Debra Sievers’ philosophy when painting her human portraits is to capture the spirit of her subjects — that special something that makes each of us unique. It’s from that same perspective that she paints tumultuous ocean waves in Shell Beach where she has lived for the past several years.
“I’m a portrait painter — I’ve painted people my whole life — then I moved to Shell Beach almost four years ago; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, all this turbulence — each day brought a different wave, a different color. It’s the end of this thousand-mile journey right there in front of me. I was just mesmerized and wanted to draw them. I consider these paintings portraits too.”
She spent hours drawing the waves in pen-and-ink over the course of a year before she began painting the scenes in oil on canvas.
And although she is still immersed in human portraiture, it’s Sievers’ ocean portraits that are drawing the public’s attention at Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo. She has eight oil paintings on canvas hanging there.
Sievers tells the story of one of her paintings that sold to a woman who said she was driving by Big Sky recently, noticed the canvas — Wind Palace — and was so captivated that she nearly crashed her car. She avoided mishap, found a parking spot and went inside to make her purchase.
“For me, it’s all about being able to touch someone else like that,” she said. “If there’s a feeling in the art then other people will respond to it. It’s our job as artists to let that flow through — the energy, spirit, or life. I love when my art affects people personally and has an impact on them. It’s like giving my puppy to a good home.”
That feeling she talks about started during a special session where she was painting the portrait of a young boy.
“I remember painting this little boy and looking at his eyes and trying to get the color and shape just right but there was this spark; he had such a unique personality,” she said. “That was one of the moments that I thought, ‘This is what I’m trying to get with these colors and shapes, but I need to concentrate on that feeling and it will happen.’”