Secrets of an award-winning visual storyteller
In the chaos of today’s world I believe we need more than ever to connect with the earth and the spirit within each of us. For me, that means telling visual stories with products of the earth and meaningful personal items.
After years of writing magazine features, family and individual biographies, arts reviews, and organizational histories, I shifted from words to images and discover an unusual method for creating unique fine art that tells a story.
I use flowers, plants, insects, skulls, shells, feathers, artifacts, jewelry, ephemera, and fascinating finds to create striking assemblages. Though the final image is a digital print, usually printed on metal, I use a desktop scanner rather than a camera to capture extremely detailed compositions that explode with color and vibrance. Most can be printed large enough to cover a wall if desired. (Read more about my process in an article I wrote for Pro Photo West.)
Mostly self-taught, as a kid I painted oils with my father and stepmother (including sessions with artist Fritz Willis). And always seeking a project, I created doll clothes and hats, sewed clothes, designed and made stained glass, and learned the American Indian art of sand paintings.
I started photography classes in high school and specialized in photojournalism in college. When digital technology arrived, I embraced the new tools. This led to a fortunate meeting with a master who taught me the art of scanning and though now passed, his spirit continues to encourage my growth.
As part of my journey I study the healing and spiritual arts. This has helped me “speak spirit” in my work. We are complicated beings, each with a valuable story to share that can be told in a full-length book or condensed into a visual tale that includes actual mementos from life’s events. A picture is worth a thousand words—sometimes more.
Debbi Swanson Patrick