Monday, July 11, 2016

The Fine Art of Debra Trent

"Splash" (c) Debra Trent debratrent.com

The Fine Art of Debra Trent
Archived article, 1st publication Arabian Finish Line April 2016

For over 25 years Debra Trent has been creating masterpieces. A self-taught artist, she has captured our hearts with her artwork. Stunning portraits of horses, dogs, nature, and more, can be seen in her gallery. Currently painting for museum exhibitions, Debra has won many accolades, awards, and honors, including National juried museum exhibitions and competitions. Her portfolio includes a solo exhibition at the National Wildlife Federation, Vienna, Virginia.

Recently returning from a large art exhibit in Charleston, South Carolina, I had the opportunity to connect with Debra and talk about her horse history, art, and studio.

"Made in the Shade" (c) Debra Trent
GM: How long have you been drawing horses?
DT: I started drawing horses when I was probably seven or eight years old. I loved horses and drawing was a natural outlet for me. My mother really encouraged me to draw, and my art teachers in school did as well. I think all children have the capacity to draw. It is the encouragement of family and people we look up to that nurtures those abilities.

GM: In 1987 you visited Robert Bateman’s Smithsonian Museum exhibition. How did that experience prompt your creativity and passion for art?
DT: When my then fiancé and I visited the Robert Bateman exhibition in 1987 by sheer happenstance, I was deeply moved by his work. There were these thoughtful, beautiful, captivating, and in some cases intense images of animals that stopped me in my tracks. I was transformed by the power of his paintings. Being an animal lover, this experience sparked a desire in me to paint animals of all kinds. Up until this point in my life, I had been drawing and painting only horses. They were, after all, my first love. This new spark to paint other animals was a natural addition to the equine paintings.

GM: With many artists as your inspiration, which artist has inspired you the most?
DT: I feel like I am answering your questions the same way, but I can honestly say that my inspiration changes even when it comes to artists. In the 1970’s it was Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, in the 1980’s it was definitely Robert Bateman. Since then I have been moved and influenced by several artists from Anders Zorn and John Singer Sargeant, to Bob Kuhn, Howard Terpning, Greg Beecham, and Quang Ho, to name a few. Being open to the mastery of various artists keeps me intrigued, and makes me want to be a better artist.

GM: Your art is beautiful! What medium(s) do you use?
DT: Thank you, first of all. Nothing could mean more to an artist than to hear someone respond favorably to seeing one’s work. After experimenting in many different mediums, I started painting in oils about 13 years ago and it is my exclusive medium today. There is a richness to oils that other mediums lack, not that I don’t appreciate the beauty of what those mediums offer. I’m just loving the way oils blend and stay workable. I also love the ability to pile on the paint and develop texture.

GM: Walk us through your studio…
DT: My studio is in my finished basement. It’s large enough to give me room to hang work and step back from it. It has a large sliding glass door near my work space so I can see the woods outdoors, and the door faces west. I have total privacy here, except for the squirrels, chipmunks and occasional raccoon or turkey that wanders into the yard. I also have color balanced lighting and plenty of storage room for books, as well as tables and filing cabinets. My computer, large printer and desk are here, and I use my old IMac computer on a tabouret by my work area for digital reference photos. Things have improved so much for artists over the past few years with the advent of large screen monitors, Photoshop (to design the composition you want before you paint), high quality printers, etc. I paint on a drafting board rather than an easel because I just can’t stand up for hours on end. One more very important addition to my studio is my dogs. They have pillows to rest on while I’m working, and they keep me company. They don’t really comment on my paintings, but I’m sure they would be helpful if they could. They certainly alert me when a critter is near the door! Once they scared off a baby raccoon before I could grab my camera. Darn!

GM: Do you have a favorite painting of your own creation?
DT: I don’t really have a favorite painting to comment on. That changes all the time!

GM: What is your horse history?
DT: After years of wanting a horse with every fiber of my being, I fulfilled that dream when I was sixteen. My first horse was an Arab/mix. He had a beautiful broad head with teacup muzzle, a high croup and tail carriage, and was full of spirit. In retrospect he wasn’t the ideal “first horse”, but I certainly learned balance quickly. All he wanted to do was run because that was his history, a fast horse with a lot of heart. My next horse was an appaloosa. As a teenager in love with my horse, I spent all my spare time riding, so much so that my mother was actually worried that her teenage daughter wasn’t dating. Can you imagine??? It was a wonderful time in my life.

GM: Of all the horse breeds, which breed do you prefer? Or maybe it’s the soul of the horse, no matter the breed, that drives your passion…
DT: When I was a little girl I loved all horses, regardless of breed. Today I can pretty much say the same thing. They are soulful animals to me. When I was in my twenties I had the privilege to work for a magazine called The Arabian Horse Journal. I thought I died and went to heaven… this just didn’t seem like work to me. It was exciting to be a part of that world and look at all those beautiful horses. I’ve had a real soft spot for Arabians ever since. 

GM: Traveling, backpacking, and being outdoors sparks your creativity. Where in the world is your favorite place?  
DT: Traveling is one of the most fun aspects of being an animal painter. The importance of getting out into nature can’t be overstated. My husband and I have been to a lot of beautiful National Parks, but we have also traveled to Europe, Norway, and Canada. It isn’t so much a favorite “place” as it is the beauty of big mountains that we seem to be drawn to. The Rockies, Alaska, even Switzerland have all been memorable places for us.

GM: If I were to request a portrait of my prized horse or family dog, what is the process?
DT: My process for doing a commissioned painting is to discuss what you are looking for first. What is your budget? That determines the size of the painting. Do you have a favorite photo of your horse/pet? If not, are you close by where I could take photos? The photo is important because it has to be detailed enough for me to work from. I have done commissions from poor reference photos, but it is such a struggle. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. It’s pretty simple after that, just a matter of taking a deposit, agreeing on a timeline for completion, and then I work on the painting. You would see the completed painting and give feedback, then if any changes need to be made they are, and you get your painting. My objective is always to create something you will love and cherish. After all, it is a painting to honor your beloved pet.

GM: Do you have advice for novice artists who are trying to find their niche in the art world?
DT: My advice to any artist wanting to find their way is to love what you do and keep working at it. Don’t follow trends or try to copy someone else. Develop your own style by practicing your craft. Learn the skills of being an artist first. Take workshops with artists whose work you admire. Don’t ever compromise yourself or your art. It’s hard to put so much of yourself into a painting and then “put it out there” for the world to see and critique. Remember that you can’t please everyone, nor should you try. Rejection does not mean your work is bad, but until you have enough miles on those paint brushes to be confident in yourself you will benefit from a mentor if you can find one. Get a constructive critique of your painting and learn from it. We are all trying to get better. If you ever reach a point as an artist that you think you are perfect, you’re seriously kidding yourself. Push yourself, but don’t let anyone take away your joy of painting.

Connect with Debra debratrent.com


Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio USA gmcknight.com

"Best Friends Forever" (c) Debra Trent

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