looking at, you know, but, but, I mean, I feel like it's that way still, to this day, we're trying to figure out in this modern world, how to, and it's not even necessarily for a lot of us, because we want to be in the spotlight or because we want, you know, the fame or the recognition. I mean, but I think Don't you feel like it's kind of like, you just want to have a voice? You know, yeah, you just want to be there be one of them be part of the group that? Yeah, you know,

Laura Arango Baier: 24:04

yeah, it's like, I think that's part of that other side of, you know, our ingrained biological need for being a part of, you know, a group of people. And I think what's interesting too, is, like, for example, like the salmagundi club, right? They have also been holding a torch a very important torch. And I know you're part of salmagundi club, I love Yes, I've been, I keep saying I'm gonna join and I do want to join but like, I just haven't made time to fill out the application and get, you know, the signatures and all of that because I'm in a different country. So it makes it a little challenging. But I have tons of friends who are in the salmagundi club. And then you know, we did an episode also on the history of some mechanic club, and it's fascinating how so many important realist painters have gone through the doors of the salmagundi club. It's like they at one point they were all fighting to be a part of summer Candy Club. I think in like the late I'm gonna say yeah, the early The 20th century I think, just it's so I guess it's a testament to how it's, you know, it's one, it's for the art, too. It's for the camaraderie and the social aspect. And then it's like, okay, and then it's like the lucratively. Oh, yes, the spotlight, but how has it been for you being part of because you're part of a bunch of different societies? How have you found that it's helped you?

Debra Keirce: 25:25

Well, I did the whole spray and pray thing, you know, just like joined everybody that would take me in. And, you know, I was pretty proud to get into a number of them that were juried and everything. And now I'm trying to do exactly what you're asking, which is to look at where I'm at, you know, and hit this almost 15 years after joining some of these, and decide which ones are really serving me at this point. And then reluctantly, because you can't, you can't have, you can't be a part of everything all the time, right. So I'm trying to pare it down and focus. And it's really hard, because you don't want to let any of them go right. And every every over the years, they've all given you something but you have to just sit there and prioritize and figure out, you know, who's giving you the most salmagundi up there and at the top of, you know, those that have given me the most for sure. Part of what has been nice about someone Gundy is they have a number of other programs that they host or sponsor or I don't know what the word is they're somehow affiliated with. And so I would not have been aware of, for example, the CO gap that Coast Guard artists have program. And that program has been just an amazing, wonderful experience I as a result of being juried in as a Coast Guard artist, I have eight pieces in the Coast Guard art collection, which to me, that's my legacy, like, I wasn't even looking for a legacy. But that those that when people say Oh, you don't have to worry about archival, because you'll be dead before it's an issue. I'm like, No, those paintings are going to be out there longer than I'm going to live. And so for me, I want to make sure that what I'm doing is always you know, archival, and is going to last hundreds or 1000s of years and so they can go she was there with her, her her torch, you know, doing the art thing, right way back in the 21st century. But, um, so given gave me that which I didn't even know I wanted. But I also have had experiences like the residency and the the cutter stone, I went out on our news, national security cutter, and was part of the crew for a week. And that was an extremely, I was the oldest one on the ship. And they gave me free rein. Even the people on the crew are not allowed to come into the bridge with cameras and recordings and things because of security issues. And they're like, no, just go do whatever you want. Just don't take pictures of the screen. Like they trusted me completely. And I'm thinking afterwards, was I on camera the whole time? Like how did they? Why did they trust me? I don't know.

Laura Arango Baier: 27:51

Maybe Maybe they were surveilling you. They could

Debra Keirce: 27:54

have but I don't know. I'd be I didn't argue and I just I did it. And I'm It was amazing. And I loved it. That never would have happened, if not for someone Gundy, right. So there's that that it gives you those other opportunities then when you join things like the portrait society that I was just at their conference last weekend, it puts you with other people or the women artists of the West I'm afraid of cowboys aren't even are not cowboys of horses, the things they ride. Know why they let me into women artists, the West because it's also a jury them group. But they did. And I'm having the time of my life going to Western photoshoots and things and getting to know all of these people and realizing like when just like when you go to the portraits set society or any of these, that whatever group you're in, where you've got, you know, people that are all fan girling on each other and doing the, that person is only of interest and famous or whatever, like James and Jeanette Gurney, they're famous to me, I want to be them when I grew up, right? But they're only famous in those little teeny circles, if you took them and put them in the Western world. I doubt anybody would know who they were, if you take some of these amazing Western artists that I've had the opportunity to interact with, and put them at the portrait society, I guarantee you nobody would know who they were. And it's so weird to me that we have all these little pockets, all these little communities or niches, right? The miniature art world the same. You know, I know a lot of people who do the miniature art, which is art, that's the size of your palm, and one six or smaller of life size. And you know, nobody, you have to explain that every time you go anywhere because nobody knows what it is. And so you get to see sort of a from a bird's eye view that that whatever you're doing, you're never all that like it humbles you, but it also inspires me to try and get to be better like some of these other people that everybody you know, is rallying around. Not that I want people rallying around me, but I want to be able to have more of their experiences. And it's not about building a resume. Like let's be honest, nobody even looks at resumes anymore. Nobody cares. No,

Laura Arango Baier: 29:56

I mean, I looked at your resume but but it was Interview.

Debra Keirce: 30:01

And even then I guarantee you just skimmed it. It's like what and I only put the last three years down. I didn't even put them, you know,

Laura Arango Baier: 30:07

but other part is like, damn, this one was done a lot can only fit the last few years in the year, that's already a lot on the list.

