Thumbnail Sketches… by Connie Munson
“Well, it really started with watercolours… No, it was pottery back in 1992-93… that was hand-built and taught at a community centre at Bloor and St. George. I loved how my pieces didn’t have to be exact or symmetrical,” recalled artist Deborah Powell.
Our conversation was rich with the rhythm of reminiscing, one thing sparking a thread of memory that tied into yet another piece of the picture that was building in my mind’s eye as Deborah Powell, a new member of Headwaters Arts, and I chatted on Zoom.
Reconstructing this rich tapestry of her artistic explorations chronologically does no justice to the driving force behind it all. So sit back and meander along, join me on a journey of much joy as Deborah shares where she is now with her artistic practice and how it developed.
Going through a transition with her young adult children becoming busier with their own lives and her husband working nights, Deborah was looking for something to fill her quiet evenings.
“I can’t draw, really I can’t. You see, a while back this friend started me with lessons on watercolour painting at a live paint night. But remember, I can’t draw. He must have recognized that pretty early on because, after a couple of days in the studio, he suggested I try abstract.”
“(Well, not knowing) what that would look like and watching YouTube videos, I came across an art form (pouring) that was so relaxing and peaceful to watch. And I thought, ‘I think I can do this!’” And just like that, she embarked on a new creative path with acrylic pouring.
From her dining room table to gallery walls, 2019 was a seminal year with the Collingwood Art Crawl and joining Headwaters Arts. I was still curious about where the creative energy came from and asked if the pottery and watercolour classes were the first media she had tried before discovering the pouring process.
And it turned out that my hunch was right – there had been a number of very creative and entrepreneurial ventures already. Back in 2006, Deborah started up Awesome Airbrush Temporary Tattoos; notice all those A’s to stay at the top of the phone directory, let alone some alliteration?
Now, this was after she had already been at a job for eight years … “eight years too long”, she added. The inspiration for the tattoos hit fast and she acted on it with gigs booked, equipment and supplies ordered, and almost before the paint could dry on those first tattoos, temporary tattoos, the venture took off!
It was during one of her regular monthly Sci-Fri nights, programming the Ontario Science Centre had geared for 15 – 19-year-old adolescents, that the groundwork was laid for another defining moment in her life. She had been booked to airbrush tattoos of endangered species when she met Abner, from the Roots and Shoots organization that did fundraising for Jane Goodall causes, including the chimpanzee sanctuaries in Africa.
Deborah was then invited to Waterloo to volunteer at a fundraiser where she heard Jane Goodall speak. The event was more than she had expected as she not only got to hear this incredible woman speak but chatted with her at the end of the evening. In Deborah’s words, she was, “blessed when Miss Goodall signed a print I bought saying, For Deborah, Follow your Heart! Jane Goodall.
We both paused at this point, just absorbing how amazing it was to meet such an iconic figure who represents a vulnerable species and habitat, fighting for such a vital cause in our world. Deborah left the Zoom screen and went to bring the print for me to see and to admire the autograph and sentiments shared. As our conversation resumed, I found myself musing about the trajectory Deborah was on – she really was following her heart.
“Back to those watercolour lessons, the live paint night. I’d been wanting to do something and told my husband to make space on the wall as I headed out the door. I was pretty cocky or maybe just open-minded. Because I needed to do something for me, to fill my lonely nights, but I couldn’t draw, remember? So my friend Robert Allen suggested I try abstract, and absolutely he was right!”
The spontaneous and unpredictable aspects of pouring turned out to be perfect for her. She found it relaxing, getting caught up in the process, exploring where it led her, learning how to direct, when to let it happen, and ended up experiencing such joy. The responses to her poured pieces have been a revelation, starting with her own daughter who asked for one, another person asking to buy one, then another and another; most gratifying.
Ever observant about other artistic endeavours, Deborah had noticed a group of very happy people coming out of a store one evening, everyone carrying a painting. She soon introduced herself to the proprietor and the rest was that predictable slice of history. Two weeks later she had started to do paint nights, which were usually sold out events.
When I reflected on how she really sparked with ideas, it hit a chord and she began laughing.
“I was born with ideas and need the opportunity to use them, see them develop, and evolve as part of my overall endeavours. I need to contribute. How (do you) make something exciting, unique? I like to make things more interactive and interesting. I like being creative!”
And I like seeing someone who follows their heart with such a passionate outpouring of energy. Truly, as Deborah says, she has found her oasis and is helping others to do the same.
During our pandemic with so many interactive events put on hold, Deborah is available for Zoom events with a list of supplies that can be purchased as small kits. Gift Certificates may be purchased so that two friends or two family members may enjoy pouring experience with her.
E. Connie Munson, writer, photographer, and artist lives in Brampton and explores the Headwaters Region for creative inspiration. Follow her on IG @ecm4u2.
References – Deborah Powell: Passionate Outpourings, A Life of Much Artistic Verve & Vitality!
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