Debbie Claussen, Wildly Whimsical: The Arts of El Dorado County
As a child, Debbie Claussen would often sketch the kids around her in class, but it wasn’t until her 20s when she finally pursued her passion. Having since explored different techniques in porcelain, watercolor, and oil painting, the talented artist and teacher doesn’t wish to limit herself and is constantly changing and growing. “I feel I’m always exploring, experimenting, and learning,” Claussen reveals. “If I don’t, I feel stagnant in my artistic journey.” Painting vibrant, playful pet portraits and cityscapes on boards covered with kaolin clay, the artist always captures the true essence of her subjects. Currently, she’s exhibiting her work at 4th Street Fine Art in Berkeley and locally at Gold Country Artists’ Gallery.
HLB: What mediums or themes are you most drawn to?
DC: When experimenting with new techniques, I generally paint flowers; somehow I can focus on the technical side of the painting and not worry about the emotional side. I started out focusing on figure drawings and paintings, but a friend asked me to paint her dog one time, and I loved it. I feel that by being a ballet dancer I became tuned into structure and balance, and the same holds true in animals. The challenge isn’t just getting the structure correct but also capturing the [animal’s] personality. I always have hundreds of potential paintings whirling in my head and am inspired by the life around me.
HLB: How else do you gain inspiration?
DC: Once the mechanical drawing part is done, I turn on music and just go for it. Music inspires. I also love lines and have developed a passion for urban scenes. Of course, there are always people and animals involved in the painting, and there’s always life involved in the buildings—[though] it’s a bit of a mystery [deciphering] what stories the buildings have to say. Other artists and their love and passion for what they do also inspire me.
HLB: What setbacks did you face while becoming a professional artist?
DC: There are always setbacks in any worthwhile endeavor. I think the biggest for me was when I took my first art class and was put down by the teacher. It wasn’t a good start into the art world; however, I started again and [haven’t stopped]. It’s also a challenge not ripping up almost every painting about halfway through, but I just keep going. I still rip some up and it feels good…starting again on a blank canvas with infinite possibilities.
HLB: What are your future ambitions?
DC: My goals always include more exploration and learning in each of my mediums. When an idea for a different application comes to mind, the fun and frustration is figuring out how to translate what I have in my head onto the tile, paper, or canvas. My goal for this year is to do more painting and build my body of work with new, fun pieces.
by Heather L. Becker