Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interview with Debi McSwain (Fine Art Designs)

Debi McSwain is a talented artist I met online through the Visual Arts Street Team. She's a prolific painter with strong ties to the earth and animals around her. Featured in her Etsy shop, Debi McSwain Fine Art Designs, are portraits, landscapes, flowers, birds, dogs, burros, donkeys and other animals. I admire Debi's straight-forward, deeply committed approach to work and life.

"No matter how much I wish it wasn't so," Debi tells me, "My work is about me--always about me and mine. What else could it possibly be about? That's all I know. My work is about my little life."

Debi lives in Valley Center, California, home of the Valley RoadRunner, the local newspaper whose February 6 issue lambasted the New England Patriots (a football team from my neck of the woods) for losing the Super Bowl. I laughed my butt off reading Dan Kidder's editorial "I Kid You Not: The Perfect Ending to an Epic Super Bowl." More seriously, Valley Center is also home of Hellhole Canyon Open Space Preserve, which (at least for me) puts Debi's self-defined "little life" into a grander context.

The Hellhole Canyon Open Space Preserve is owned and operated by the County of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department. According to's brochure, the Preserve "is the only major protected open space in the Valley Center Pauma Valley region." The problem--and it's a biggy--is 155 central acres--"the heart of the canyon"--not yet part of the Preserve.

Debi's on the Board of Directors for Friends of Hellhole Canyon Open Space Preserve, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money and providing educational services for the preservation of this vital wilderness area. Because of its tremendous variety in climates and environmental conditions, you'll learn by reading the brochure, this area provides a landscape naturally rich in biodiversity. Population growth and changes in the global climate put a tremendous strain on the area's flora and fauna. "San Diego County has more threatened species of plants and animals than any other county in the continental United States." These changes threaten to reduce or permanently eliminate animal and plant life vital to preserving the balance and vitality of this region in North San Diego County.

Along with the work Debi does for the Hellhole Canyon Preserve, she paints, rides horses and makes videos in Valley Center. "Most of my inspiration comes from my relationship with my animals," Debi says, "and the earthy work that caring for them entails. Cleaning horse stalls and feeding animals morning and night seven days a week without fail gives me a reason."

Debi hosts a Daily Painter Blog. "I've heard that it takes 50 repetitions for any act to become a habit," she says, "I guess I'm hooked! I love it and feel a little down if I don't get to paint and post. The ultimate art therapy."

Debi loves to read about Zen principles and philosophies and loves listening to bluesy earthy music: Van Morrison, JJ Cale, and most male country singers--George Strait, Willie Nelson, Randy Travis. "I literally can not paint without music to get me out of the thinking side of my brain."

As to what shoes Debi wears, she tells me: "I am my beat-up, worn out, hard-working, comfortable, brown, leather zip-up paddock boots."

For more information about Debi and her work, please check out her gallery, shop, and blog.


SuzeesJubileeZ said...

Once again I read your interview and went to fabulous places on the web. Not only do you write well about interesting people the links take me to places I like to visit.

dianeclancy said...

Hi Jancye and Debi,

What a wonderful interview!! So fun to see the different parts of Debi - great job!!

~ Diane Clancy