Debra Keirce: 30:15

I like I said, I'm making up for last time, I only have 61. So I only have 43 more years on this life of life. Right? You're still young. Yeah. But but you know, whatever is last on my easel, which now I have a bunch of miniatures out there. But whatever is on my easel, that's the thing that is my resume. That's the most important, right. And so you have at every step of the, when you interact with people in these different societies. At every turn, you have, you know, like, there's a number of societies that are having shows that are coming up, and I'm like, What am I going to paint for this? This is an opportunity, do I Is this my big breakout moment? Or do I just go with something that I know I'll get in probably won't win an award, like, so every, every turn, when you interact? When you have when you're a part of these societies, you're offered up contests in or gatherings or interaction or, you know, potential sales, potential learning opportunities, just whatever, pick something in the art world, you're offered those with societies, which I need things served to me on a plate because I don't cook anymore. Like, I'm clean, I don't cook. All I do is. So, you know, to me, those those societies do that as well. But how about you? What have you found? What do you

Laura Arango Baier: 31:26

Well, I think I have actually been able to gain a lot of really great connections just from going to these academic schools, because like you said, you know, the one name and one of these little academic schools, it means absolutely nothing to someone in a different, you know, side of realism world. So like I say, Michael, John Angel, I, I believe 90% of the people listening have no idea. Um, I do. And he's, I love that man. But again, you know, yeah, it's, it's the same. And it's such a small group of people to that, you know, even on Instagram, like, it's like, we all connect, eventually. We all crossed paths eventually. Especially now that a lot of like the Grand Central, actually, people are going to sound like Gandhi and they're working more with salmagundi because Jacob Collins, for people who don't know, he founded Grand Central Italy. Jacob Collins is one of the biggest patrons and you know, one of the biggest people who is part of the salmagundi club, so of course, he's gonna bring his little troupe of, of GCA people.

Debra Keirce: 32:31

President of the club. Yeah. Oh, wow.

Laura Arango Baier: 32:34

Okay, well, there you go. I

Debra Keirce: 32:35

saw him I'm like really Waterstreet wasn't enough Grand Central wasn't up now. Now, you're now really, really taken.

Laura Arango Baier: 32:43

But that goes to show to you know, there are people like him who can also carry that torch and help carry that torch, which I love. And then also people who have studied at the schools who start their own schools and then they carry the torch. But I think I that's also one of the reasons why I want to join to it's the you know, that they have the annual I think it's a Hartley annual exhibition, which is, you know, everyone put something in

Debra Keirce: 33:08

to other organizations that I've really enjoyed my time it that I should probably meant mentioned, National Oil and Acrylic Painters society, and also the American women artists, and both of them are making great strides in showing in galleries and museums and trying to focus more on sales, but also doing online shows. But you look at the work, especially after the pandemic that is going into these shows. And I mean, I'm in the small work show and no EPs and Boulder. I think it opens up in a couple of days here at the Mary Williams Fine Arts Gallery. there am I saying the right gallery, I'm, I'm losing track. And so I just I should probably shouldn't speak because if I just gave the right information, but these shows when you have them, you just I'm in awe of what people are creating now that realism is really taking hold, you know, and you just it's young artists, sometimes who names you've not aware of yet, you know, friends, you have a media. And so I think those societies are a great sort of measure of what's out there and what's trending and what's, where's the world going. You know, in general, it's a good indicator.

Laura Arango Baier: 34:15

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Debra Keirce: 36:21

I think I think that's true. I think what happens in some of them, like I didn't even enter aarC this year, because I didn't have anything I felt like I I mean, you know, it's, you don't even have debit physical, but I just felt it. I didn't have time. I didn't have whatever. And so in the past, I'm thinking, oh, man, that would have been such a lost opportunity. You know, why wouldn't you but I just, I didn't feel like it. So I didn't, you know, I don't want to, and, but there's things that happened, like, I had 11 original pieces of mine are in the Fed and in the granite, the bar in the restaurant area of the Langham Boston Hotel, which is a five star luxury hotel. And this is huge. This is like a career, the Michael Jackson thriller moment, right? What do I do after this kind of thing? And it happened, and it was amazing. And they interviewed me last year, and I got, you know, comped a free night, because of the interview. And then the I'm on their QR code, and, you know, the whole bit. And so this is, I mean, Michael Harding and his wife were apparently stayed at the hotel. And so they knew about, you know, my paintings, and it was, it was a cool, it is a cool experience. But then it happens. And afterwards, it's crickets, you know, you're kind of, and I've heard this from other people who have won things like the British Portrait Award and stuff, where they're just like, okay, you know, where's all the good things that are gonna happen from and you can certainly leverage that you can mention it and leverage it for which I probably haven't done enough of, but you know, for whatever future things, so you can absolutely use it as a marketing tool. But there's nobody that's like the people aren't going to flock to you in the galleries aren't going to line up and the like, it's this myth that if I can only get this, then the all these wonderful things will happen. Nothing catapults you to the top nothing. And so once you realize that, I think and you probably know this, once you realize that, then it doesn't really matter if you do the greatest thing ever. I mean, I don't know, maybe there are some things that you could do that would give you forever residuals, but I haven't discovered them yet. And I haven't experienced them. So knowing that I am only as good as what I'm doing now. And thinking, you know, I want to do I'm doing things for the experiences. So I want to have a fun experience with this, that takes a lot of pressure off of you. If you're always trying to get that exhibition at the Met, then you're going to be a probably or I would be a miserable person trying right? Because every time I've written they've never answered.

Laura Arango Baier: 38:48

Trying though, right?

Debra Keirce: 38:51

But if you just do what you think is fun, and what what what's good, I think eventually it's a numbers game is what I believe the more things you enter, the more you win. So if I'm winning a lot, it's because I'm entering a lot you know, and I think it's important and tell me if you agree to enter everything from local contests all the way up into international ones, right? Do a range and then you can see what comes for you. We're in right other rabbit holes you can go down right

Laura Arango Baier: 39:19

yeah, yeah. And and I guess the other important thing too is like when when looking at these competitions, you know if it's a if it's a competition for abstract and you're a realist, what are you doing? Right?

