Voices

Cultivating colorful inspiration

Artist Debbie McCulley sits in her home studio with some of her paintings, including the large frog image called “Inward Bound” and a group of coaster tiles she was making for the upcoming Art on the Green. McCulley paints mostly animals and insects with flair for color. She is holding a wine bottle with one of her paintings on the label. (Jesse Tinsley)
Artist Debbie McCulley sits in her home studio with some of her paintings, including the large frog image called “Inward Bound” and a group of coaster tiles she was making for the upcoming Art on the Green. McCulley paints mostly animals and insects with flair for color. She is holding a wine bottle with one of her paintings on the label. (Jesse Tinsley)

Local artist finds herself through creating

When you spend time with artist Debbie McCulley, it is not hard to imagine her as a younger, hipper Martha Stewart. Her work really is all about the nurturing of the creative muse and following a passion.

“I got to a point where I decided I wouldn’t say ‘someday’ anymore,” she said and “someday” became “now.”

McCulley’s artistic endeavors began with hair. Shortly after graduating from University High School in Spokane Valley, she enrolled at Glen Dow Academy because she always wanted to play with hair. In 1990, she started taking art classes at Spokane Falls Community College. “My first class was drawing with pastels,” she said. “I didn’t even know what pastels were.” Her teacher was local artist Kay O’Rourke, who has been an inspiration for McCulley since their first meeting.

For the next 10 years, McCulley took art classes and workshops from local artists including O’Rourke, who told her “once you get comfortable, do something else.” And so she did, learning half a dozen mediums and giving her creative muse free reign.

In 2000, McCulley and her husband built a house in Spokane Valley. She took some time off from creating art and worked on her home, which includes a comfortable art studio and displays of her artwork. McCulley, a stylist at Shear Illusions Salon, 807 N. Argonne Road, decided to offer doll-making workshops. At one workshop, someone told her that she should really be an artist.

“That comment really opened the flood gates,” she said, and she feverishly got to work, “I had to make up for lost time.”

Working with pastels, watercolor, oils, acrylic and mixed media, McCulley creates fanciful garden dwellers, animals found in the savannah or on a farm, frogs frolicking in martini glasses, or an updated “Mona Lisa.” Her work screams “come play with me” as she manages to put her own social and gleeful nature into each piece. Creating art has become her identity and her way of reaching out to others. She hopes people will embrace her subtle messages that include “exploring great things in life, taking chances, but keeping grounded internally by staying at peace and knowing yourself” as she writes on her website in the description of “Inward Bound,” a painting of a tree frog.

For the past couple of years, McCulley has organized art events and exhibited her work at wineries and other venues where people not only view her work but socialize, something that McCulley loves to do. She has reproduced her original paintings on posters, coasters, greeting cards and giclees. One of her paintings became a wine label for Bridge Press Cellars’ 2011 Pinot Blanc.

“Creating art is challenging and gratifying for me,” she said. “It sustains me and I love sharing it and inspiring others to be creative.” 



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