She was the little girl who was certain, every year, that she would get a horse for Christmas.
That she lived in town was no obstacle to Debbie Hughbanks, who now, as a grown-up, specializes in creating wildlife, equine, and domestic animal paintings. Now also — as a grown up living in the country — she does own a horse (two, actually), and the dreams she had as a child result in artwork celebrating country living, western art, and the “cowboy lifestyle.”
“I am extremely passionate about animals,” the Loon Lake pastel, scratchboard, and acrylic painter says. “I feel that animals are an extremely important part of our existence and should be treasured and celebrated by human beings, and that is what I attempt to do through my art.”
Frequently exploring a particular theme — ranging from cowboy boots to birds and glass bottles — Hughbanks enjoys creating a series of pieces, seeking to elicit a strong emotion in connection to each image. Connecting with viewers on universal or shared emotions, Hughbanks feels, is one of two-dimensional visual art’s major strengths: nostalgia, poignancy, pathos, joy, wonder — art is capable of evoking a full range of human feelings.
A Forgotten Animal Toy, Always Remembered
“One painting I did, Long Forgotten, is part of a series based upon forgotten toys/things — it shows a toy once well loved, played with often, then left behind and forgotten as the child becomes older and moves on to more grown up toys,” Hughbanks says.
Belonging to one of her grandsons when he was a baby, the blue elephant pull toy in the painting had a smile on its face when it was brand new, “but I imagined his toy heart was breaking as he sat abandoned in the corner, so I turned his smile upside down.”
Another work, Kindred Spirits, featured a happier ending for the subject matter. Selected for the Trail of Painted Ponies three-dimensional painted horse sculpture contest, the work was eventually licensed and sold through Dillard’s Department Store and turned into a collectible figurine.
“That little pony went all over the world!” Hughbanks marvels.
Animals Traveling the World
Not only the little pony, but Hughbanks’ art portfolio travels the planet, some of the more far flung venues embracing collectors in Australia, as well as a piece selected for show at Qingdau City, China, as part of the Artists for Conservation International Exhibit. A member of numerous professional organizations, including American Women Artists, Women Artists of the West, and the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, Hughbanks is accepted into many prestigious shows each year, and in addition to painting the works, she has become an expert at packaging and mailing them.
“I am kept fairly busy shipping work to shows and collectors,” Hughbanks says. “A good box is ‘key’ to shipping successfully . . . I wrote an article, Shipping Pastel Paintings for the Faint Hearted, that addressed shipping if you don’t purchase one of the professional art shipping boxes.”
Hughbanks’ resume of awards and publications in which she has appeared is long, with Best of Show, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Honorable Mention, Juror’s, and People’s Choice Awards ranging from the Kittitas Fair Poster Award of the National Western Art Auction in Ellensburg to making the Top 40 in the Wyoming Conservation Stamp Competition in Cheyenne, WY. Her work has appeared in Wildlife Art, Western Horseman, Cowboys and Indians, Western Art Collector and Art Chowder Magazines, and was cover art on The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Crayons for Grown-ups
It’s a lot of activity generated from a former children’s bedroom turned into studio, and Hughbanks retains the enthusiasm of a child when it comes to her full-time vocation as an artist. She loves using acrylics, because they dry quickly, which is the same reason why she finds them such a challenge. And when it comes to pastels, well, they’re like crayons for grown-ups:
“I LOVE the immediacy of the medium, as well as its tactile nature. Since I do most of my pastel work with my fingers, I do become quite literally involved with every piece — very connected.
“At the end of the day, I am usually covered from top to bottom with color. But what fun!”
Horse, Wildlife, Elephant and Fun
It is fun, the dream day job that incorporates the things that mean most to her, and fulfill the yearnings of that long ago little girl who faced every Christmas morning . . . without a horse. It took awhile, but now she lives that dream come true.
“I just want to paint the subjects that I am passionate about, and in doing so, I hope my work will bring a little joy or happiness to those who view it.
“I hope my paintings make people smile or possibly remember fond memories.
“Good times — things like that.”
Debbie Hughbanks is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, January 2, 2018, through Saturday, February 10, 2018.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.