Debra Keirce: 39:31

Or photography or AI already been? You know, now? Yes. Do you want to have your work judged against those and you can make that decision but right. And the other thing is to Laura is we have opportunities that are of our own making to like, what's that? Who said, you know, good things come to those who wait but better things come to those who you know, go for it. So, for me, that's been my MO even if I do am doing great things in society. He's in doing good things and winning stuff in different exhibitions and stuff. There's always going to come a time when I feel like nothing I'm really interested as is out there. So I create my own. So I've got two groups of three women each that I've created traveling exhibitions at art museums and exhibits with that are an Art Center's with and so we've had these exhibits, and I've been working for over 10 years now, most of these creating relationships with these venues. And don't ask me why I'd never been to Montana. So I'm like, I want to go to Montana. So I pick the most expensive places to ship to and fly to right and the most remote. So not Yellowstone, Montana. No, Deb is going to mile city and Sydney for the Waterworks Art Museum and the mind deck Heritage Center, right. And I love the people there though, because what happens is, you go to these facilities right now we've got a show. It's epic. It's a nine person show. So it's the two groups of three ladies. I'm wondering in both groups, so that's total of five, and then four guest artists, and we're at the Saulsbury on North Carolina until May 26. I think we close waterworks, Visual Art Center Museum, but if you're in the area, it's a beautiful venue go there, no matter who's showing. But you know, when you have these experiences, and you're in small town, America, or we had one in Tokyo, that was amazing, you know, we've got, we've been in lots of different countries and places. And when you have this experience where people come up to you, and they're just like, oh, my gosh, tell me the story behind this. And they've researched you or looked you up a little bit beforehand, and they're just so engaged. And then you go to someplace, and I won't name names, but we've been in large, larger venues where we've been written up by, you know, Washington Post's critics and other people like that. And they're just interested in where's the free wine, you know, or whatever. And, like, they don't really pay too much attention to you, you like don't discount the small, rural, you know, places where the communities gather around their art worlds. You know, for me, it's like the towns that have a whole bunch of murals, and a few art galleries and art centers, even though there's only maybe 3000 people there, you know, those are the ones that I feel like we've had really good experiences in. And so this is what we've done is we've just created our own society in a way in our own, you know, collector base, and, you know, the people that run these venues come and go, and so you kind of get to know them and their families and their stories and stuff. And that, for me is a big part of my art world. And it's of my of my own making, like, I didn't wait for someone to come and do that.

Laura Arango Baier: 42:35

So yeah, you're the one providing the opportunities now, which I think that's, that's such a wonderful, you know, full circle of like, you started somewhere, and then you found these opportunities, and then you got to the point where you can give those opportunities, you know, and I think that is, you know, that's really the paying it forward thing. And I love that.

Debra Keirce: 42:55

But it takes time, it doesn't happen overnight. And that's what happens is people will do it once. And they'll be like, Oh, we didn't get any sales there. So whatever. But I'll tell you a great things happen. And you know, I've got wine labels, I've got, you know, sales, now I've got, you know, provenance in these places that, you know, originally people maybe would have poo pooed. And I mean, you can poopoo it and go and keep trying for this. But I kind of like it over here. You know, you can zig and zag. We're good.

Laura Arango Baier: 43:20

Yeah, yeah. And again, that really brings up again, that whole, you know, you could not have planned any of those opportunities at all. And I love that, Oh, my God, it's like, you know, you just, it's funny, because it reminds me of a conversation that I had a couple of weeks ago with Christopher Remmers. And Clint, where we spoke about entropy and chaos. And I feel like, you know, how you're describing these opportunities, you know, we try to make things as perfect as we can we think we have these amazing plans, and we have to fulfill them. But what if we just follow a little bit of that chaos, and then we allow it to guide us into something even more amazing, you know,

Debra Keirce: 44:04

and that's my art process to as you're describing it, again, we're saying and part of this conversation was about how everything always comes back to the art for me, that's so true, because I need that abstract, crazy, chaotic underpinning that I can then find my realism. I don't care how good a drawing I have, I don't care how good like how, you know, perfect. My original concept is, I never want it, whatever. And this is just me, but I never want what I paint to look like what I started with. I want it to have its own little happy accidents is you know, to quote Bob Ross or whatever. But, you know, if I don't if I don't have it, if it's not a two way street and that chaos isn't feeding my art, then I feel like I don't have those problems to solve and those sorts of challenges along the way and it's not as good now that's me, but you know, it probably is just as good. So I'm not saying but for me, I just have to work through that. In order for it to feel like it was a worthwhile experience, and so yeah, I totally get what you're saying about the chaos plays into

Laura Arango Baier: 45:07

it does, it plays into all of our lives, you know, from the art to what we're going to have for dinner, sometimes, you know, you can plan dinner out, and then sometimes, you know, you have like five things in the refrigerator, and then you realize, oh, I could cook this, and you would not have thought about that, you know, you know,

Debra Keirce: 45:21

so much of it, too, is being able to pivot on that chaos, right. And that's what chaos brings to you is the opportunities to pivot. Because I mean, like, the pandemic is a glaring example of how we all had a pivot to make that work, right. But in some ways, not that I would ever wish a pandemic on anybody, but in some ways, I think people will say, Wow, I mean, if not for that, then these good things wouldn't have happened, right? I mean, I know, for me, in my business, I had to streamline things, I had to rethink things I had, I'm doing things totally different now than it was in 2019. And that's not a bad thing. You know?

