Being an artist, for Debra A. Collins, has been a journey of discovery.
It all began in Debra’s childhood doctor’s office. Her physician hung oil paintings in all the examining rooms. In one room hung a painting of ugly little boy peeling an orange. It became the center of discussion between her and her mother. They imagined all kinds of stories about the boy. The office gossip was that a patient had given it to the doctor, but he would not answer any questions about it. Debra learned early that pictures have power to tell stories and grab hold of people.
In middle school Debra discovered the magic of creation. Mrs. Irish, her art teacher, could make amazing life-like watercolor paintings. With a few brushstrokes a thistles appeared on paper. This was a magic skill that Debra wanted to be able to do. It was then that she decided to become an art teacher. The concept of becoming an artist was way beyond her sight. In her sphere there were no other role models of artists accept her art teachers.
So off she went to Chabot College and California State University, East Bay to become a teacher. She worked with artists Clayton Bailey, Mel Ramos, Neil Studley and Helen Fyler-Switz. These very different artists each gave her “accents” to add to her visual voice. At these colleges she tried out every media class these institutions offered. It was a great strategy for becoming a teacher. It also fueled her fascination with manipulating media, pushing as it as far as she could..
For 36 years, Debra worked in the New Haven School District in Union City, California. Across that time she took on various responsibilities. Her greatest joy was teaching Advanced Placement Art, drawing and digital media. Her responsibilities went beyond the classroom too. She offered in-service training to the staff. For an extend period she was the school’s web master and department head. During her teaching career, Debra tried to keep exploring her own art. Her commitment to her students, though, was her focus.
Retired from teaching, Debra is now pursuing her own art. Yet, the past explorations in media continue to influence her work. Her muse pulls her down a path then jumps to another byway. Her artistic voice changes by the terrain she is exploring. Currently, she has been creating work that is about the stewardship of the earth. She has been showing work of this theme in local galleries and varied online sites. In 2020 she received two great honors. She won a commission from the Bay Ecotarium and Aquarium of the Bay to adorn a fiber-glass sculpture of a sea lion. Her work and that of 29 other artist will be on display around the Embarcadero area of San Francisco. Also, her piece A Prayer For The Greening will be on display at the De Young Museum of San Francisco in its’ The De Young Open show.
Her journey has taken her far.