Illuminating the Good: A Wildlife Painter Captures the Magic
Illuminating the Good: Debbie Edgers Sturges ~ Fearless. Nature Lover. Adventurer. Wildlife Painter.
“Man has been endowed with reason and with the power to create so he can add to what he’s been given. But up to now he hasn’t been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wildlife’s become extinct, the climate’s ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day…” Anton Chekhov
One of the special joys of blogging is that you get to connect with lots of awesome people. In April 2009, I interviewed a cartoonist which initiated the idea of doing more interviews; perhaps a series. I let the idea sit for a while and then in November 2009, I decided to work on a series of get-to-know-you interviews. The goal was to delve into my social media connections, share insights and stories from some of the beautiful and brilliant people I have met, and put a real face to the person behind the web page, blog image or twitter post we see.
An important part of the plan was that I would ask the same set of questions, of these remarkable people; men and women who share their creative talents and gift of communication by joining the social media community and conversation – each in his/her own unique way. The process has been exhilarating and I am continuing the series with another fantastic interviewee. Today, we meet Debbie Edgers Sturges, a compassionate and fearless Nature Lover, Adventurer and Wildlife Painter.
“The stories I tell in paint and words bring my animals and landscapes to adults and children and in doing so I hope to inspire others to examine, with new curiosity, all that surrounds us in the natural world”. Debbie Edgers Sturges
I met Debbie on Twitter and was struck not only by her beautiful twitter background picture of white polar bears, but also by her generous spirit. Every time someone complimented her work or followed her on twitter, she would publicly thank them. I responded to her warm welcome by visiting her website and quickly found out she was an accomplished artist, world traveler and keen photographer. She photographs her animal subjects and then paints them.
Debbie’s paintings have a wonderful LeRoy Neiman quality to them yet they also have a unique aesthetic; a compassionate spirit that shows through her work. She captures the beauty and sensitivity of each animal with her lens and paintbrush and is highly regarded in her community of wildlife, nature loving artists/adventurers. Debbie is currently showcasing some of her work at GalleriesWest in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She will also be exhibiting some of her work in a booth at the “Celebration of Fine Art” event from January 16 – March 28, 2010, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Grab a chair, relax and enjoy Debbie’s interview and artistic contributions.
“The quicker we humans learn that saving open space and wildlife is critical to our welfare and quality of life, maybe we’ll start thinking of doing something about it.” Jim Fowler
This is my favorite painting of a black bear that I just finished a couple of days ago! I photographed him last August in Ely Minnesota while attending a black bear class with black bear expert Lynn Rogers!
Tell us a bit on your background: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I am a wildlife painter living in a log cabin in the Rocky Mountains with my husband, a blue healer, a cat and a turtle. We share our back yard with many birds, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, foxes, bear, deer, elk and an occasional cougar.
I have been painting for 40 years and have my masters in fine arts from the “School of the Museum of Fine Arts” and Tufts University. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and moved to Idaho in the early 70s to ski and live in the mountains. I wanted to live in a place where I could walk out my door and into the woods to be alone and smell the pines.
What do you do for a living? Why did you choose the path you now follow?
I am a wildlife painter. I have put together my love of animals and the outdoors with my need to paint. I have always been artistic. When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a vet so I could be close to animals. I used to sit in a field all day to watch and catch crickets and lizards, or go down to the beach at low tide and collect marine life in a jar and watch them until I let them go at high tide.
About ten years ago, when I began to only paint wildlife, I had a vision of a patron buying and hanging one of my large canvases in his home and, in doing so, he was touched and changed to become an advocate for our wilderness and wildlife. By putting the power of the animals into my work, I hope to influence the minds of those in power! I know that sounds like a lofty idea, but we are meant to aim high; we must aim high. This is actually the first time I have said this out loud!
“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it?” Richard Dawkins.
I searched for 7 years to find a bull moose to get some good photographs of. I found this bull moose on the 20th of September just out of Jackson Hole.
When did you decide to make key changes in your life?
I was always on this path. Changes came when I found out that with hard work, I could paint and sell. I’m a painter and my love of nature is transparent in every painting I paint. I guess this has all slowly come about within the past 40 years that I have been painting. As I get older, I feel an urgency to get it all out on my canvas and to do my part with what talent I have.
Share your world view: How do you live your life and manage your household?
I want to illuminate the good in the world because I feel the more we see the good, the more we make room for it. It just feels right and that’s the way it should be! That’s the way I see it. I want to be around people who are making a difference in our world. I have had the privilege to meet and get to know some of the unbelievable individuals making a difference in wildlife conservation.