Laura Arango Baier: 45:57

No, I mean, that's the, you know, the, the alchemy, you know, of turning lead into gold. I mean, I think that's what it really comes down to, and, you know, the whole like, oh, you know, you win all these competitions, and, you know, you're happy. And then now what, you know, it's, I think, you know, it's, it's more like, it's for the craft, you know, it's for the, like, yeah, people see it. And that completes the painting, you know, I believe that a painting isn't really complete until it's seen, then it's like God exists. It has a an observer, you know, kind of like in quantum physics, it's, there's no observer, it doesn't exist. So it's like this relationship. And then when you do have that observer, you know, in these competitions, it completes it. And then it's, it should always be for the crafts. I mean, yeah, like you said earlier, there are some people who they do the whole art is whatever you can get away with thing. That's fine strategy. But for the people who are in love with the craft, and can't imagine a single day of their lives without it, yeah, you know, maybe you want a competition, but the real completion is, you know, that, first of all, you know, the icing. And second of all, if it's part of a society or a group of people, you also, you know, get that little recognition from that group of, hey, you exist. You know,

Debra Keirce: 47:13

I mean, I'll tell you with, in the CCO GAP program, I did win the Best of Show 2022, and the George grey award, and I'm so grateful for that. Now, I feel like I should have said that earlier. But honestly, it wasn't even on my mind. But that's why I got the opportunity to go on the residency with the cutter. And so it was because a Navy Captain saw the show, and he was moved to tears. He's like, How can I contribute? What can I do to help and so these sent me for a week and this cutter, our expenses paid. And so that was what I like that, you know, out of that experience, it was wonderful to get that award. But that wasn't what I remember, right? It's all about the the residency experience, or talking about the postcard art program, the CO get program, when you go to their receptions, which unfortunately, I'm double booked, so I'm not gonna be able to make it this year, but they have a private reception for just the artists and their plus ones. On July 13, that's going to be happening. And then the show is going to hang there for a month. salmagundi club is like Gallery, and I think that's the name of the gallery. And they have the admirals calm. And they're going to have Linda Fagan, who's the Kommandant. So she's the person in charge of the entire coast guard currently selected for your position. And so she's in charge of all the admirals right. That's gonna be there this year. And so you here with all these important people, and when I've been there, in previous years, they've come they've come up at admirals have come up to me with tears in their eyes saying, You painted our story. And this is I want to share with you this was an experience that I had, and you were right, you reminded me of it, or this looks just like whatever. And so when I was on that residency, I'm like, I want to paint the things that make admirals cry. So you get on that pipe. And you call for Deborah, curious, whenever you think there's something that I should be, you know, taking sketches or photographs of that make would make an animal cry, you know. And that's what I see as my job. It's not my job isn't to win. My job is to connect with humanity through my art, like I'm just an instrument and then the art has this capacity in a way that engineering never did. Like any other walk, I've been in my in my life has never been able to touch people's hearts as much as my art has. And so for me, if I can be the instrument that creates that feeling that experience that that's the definition of fine art. It's decorative art. If it doesn't do that, I feel like you know,

Laura Arango Baier: 49:33

I agree. So, yes, yeah. And you know, to mention Michael John, Angelique, and he actually says the same thing. It's like people, people want art that moves them. And your art does that clearly. Which is, I mean, I think that's the greatest goal to attain as an artist. It's not just you know, improving at your craft. So yes, but if you improve at your craft with the intention of moving people, you know, making them feel something to connect with that Greater human consciousness, then it's bad as a masterpiece, you know,

Debra Keirce: 50:05

and knowing that not everybody's gonna connect with it. No, not everyone. I know my neighbors like, Deb, we want to support you. But we have great pictures of our dogs. So we don't see any reason to have you paint them, I'm like, that's fine. You are not my pets, if you're an eye collector, enjoy your pictures, I get it, you know, like, that's that art form doesn't appeal to you, that's fine. You like you don't have I think sometimes artists will try so hard to connect with every person that they encounter. And then they get discouraged, because I don't know, they're at a restaurant and they're not selling their art. Well, people didn't come there to buy art, they came there to eat right? Or, you know, maybe they're just, you know, a lover of a different type of art or whatever. So, I think what I've found, and you can tell me if this has been your experience is you just have to do what you do. And then the people come to you, you know, people say find your, your signature, style, or whatever. I'm like, No, I'm just doing what I love. And then my signature style finds me, you know, and so I think it's, we sometimes have it backwards, because we're in in, in a race to that almighty dollar, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't serve you well, if you'd only trying to get the awards and the dollars, I understand people that have to, you know, feed themselves and pay their mortgages, but quite honestly, I could make more money as a Starbucks manager, or go back into engineering and have six fingers again, if I wanted to, and I don't know, so you have to make those realistic choices. And for me, it's like, I just want to make admirals cry.

Laura Arango Baier: 51:36

Oh, my God, I love that I that should be the title of the episode, I just want to make admirals cry. Oh, that's fantastic. But it's true. And I think that speaks to Yeah, it speaks to that. It's not for the money, it's for the craft, it's like, you know, a lot of artists, you know, they're, maybe they're on the fence about jumping full time on it. And I would tell them, if you really can't afford it, and don't like keep your day job, paint when you can, and that's fine. And then you know, you can decide down the line, if you build this collector base, you build these, these true fans, as they call them. Then down the line, when you see oh, this was really you know, bringing something, don't let the money kill the dream. You know, it's so sad.

Debra Keirce: 52:23

And we've all CAD those art instructors, unfortunately, or people teaching workshops, who you're like, you're not loving this, you're only doing this for the money, I can just tell you rather, like you should just have a T shirt that says I'd rather be painting in my own studio all alone or something, you know, and you don't want to ever become one of those people, I don't think you want to always have your, you know, pay your mortgage, do what you got to do. And if it's teaching, that's great. But if you're not in love with teaching, find a way to do it, maybe where you love it more, or leave enough time in your life that you can still do your creative pursuits. Because I think if you bottles up, it makes you crazy. Like we go, I actually walk dogs in the middle of every day just so I can stay human because I need to interact with something mammalian otherwise, I find that I go nuts. So like I and Kevin McPherson was talking about this, how he lives in a very remote area of Taos on this beautiful lake where he can like a community of 40 people where he doesn't see anybody for two weeks. And then he went off and did all those excursions in Shanghai, right? Where there's 24 million people all in one space and China. Right. And he was talking about what a culture shock that is, and it's true, I think, you know, we just can get so in our own head that it gets scary. So we need to break out and get into the 24 million people cities every once in a while just so that we can still connect with, you know, the people that we're creating our for?

