Debra Van Tuinen
Debra Van Tuinen
"My intention through my work is to create a reverence for landscapes, the earth, and consciousness that feeds me physically, emotionally, and spiritually."
Sure of her calling by the age of 6, Van Tuinen remembers telling her mom that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. Her determination led her to travel down the path of artistic interest, from childhood creation to her early adulthood in school, to the present day now that she has been a working artist for over four decades with even more years to come. Formally trained in painting and printmaking, Debra attended Byam Shaw Arts Academy in London and received her BFA at the University of Washington Seattle, before going to Japan for five months in 1977 to train under internationally renowned Japanese masters to enhance her technical skills and provide the depth of experience with which to develop her work. She now boasts a wide array of artistic mastery of medium, including painting with acrylic, oils and sumi ink on canvas, encaustic on wood panels, etchings, monotypes, and Japanese woodblock prints, all while advocating for the importance of the arts.
Landscape is the primary genre in the Van Tuinen oeuvre as it is the natural world that drives her inspiration. Debra has travelled down the west coast of the United States, venturing east through Washington to Idaho, and going overseas to Monet’s gardens in Giverny and the Fijian islands in the Pacific, all in search of the scenes that draw out her creativity. Nature is translated onto the canvas into vibrant impressions of color, texture and memory. Her abstracted style shows the heavy influence of her American predecessors, the Abstract Expressionists, particularly that of Mark Rothko. The gestural strokes of the brush, from the first layer to the final are all an evocation of emotion and thought, a reflection of her mind in the painting of each piece. The final products, for those lucky enough to view Debra’s paintings in person, are dynamic objects of wonder that allow us to insert ourselves into the canvas with our own personal memories. Debra’s entire life is intrinsically tied to her art, and it is that personal vulnerability that allows her work to connect with so many people.
Currently, Debra is a resident of Olympia, Washington, where she remains a central figure in the local art scene. She remains active in the city as an advocate for the importance of the arts. In the past, Debra had mentored students and has taught at multiple colleges, encouraging future artists to pursue their passions as she once did. As a mentor, Debra had previously offered invaluable workshops teaching the ancient technique of wax encaustic to other visual artists to spread more art into her community and into the world. In her own artistic ventures, she has been awarded graciously; having been invited to participate in the Florence Biennale in 2004 and included in 100 Artists of the Northwest as a representative of the region, among a host of other honours. Debra Van Tuinen has partaken in numerous solo and group exhibitions in her decades long career, and her work can be found in public and private collections worldwide.