In the last few years, I started to take charge of my life and no longer wait to be chosen for an award or grant. I work hard day and night to make the best paintings that I can so I can afford to go on a wildlife photography trip. My husband and I are going back to Kenya and on to Rwanda to photograph the gorillas. I want everyone to see the faces of these animals because they are so important to our world. I want to paint animals that need our attention or that are feared by men. What is feared or not known? Mankind often destroys nature!
What motivates you to get out of bed?
I am motivated to get out of bed by the thought of being in the wilderness, close to the animals I love. I am motivated to get up to my studio, to see if my canvas has the light and life I’m trying to put into my work. I treasure packing up my car and camera to take on a trip out into the wilderness; to be close to the wildlife I love. My favorite animals are bears but, last June, my husband and I went to East Africa for the first time and I found myself in love with the big cats, elephants, jackals, hyenas and zebras. The birds were spectacular in color and size! My love of wildlife is expanding…
“I think my path would have always gone back to or delivered me to wildlife. I think wildlife is just like a magnet, and it’s something that I can’t ignore.” Steve Irwin
What makes you happy/laugh?
My husband and friends make me happy and laugh! We get together and paint, ski, hike, or travel. We really do get out into nature or share a good meal and have a good time! The baby raccoons in our backyard make me laugh when they tug on my pant leg or roll a rock around the back deck! I love to laugh!
What makes you sad/mad?
I’m really sad when I read or I am told about animals being killed or mistreated. I can’t understand the minds of people that think animals, whether they are wild or domesticated pets, are an inconvenience or threat to them. From all my travels to Katmai National Park, Alaska, Churchill, Manitoba, Yellowstone National Park, and to Kenya, I find wildlife have simple needs. They just want to be left alone to live their lives. I’m not saying that they don’t struggle, but from what I have observed in my travels, their biggest threat is us.
What would you do differently with your life if you had the power? With the world if you had the choice?
If I had the power, I would change the hearts of people to accept that our wilderness and animals should be respected and protected! They would be respected for having a place in this world; a place that is as important as our own! We have truly lost our connection to nature and nature is us! I believe that without our bond with nature and animals, we lose our happiness and sanity! To me, being in nature fills my soul to the top and makes my life worth living!
“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.” Linda Hogan
I finished this painting of this red fox last week! I love to paint fox! They come to our back door! Beautiful!
What guiding principle(s) do you follow to make your life meaningful?
I work hard to paint the best work I’m able to produce! I try to make the people I come in contact feel comfortable with the ideas of preserving and sharing our wilderness with all the wildlife that live there.
What word(s) of advice would you give to others today?
I think that a life lived to it’s fullest is one that has a purpose; a purpose for good. Leave your little corner of the world in better shape then you found it. Give with an open hand, because you cannot receive with a closed fist. I’m saying this because I used to live my life scared and holding on to everything. I married a man that taught me to give. I didn’t always want to give my last $10 to a kid selling Christmas wreaths or raffle tickets but now I know that I have been blessed to be married to a man that gave away our last $10 in the early lean years!
“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.” Claude Monet
This is the painting of the zebras! I just finished! Loved the zebras in Kenya! Our Maasai guide teased me about how I made him stop to take yet another shot!
How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as a woman that was unafraid to make life better for herself, her family, friends and all the animals that share her world. She painted moving and important wildlife paintings that made a difference in the way people thought about the importance and significance of our wilderness and the animals that make their home there. I want my paintings to help change how we treat and respect all living creatures and in turn how we treat one another.
This family of black bears visited our yard for a couple of weeks last month! They are snug in their den…winter has arrived in the Rockies!
This October, a sow and two black bear cubs visited our yard every night to eat the crab apples off our trees. The two black bear cubs rolled and slid across the front yard in the falling snow! The sow and two cubs later bedded down in our front yard and I woke up in the middle of the night and looked up from my pillow to see them out the bedroom window and, at that moment, I felt all was right in the world and I went back to sleep feeling safe and happy! That’s what happiness is!
Debbie Edgers Sturges lives with her husband in a log cabin in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Idaho. She is surrounded by nature and loves spending time observing and painting all the beautiful wildlife that find their way to her home. She has a terrific website with more artwork for your viewing pleasure. You may also connect with Debbie on Twitter at this link @Debbiespaintbox
What are your views on Wildlife Conservation? What are your views on Debbie’s work and story? Enjoy the piece and share your feedback with us. Thank You!
All Paintings and Photographs shared by Debbie Edgers Sturges, SAA
Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©