Laura Arango Baier: 53:46

Yeah, yeah, I think Yeah. It's so normal for artists to isolate themselves to, it's like, we need it, we need it for that fertile breeding ground of ideas and silence and, you know, perspective, because it's almost, I don't know if this happens to you, too. I mean, a lot of like, you know, realism is about narrative, it's about storytelling, it's about, you know, it's like this, this inner imagery that tells a story that just comes out, right. And you can't do that, if you're always doing things that you know, it's like, it's hard to do unless you find that silence and that space and that meditation. But then equally, you need to go out to allow your brain to, you know, experience all of these these things to create the stories in the first book. So it's a balance, you know,

Debra Keirce: 54:36

and what I find, you know, we talked before about societies and getting involved with, you know, groups and physically being there with people to kind of ground yourself regularly. What I find is if I'm alone in my studio with my thoughts, my allegories start to take away my paintings and so and that's part of why I started my series there. It's a category collection on my website. It's called the little bit quirky paintings. And so I was finding that I was, and I have a few of those still, just because I need to do them, I love to do them, where I've got things like, you know, an ice cream bar melting inside of a champagne glass inside of a fish aquarium, you know, what? And it's because there's a allegory in my head that I feel like, I need to get out that I need to paint and something, sometimes it's working through grief or, you know, painful things like, you know, a lot of us lost a lot of loved ones, you know, in the last several years and all and so some of it's that and never tell those stories, because nobody's gonna buy a painting that's, you know, talking about things that are really depressing, but we need to paint them and there's always a happy side to them. Because, you know, there's always also, I think, anytime there's severe sadness, there's also great happiness on the flip side, right? So I think, painting that those kinds of things are important, but also doing it in a way that it still relates to your audience. And so for me, if I don't get out and interact with people, then I start to go to a place where I'm not interacting with anybody, like are not my allegories, and my paintings are taking over the whole composition and everything. And nobody understands what's happening. And, you know, if I wanted that to be my persona, maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing. There's lots of artists that do surreal stuff that kind of goes in that direction. Nobody knows what they're painting, but it's cool, you can't help it by it, right? But I don't want that to be me. So I'm trying to stay on the level, you know, I'm trying to stay in the middle of the spectrum as much as I can. But do you find that, you know, sometimes your your stories, your narratives go, you know, kind of take over?

Laura Arango Baier: 56:44

I think, yeah, there's always that risk. Again, I think it's also because, you know, like, as artists, from what you're also telling me with your quirky paintings, we have this rich inner world. And sometimes, you know, the only person that amuses is ourselves. It's like, you know, when you write poetry, and it's about a specific moment in your life, and when you read it, or reminds you have it, and no one else will really get it. Um, but for you, it's something really cherished. I'm not against that. But I agree, there's like, there's a point where, you know, if you, if you're too alienated like that, then you're definitely just doing it for yourself, which is totally again, it's totally fine. I mean, if someone's just doing this for fun, they're not doing it as a job that's different.

Debra Keirce: 57:27

I think there is something different about us, you know, that people notice and comment on or whatever. But that's how we know we're artists, right? That's why we're part

Laura Arango Baier: 57:36

of this group. Exactly. It's, you know, and I've actually asked this, I asked this to another guest, Catherine Buck kowski. I asked this about teaching, no, but I think I could ask you, do you think you chose to be an artist? Or did being an artist choose you?

Debra Keirce: 57:53

I think the artists chose me. And I'll tell you why is because I remember actually, the moment when I discovered my mom's charcoal set, which she probably would have let me bring it upstairs and you know, use it at the table. But I discovered it underneath the stairs in our house that was probably like seven or eight years old. And I remember pulling up this book was just when the perspective books that they have, you know, with the train tracks, and so I remember at seven or eight years old, you know, doing an I mean, I could barely read or anything, but I can see the pictures, and I could see how they were doing the drawing, you know, from one step to the next. And so I remember tracing that and wanting it to be a private moment. So hiding underneath the steps, you know, and next to the dog. And I mean, there was no reason for me to be introverted about it or shy about it, but just testing it out to see like, Is this is this, you know, my colleague, of course, you don't have that vocabulary when you're that young. But I remember that being a moment when I'm like, Oh, this is what you're going to do some and it always was with me all throughout, you know, and I grew up in the 70s. And so like, we had to take cooking and sewing I begged them in high school to let me take, I'm like, I'll go into engineering, I'll do whatever I need to do just know, I want to take shop, you know, I want to I want to do you know these other things, right? And woodworking and all that and No, no, you cooking and sewing, you know. And so this is this is the era that I grew up in. And so I always felt like I was sort of, like not growing. I I remember my parents being concerned at the time that I was so messy, and you know, didn't care about it, because how are you going to find a husband if you can't clean house? You know, this was good housekeeping. Right? It was able to sit growing up in the 60s. It was literally, you know, maybe RFT beaver cleaver kind of upbringing, and that was just how things were. And so right from the start, I'm like, No, you're different than that. You're going to be doing this, whatever it takes, right. And so I knew at some point in my life if I was blessed enough to live long enough that this was going to be what I was aiming to the point where when my husband and I were dating and talking about marriage, I'm like If you realize I don't really care about anything else, I mean, I'll live in a tent, but I'm going to be an artist full time at some point. So if you're marrying me, then you need to just fit factor that into your lifestyle expectations, right? And I'm gonna, same thing, I'm like, I'm going to have three children, whether it happens biologically, or I adapt them, I'm having three children. So if you're not in on that, you know, goodbye, kind of thing. And so I had all these, like, somehow you still married me? And will there'll be 39 years going on? So it worked out? Yeah. But I look back, I'm like, I wouldn't have married me like, saying, Hey, we could be starving. And I'm going to spend our last dollar on paint, you know, but, I mean, I was that mitad to it right from the start, just like I've decided to pick my death date. I've decided I'm gonna die on August 31 2066, when 104 And it's like, you set these intentions? I mean, realistically, I'm not insane. yet. I know that that may not happen

