Sometimes when you meet a person for the first time, there is an immediate connection. When introduced to Deborah Reid, I had the feeling of meeting a like-minded artist who is passionate about the work she does as a lawyer and her activist work as an artist. What a great combination of talent and intelligence.
Deborah Reid is an accomplished artist and an AV rated attorney with over 36 years experience. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and providing support to other creatives. She is a seasoned federal practitioner and is admitted to the bars of Florida, California, New York and New Jersey. Deborah is the author and presenter of Law: Artfully Explained Seminars which include Copyright or Wrong?, That’s (not) Fair, Contracts for Creatives and Art Speaks!. The seminars translate legal concepts into images and educate artists on areas of the law that impact their careers.
She is also passionate about our need to Vote, and much of her art, in the moment, is focused on reminding individuals of their responsibility. I asked Deborah to tell us about her life as an activist and artist.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I am a lifelong painter, print-maker, and occasional installation artist. My current body of work is largely illustrative with a pop art sensibility. I work in chalk paint for color saturation and add water-based oil for nuance. I sometimes use architectural salvage as a canvas. I like to print on related text from newspapers and pages of old books. I often create work that is not only visually pleasing but also conveys a message.
I believe that artists can shed light on issues that are tempting to tune out in other media. We don’t have to lecture; we can illustrate.
Has your art changed over time? Where are you now in your creative process?
My work and my creative process have changed. My process is more relaxed and playful. The work reflects that change. I usually have a direction rather than a destination in mind. I am not a perfectionist in my artistic endeavors. My work has become more political and message-driven. Several years ago, I made a choice to turn away from landscapes and flowers. I have something to say.
I am encouraged by artist/activist Ai Wei Wei’s direction to “Respect yourself and speak for others. Do one small thing every day to prove the existence of justice.” I can manage that.
Did you grow up in an artistic family?
Yes. I come from a long line of stitchers on my mother’s side. My great-grandfather created intricate, free-form embroidery from metallic brocade threads collected from the silk mills where he worked. My mother, grandmother, and aunt were always sewing, embroidering, or crafting something. Although they did not define themselves as artists, they taught me a lot about color and composition.
I used to paint in the basement with my father when I was a kid. Art kept us connected over the years. My father had Alzheimer’s, and we lived far apart. He sent me watercolor mandalas that he painted. I sent him pictures of my paintings. Art allowed us to communicate when my father could not find his words.
How did you satisfy your creative nature while working full time?
During the first part of my legal career, I worked long hours, and my creative nature was not well nourished, although it usually rose to the surface. I once bought a wardrobe of very tailored conservative business clothes, which I wore with royal blue tights and red boots. I also managed to do a few art projects a year. I made a lot of baby quilts and did some watercolors.
What creative work did you love doing the most, and why?
I love to paint. I have painted all my life and am very comfortable with the medium. I like to play with colors, shapes, and messages. I enjoy translating intellectual concepts into images and combining my two skill sets. Things get juicy in the overlap.
My most recent works focus on the right to vote, our most fundamental right. I have created complicated pieces examining structural disenfranchisement and simple pieces celebrating the right to vote.
How do you share your art today with others?
I see most of my work as part of a conversation. I like to share it with others and hear what they see in it. Earlier this year, I did a linoleum cut of the word VOTE. I have printed VOTE on newspaper pages with bright graphics hundreds of times. I have printed them in every color but red or blue for a fresh take. I hope to cheerfully encourage others to exercise their franchise.
I have hung the VOTE prints with clothespins on a rope in public areas and invited people to help themselves. I have photographed them, posted them on walls and social media, and will continue to do so.
Feel free to post and repost the VOTE images in this piece and VOTE!
What intrigues you the most about the creative process?
I am awed by the power of visual art. Think of how Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother or 1972’s Blue Marble from NASA shaped the way we collectively see ourselves and the world. I am currently thinking about and researching what creativity actually is for a book I am writing on copyright law and visual art. I am intrigued by how difficult it is to define many concepts we talk about freely. For example, what is an idea?
Looking back, would you have lived your life differently?
What would you say today to your younger self?
What would you say to young artists coming up in the world?
Art has saved my life and sanity on more than one occasion. Don’t lose what you love about doing art.
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