Artist Statement

After a flirtation with abstraction, then mystical surrealism, and even the rather Teutonic theme of death and the maiden, while I was in art school, I had some experiences after I'd graduated which led me to more deeply explore love and loss. I even bought myself a model skeleton, Fred. Eventually, I gave in to the other popular imagery I had long resisted: birds (see below). Recently, our global climate crisis pulled me back to the here and now...somewhat. But preoccupations with nature, love, and death have all remained present throughout most of my work.

About the Garden Variety series:

While I was helping my mum-in-law tidy up her London flat, I was arrested by several photographsof birds, featured in a section of newspaper in the recycling bin. Somewhat absurdly, I felt I had to save these stunning beauties: I tore out the pages and brought them back home, compelled to paint them all. Next were a variety of bees, then a pair of cardinals, a few caterpillars, butterflies, a mouse (or maybe it's a baby rat?), plus a dragonfly. The backgrounds of each painting depict hints at potential or actual loss of habitat: a ghostly image of a branch, a nest, a cavity in a tree, a honeycombed hive, an abandoned bird house. The added decorative papers suggest the domesticity of wallpaper, or perhaps the gesture of a wrapped gift; elements of the human. Bits of gold leaf evoke its ancient use in sacred icons, striving to elevate the image beyond the ordinary.

My photographic skills being inadequate, I asked permission from photographers to use their images of various creatures as my models. Most were kindly obliging, asking only that I be sure to give them a photo credit, which I have gladly done. With coinciding concerns about global threats to bees and other pollinators, my Garden Variety series evolved into deeper meditations on the nature around us and our global responsibility to protect as much of it as we possibly can.

Using such photographs for reference, I paint my subjects in oils with pen and ink and colored pencils atop a background of encaustic wax, which I first build up in many layers on custom wood panels. Scraps of wallpaper, origami paper, decorative papers, feathers, other found objects, and/or torn bits of gold leaf are incorporated to evoke such dreamlike, fantastical, yet largely invisible activities as I can imagine during the creative process.

Read my artist statement on ArtSpan's website.

Deep appreciation to anyone who can provide photography credits for any of the non-credited images I have painted!

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A more personal statement on the Celtic series from the archives:

(2000) Deborah Howard-Page
B.F.A., 1993, San Francisco Art Institute

I find myself researching and contemplating the roles that nature has played in ancient mythologies, and how we all yearn for connection to nature. Through such studies, and often while listening to music, I'm motivated to make art.

The wax encaustic mixed media works combine pigmented beeswax, oil paint, colored pencils, pen and ink, found objects (bones, leaves, insect wings), and/or pastels, on wood panel supports. Often I make a sketch or study, particularly for figurative and portrait work, but the rest comes into being through process. At times an element of chance will lead me in a direction quite different than what I had originally intended. This is both terrifying and exciting.

I delved into the nature muse by reading The White Goddess by Robert Graves. Here's that story:

In the 1970's I had given the book to my father, John Howard (a former Hollywood actor who later became a Waldorf high school English/drama teacher).  Around this time our family would gather every week, filled with anticipation, to watch every single episode of the British production of Graves' "I, Claudius" together, when it first aired on public television in Los Angeles. 

At the time I'd given the book to my dad I had no interest in reading it myself. But after he died I pulled it off his bookshelf, suddenly curious: he'd bookmarked over fifty pages with paper-clips! As I began to explore his odd bookmarks I got hooked. And the next thing I knew I was spellbound.

The Sacred Grove Series started with photographs I took of certain trees and Celtic ruins during travels in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England. Like my Celtic Knot paintings, it centers upon the symbolism of ancient Celtic tree-worship, invoking the spirit of Taliesin, the Sacred Grove, the "roebuck in the thicket." Urania, Brizo of Delos got its title from The White Goddess.

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With all due respect, the practices or results of nature-magick, or Wicca, do not attract me; I am satisfied with a certain amount of mystery in my life! But a recognition of my Celtic ancestry began earlier for me, at age ten, when I first switched on FM radio, surfing stations until I was captivated by the voice of Tommy Makem as he was singing live with the Clancy Brothers, performing The Wind That Shakes The Barley and The Connemara Lullaby. Both songs, so heartbreakingly wistful and melancholic, seemed to call up a deep sense of familiarity in my blood.  (Also read S Page's music comments.)

Robert McNamara writes, "Suantrai is the Gaelic word for lullaby...[such a] beautiful melody can be heard in a recording by the Irish a capella group, "Anuna." Their name derives from the Gaelic "An Uaithne", which is the collective name of the three ancient types of Irish music: Suantrai (lullaby), Geantrai (happy song), and Goltrai (lament)."


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