Laura Arango Baier: 1:01:00

things. Well, you never know. Honestly, you

Debra Keirce: 1:01:02

never you live for that. It makes you eat right? And exercise, it makes you you know, do not smoke, not whatever, so that you can Could you look around, you're like, Who else do I see here it was 104 Ooh, that person's not gonna make it right. And so gonna kind of make those judgments as you go subconsciously, or consciously. And so I think it's important to set your intentions. And so when I was seven or eight years old, whatever it was, I literally set an intention in that moment. And I remember it that I was going to do art. So did that come I mean, I don't think I even had the awareness or anything at that age to create that, this that what I'm expressing now this level of, you know, levels of thought I wasn't some prodigy seven year old, you know, I mean, so I think it is innate, I think it is part of your your DNA. But I think you have to have the passion. And then I think it's taught like, you have to want to learn it. And you have to be a sponge and picking it up. And I think that anybody could be an artist if they have the passion to do so. I don't think that, like I was what any of us were born with. Some were the only ones who can learn to turn form it realistically, you know? Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:11

That's a skill. Um, I had a friend who used to call it it's, it's like learning to lay bricks. It's not that hard. Anyone can do, right? Yeah. And,

Debra Keirce: 1:02:19

and when you go to these conferences, and societies and things, you see, we're all doing the same steps. It's just what order you do them in, and there's little nuances or whatever. But I mean, how many times am I gonna watch the same person demo, because I've seen them paint so many times that I'm not getting any new information out of this, you know, you kind of get to that place where you're like, at one point, this was all new and wonderful and great information that I had to have. But then you reach a place and obviously you're at it, where you're like, What do I do with this now? Now? Now, you know, with this comes much responsibility? How am I going to play this out in the world? Right? Yeah. So I think that's all of us. Our challenge is to ride that wave and figure out, you know, okay, now we've got the passion, we've got the skills, we've got the whatever, where are we going from here, and that's going to change history, it's going to change the way that this art, you know, movement plays out. So I don't know, I find a great deal of responsibility, like with the Coast Guard, ones, or with the ones at the Langham Hotel commission, I feel great responsibility that what I put out there be archival that what I put out there have a happy message or one that I want to portray, you know, and not, I mean, nothing against people that go for shock value or go for, I don't know, whatever, but I've never been good at creating whatever, you know, I'm not I'm not good at being anything other than unfiltered. Genuine and Frank. And so for me, you know, what you see is what you get, Oh, I love it. I'm all for marketing and sales. That's never been my focus.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:03:52

So Right. Yeah. And I think that's, you know, it's starting to seem like that's, that's why you're so successful, precisely because, you know, even in normal marketing, and I don't know why suddenly, the paper lead, the whole role of marketing is like flipped into the wrong direction, where like, real marketing, real good business practice starts with the product. It starts with the product, the product sells itself. And that's it. Like, if you're trying too hard to sell something, maybe it's time to work on the product more and stop focusing on the selling because, like, for example, there was a painting that I did a couple years ago. And I just did it because it was an image that popped in my head and I loved it. And I love the idea. And I worked on it and it was like, really fun. And then I posted it on Instagram and like 10 minutes later, I had three messages from three people saying I want to buy it. I mean, I sold it to the first person who messaged me because he messaged me first but I could have sold that painting three times was I thinking of selling it. Absolutely not. That I sound

Debra Keirce: 1:04:50

and that's the unscripted part the unpredictable part, right like you don't know what will go viral. The person who did not remember the artists name we did the banana with The duct tape, but they didn't know it was gonna go viral and create an entire the blue dress thing blue blue? Yes, yeah, nobody knew when they were posting that, that it was gonna go viral like these things that go viral, you have no control. And so if you're just out there, then you might get lucky and be in that viral category. But there's no formula. There's no marketing, all these people that pay and I know I have friends who've paid lots of money to learn how to do this, and that on Instagram, or on social or whatever. And it's like, you turn around and six months later, they've changed your algorithms. And it's all for naught, right? Or the you can't I mean, some things are, if you're a beginner, then there are certainly some things that you can do. But for the most part, there's nothing that's going to tell you how to make a banana and duct tape go viral ever, you know? Yeah. And I think I mean, I think it can,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:05:52

yeah, I mean, the, the possibility is always there. But you know, it's the craft first. And, interestingly enough, when I saw that painting, I didn't have 10,000 followers, I had maybe five or six, like, I wasn't even I like, you know, I have more followers now than that. But even then, like, it was like spontaneous, like, I just want to do this, this feels right for me. And then you know, posted because yes, and it's gone. You know, it's like that.

