3DValley Featured 2D Artist interview of May 2009 – Deborah Valentine. Deborah is an artist from the US. She has been interested in art from a very young age and studied at the California College of Art. She has worked many years as a tattoo artist and is well known on the internet for her contribution to many ExquisiteCorpses and her managing the TheExquisiteCorpse club on DeviantART. Her favorite tool is still the pencil although she do use photoshop to prepare her work for posting it online. Please get to know Deborah and her work a bit better by reading our interview with her below.
Deborah: I have recently been let go from my job as a tattoo artist, so now, I’m looking for work. Before being dismissed I would be on my way to work. I am a 54 year old woman, still trying to find my way in this new phase in my life.
Christa: Which software packages and/or traditional materials do you use for your artwork?
Deborah: Photoshop is what I do to make my traditional artwork ready for posting online. I use draftsman’s tools, lead holder and leads3B and 6 B on 100% cotton paper (if you can find that anymore).They aren’t the same as the tiny HB leads in mechanical pencils. The leads I use are greasier and richer in blackness.
Christa: Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Deborah: Age 4. I had just drawn a juggler, out of the blue. He had a cone-shaped had and buttons down the front of him. He had objects in the air, all different shapes. My mom made such a fuss about it that when she wasn’t looking; I took the drawing and put it in the trash.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Deborah: I started taking art classes in public schools in Los Angeles. At the time (1966) I had started Jr. High or what some places call “middle school”. I had started drawing in class out of boredom. I found I could learn better if I were drawing while listening to the lectures. I went on to high school and took drawing as an elective and continued to university, California College of arts and crafts; now called California College of art.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Deborah: I start with a blank page, draw an eye and work clockwise around the page in a sort of spiral. From most of my work you wouldn’t be able to tell that I had that process.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so why?
Deborah: My piece, “the ant queen and her lover play with chaos” is my all time favorite. I gave it to my niece who decided she hated it, and put it in storage, breaking the frame and the glass. Jon Beinart bought it for a song at the time I was just too upset to care anymore but felt satisfied that it is in the hands of a good collector.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work/ style?
Deborah: In the early 60’s when I was 8 my mom subscribed to Avant Garde magazine. In those pages I found Ernst Fuchs, George Tooker, Mati Klarwein, Richard Lindner, and many other surreal and pop artists. That was my 1st spark of glee; I was fascinated with these images. I now have the full set of these magazines.
Christa: When and how did you become interested in surrealism?
Deborah: After pouring over the avant-garde magazines. And… my mom showed me Salvador Dali.
Christa: You use a lot of symbols in your work. Can you tell us one of the stories behind your drawings?
Deborah: I am fascinated with Hindu and Buddhist themes. They seem to be the opposite of Christianity, which to me is the source of all destruction in the world, whereas Buddhism respects life and nurtures the earth. Christianity states that it has dominion over all the animals, a grave disrespect of that life. I think that the world and the universe are much more beautiful if a cosmic natural progression of elements occurred than some puppet master in the sky seemingly made it all.
Christa: Besides a great artist you’re also a very talented tattoo artist. You own your tattoo shop trilobite tattoo in California for almost 20 years! What is your favorite style of tattooing?
Deborah: Actually I own my business, but not the shops I have worked in. I have managed tattoo shops, but all tattoo artists are independent contractors, free to work at will, set our own hours etc. My favorite style of tattooing has to be the bio-mechanical, but it is very tedious work.
Christa: Is there anything you would have done differently during your career so far and could this be an advice to others?
Deborah: I should have stayed in the video duplication factory instead of accepting my tattoo apprenticeship. The company where I was working were sending me to BAVC bay area video coalition. If I had stayed, been a video engineer I may have gone on to work at Lucas Film, where most of the people went, when they left that job.
I have little or no advice to people looking for work, just investigate the options and make an educated choice.
Christa: Being self employed, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of work?
Deborah: Well you can get let go at any time, but also you can travel to many places and work. I have worked in Amsterdam and Prague, as well as many places in the USA.
Christa: What was your first break in the business?
Deborah: I asked to be an artist; my personal artwork was already regarded highly, so I was a shoe in for the tattoo biz.
Christa: What is your advice for choosing the “right” tattoo?
Deborah: Follow your heart, don’t be impulsive, design your own or find a really great artist.
Christa: As a tattoo artist people are your canvas. What is your biggest challenge working with people?
Deborah: Mediocre ideas, names baby feet, people want what they see other people getting, and so you have all these generations of the same crap. Things ripping from the skin etc…
Christa: What would be your dream assignment?
Deborah: To take classes at the Ernst Fuchs studio and to be able to draw and paint all day.
Christa: You have a gallery of your work on DeviantArt and besides your own profile there you also manage the TheExquisiteCorpse club. Can you explain how those online profiles have helped you to promote your own work?
Deborah: Well the many artists in the club collaborate with each other. They spread their own word and through collaborating, there is a chain reaction of sorts. BUT…. unless people search me out, I am invisible, except to other artists on Deviant Art. To get your work out there, go to art sites in your area, like fecal face, which is a site for all the “underground” galleries in the SF bay area. Visit galleries and be a member, ask to show everywhere you can, even coffee houses or law offices. Whatever you can find.
Christa: Are there any other art or tattoo related sites you visit regularly?
Deborah: Well at this point I don’t really care much about tattoos. I appreciate other people’s tattoo work, but like anything, tattooing is saturated to the gills with brilliant artists. I am ensured. Let them all do that. I really just want to focus on drawing and painting. I am sick of the drama in the tattoo industry and the boys club of “cool people”. I’m so over it. I dislike politics in general, don’t get me wrong, I have good friends in the biz, but really every tattoo is a collaboration that walks away forever. I like being by myself when I create, to make something of my own doing.
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Deborah: My peace of mind.
Christa: What do you do when you’re not working or creating something?
Deborah: Having sex and sushi.