Debra Keirce: 1:06:19

And you also you this, I think this business humbles you again and again, like you think you're all that, and then you're not you think you're all that. And it's always like that. And I remember one time on Instagram I had, and I don't remember the numbers. Now, I couldn't even tell you how many followers I have now, but it's not that many. And I don't, because I don't spend enough time on there. I don't, I don't do the things that you need to do in order to, you know, make relationships on Instagram. So it's on me that I don't, I'm not complaining. But I had something that I think was like I was approaching 6000 or something. And then they did their sweep that they do where they get rid of all the bots or whatever's out there. And I never bought bought any buddy or like I never did anything bad to be deserving of bots. And since then, I've been cloned and stuff. I'm like, Who am I that you want to call it, whatever. But so I've been through that ringer or whatever. But they came through and they took away like half of my followers. And overnight I went from whatever my number was down to, I don't know, 3000 less or whatever. And I'm like, That's interesting. Like, what the internet giveth, the internet can taketh away. You just, you just realize that even when you are successful, and you are all that, like, you're just, you know, standing on a shaky ladder on in the rain, you know, on ice or something like, you're really you're really not you can't ever just like rest and go, you know, now I'm there. Even people like I don't want to say his name because I'll say it wrong. I know. I don't know how to pronounce it. But the man who just won the great accolade of selling two and a half million dollar, whatever it was at the Scottsdale artist school Mark maggiore. I think he's a Western artist, but amazing art beautiful art. I love it. I love what he does and everything. But I was thinking about it. And I mean, who doesn't want to, you know, put themselves in his shoes or whatever. But I'm like, his life has definitely changed. But he's still only as good as the next thing on his easel. You know, like, he's got that in his rearview mirror. And we all want that in our rearview mirror. But now like everybody's looking going, what are you going to do next? What's your next story? You know, it's intimidating. Like it's almost it's almost like, I don't know, it's almost scary for the really big wins to me are almost frightening because then you're like,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:08:38

Oh, now the pressures on Yeah, I mean, to quote Star Wars, twice the price double the fall, you know?

Debra Keirce: 1:08:45

Yeah. Yeah, it's true. It is. There's you know, there is no try do or do not right.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:08:52

Exactly. Yes. Yeah. It's a complicated thing. I think I do. Yeah, it's true. It's like you know, you're humbled one moment and then the next moment you're on top of the world and then you're humbled and I think that's also you know, that goes to show too that it's it's even in the art world it is like it gives us Senate tickets away you know, it's like you just got to keep chugging on and again for the craft as for the love of it

Debra Keirce: 1:09:16

is I think you get weeded out if that's not your if you're not passionate about it or you don't want to if the cons outweigh the pros you know, if you don't feel like Man, this is just so amazing. You know, even though it's painful, I'd love in this then

Laura Arango Baier: 1:09:29

yes, I just had a guest who called it out what was it like happy like sadly content or something like that? It was like it was so funny, or depressingly content while working because it's um, again, you know, you're facing your demons. You're trudging through, you're doing your best and you keep learning.

Debra Keirce: 1:09:51

But don't you find when you're in groups of artists, I was just talking to some people they run studio Contura out in in Minneapolis and There are amazing people Lois and Armando, if you ever get to meet these two, they're two my favorite people in the world. And they are some of the most interesting people. And I was talking with them. And we were chatting about how the art world in general is like this where you meet people. And first of all, I think artists were a lot more on their sleeves, like you go into the corporate world, and everyone's masked, and they're behaving in a certain way. And you're, you know, following certain protocols and meetings and all that stuff. There's none of that in the art world, you just like, you know, everybody's like you, you get TMI real quick sometimes, especially in workshops and things where it's like, okay, I didn't want to know that level of detail about you. But having said that, there's some of the most creative, intelligent, generous, just like artists to me, you know, because you put all those emotions out on the plate. And then on top of that, you have to be pretty smart to get to a place where you can feel confident creating, and so you've got all that intellect as well. I mean, I've gone into some very nerdy rabbit holes with people that I just have the best time and, you know, I'm like, Yes. And I mean that. So it's as much for me, it's as much about the community as it is the craft, you know, it's like, those people are doing such amazing, inspiring wonderful things. And I want to be with them, you know, as opposed to back in corporate America setting up project teams like I used to do. So. I don't regret having moved from one step from my left brain into my right brain at all, you know, and that's a misnomer. By the way, I think he's, I use more of my left right now than I ever did when I was engineering.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:11:36

But I hear that.

Debra Keirce: 1:11:39

But But I think that, you know, it has to go you have to go back to like, you have to feel like you're one of them. I was gonna say try, but that's probably not politically correct. But that that, you know,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:11:50

you're part of something. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I agree with you. Yes, exactly. And you're, you're, you're all I guess it's like, you know, with a common goal. And it's, it is it is very tribal in that sense of like, and I don't think tribe is like, in the, you know, I think of it in like the old, like, caveman style, like, we're troupe of people trying to just exist and survive.

Debra Keirce: 1:12:17

It's kind of sexy too, isn't it? It's like, why shouldn't be hanging out with this group, but I just can't help myself. You know, it's sort of hedonistic in a way, because it's like, oh, I enjoy that so much. And I, you know, like normal people shouldn't, or whatever. I mean,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:12:37

yeah, yeah, there's something about it. That's a god. It's like you just You're, you're doing the thing you love to do. And you're surrounded by people who also love doing the things you'd like to do. And they're all authentic and open, hopefully. Most cases, I think. So. It's fun. It's like, it feels illegal to have so much fun.

Debra Keirce: 1:12:55

It does. I remember one time I'm remembering. I was in Montreal, and my friends Carrie Waller. She was an amazing watercolor artist, and Kim Minichiello, who was an amazing watercolor artist. Unfortunately, she passed in 2021. But at a very young age, but we were in Montreal, and we went into the Botanical Gardens has an insect insectarium or whatever you call it, like, you know, all beautiful moths, and butterflies and beetles, and things, you know, all mounted. And we went into this great big, I don't know how many square feet probably like 20,000 square foot, you know, facility, and we're there looking and we'd run into each other or whatever. But we're all just, you know, looking at kind of, like we do in museums, looking at everything on our own, and taking pictures and all that. And since then, I could kill myself because I, my, I was only keeping things on, on flash drives at the time from and so I have to go back there because my flash drive corrupted, and I don't have any of the pictures from that. And now Kim has passed and she doesn't have it. So yeah, I'm like, I need to, I want the images back so bad. But I did do one painting from there, and it sold and it was wonderful. But we all came out of there. And we had tears in her eyes. And we were all just like, I need a minute, you know, and we're going in there for like two and a half hours or something. You're looking at these bugs. And I'm like, Who else gets all emotional and teary eyed at the beauty of bugs? Like, there's three of us standing here that all so really, like we're all had the same reaction. And we're looking at each other going, you're weird. No, you're weird. No, you're weird. And it's not like we're entomologist. It's not like we know about the bugs or you know, any of their life cycles. Like we weren't, you know, into that part of it. It was just the physical beauty the way everything was lit up and presented and of God's creatures, you know, on this earth, like the lunar module. I don't know if you've ever seen gotten to see them up close and under magnification, but they're so amazingly beautiful. And we all went away wanting pink bugs. So, I mean, there's not many groups of people on the planet that that would react that way. I don't think

Laura Arango Baier: 1:14:59

no, I I don't think so either. Wow, that's beautiful. Oh, that's beautiful. Laura Do you? Yeah, I love it. Oh my god. Ah, so, um, to end things off. Okay. We'll start thinking, I'll start thinking about bugs and then maybe I'll start crying too because I actually I started a collection of insects. So

Debra Keirce: 1:15:26

my son is dating the butterfly baby, Sarah Foltz is her name and she, she mounts butterflies and insects in these beautiful frames that she creates that are like, you know, Gath looking or whatever, and sells them. So a number of pieces of hers in my collection of artwork, but um, I, you know, uh, finally, I'm like, Evan, this one's a keeper. I can you finally got one I can relate to you know, she's a bug lover. He's like, Mom, you know how weird that sounds?

Laura Arango Baier: 1:15:54

Yeah, but hey, you know, oh, man, to, uh, to end things off, I'd like to hear about your upcoming workshop. Oh,

Debra Keirce: 1:16:05

I've got three left this year to do. And what it is, it's a workshop that I've created. That's all about using fabric and still life. But really what it's about is teaching people what I think are the the basics of realism. So if you look at the old masters like DaVinci, a lot of times and DaVinci was famous, I think, or maybe just because he was famous people know that he took fabric and made sometimes make casts out of it, sometimes just set it up. And then he would have his students and he would paint and draw and sketch the fabric folds to then like he was famous for, you know, he would like take that idea of this is how this gradient is moving in and compare it to other things and other sciences in nature and everything like that. But anyway, he, I think, really started at the right place for people who want to know how to paint in a classically realist style. And so I've taken that, and I've turned it into a workshop where I'm going to be covering, you know, this is what you do for linen. This is what you do for laces is what you do for denim, all that but really, the underlying thing of it all is just how do you turn that form in a realistic way. So you can capture that fold, which is the same as you know, on an any round object, I'm in still life. And so I'm going to be at the Albert Kemper teaching at the end of June. And that's a Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, or St. Joseph, Missouri. And I'm going to be at the Florence Thomas art school. And that is in a little beautiful Appalachian mountain town. It's kind of a touristy town, it's West Jefferson, North Carolina. And that's going to be in the middle of September. And then I'm going to be teaching it at the end of September at the river valley Arts Center, which is a new venue for me. That's down in Russellville, Arkansas, and I haven't been there before, but we have a show that one of the three lady groups that's going to be there at the end of September. So I'm going to do that in conjunction with our opening there. So I'm excited about all of these. And I think that, you know, whether you're a beginner, or an advanced painter, that I'm hopefully going to provide something that everybody can learn from, and I talk really fast. So I give like all the information, it's it's like a dump of everything I know. And then you have to recover before I come back to that venue.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:18:26

Because they're gonna have to record you like just audio record and take notes.

Debra Keirce: 1:18:30

Yeah, yeah. I mean, the experience is fun with these workshops, because then you get to see, you know, what other people's struggles are. And you know, that's what I like about the workshop environment. So it'll be fun.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:18:42

Yeah. And, and you get to connect with more people is also

Debra Keirce: 1:18:45

exactly, exactly. And some of these people are ones that I mean, every year, you got to come up with a new workshop, because they've already taken you know, the last two or three or whatever. So, yeah, like, Okay, I got it, kind of like we were saying, you know, what, right when you go, who got that done, you have to come up with your next act, right?

Laura Arango Baier: 1:19:03

Yeah. Yeah, the dancing bear.

Debra Keirce: 1:19:05

Exactly, exactly. So this is my new dance. And I think I'm excited i are i am excited about it, because people are responding really well. And because I just think, you know, the fabric which I stole this from my friend Natalie Featherston, who did a fabric workshop. And I'm like, Oh, that's a good idea. I'm taking it. She's like, that's okay. I took it from and she named about another person. And like, apparently, that person took it from someone else. So I'm not the first to do a fabric workshop. But you know, and how it relates to still life and different textures, but I'm excited for it. So

Laura Arango Baier: 1:19:35

yeah, yeah, I mean, sometimes we have to say things in different ways so people can understand the message. So I think it's great that it's a bunch of remixes of the same thing.

Debra Keirce: 1:19:46

That's what I do I remix. I'm like this DJ that's in this room mixing life. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:19:53

Oh, man. So where can people find more of your work?

Debra Keirce: 1:19:57

On my FAFSA website? Of course, yeah. To and on there I have listed all of my like I'm only on really on Facebook and Instagram, but I have my social media links and then I don't know that I have my galleries listed but I'm the ones that I've spent had the most work in our CSET Art Gallery Nags Head, North Carolina, the cortile gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts and Bella RTA gallery in Midlothian, Virginia. So and I do like in Florence Thomas art school too, and scojo is in Albuquerque, other places, but those are the primarily ones Great,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:20:30

awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, and this wonderful conversation. Probably have you on I feel like I'm probably going to have you on the podcast again in the future because this was so fun. Oh, I would love that.

The BoldBrush Show. Interviews with today's finest artists and creatives. Watch here or listen on all major podcast services.