Hi! I’m Debbie, an artist, illustrator, and surface designer living with my husband, Randy, and a pack of furry friends on a wooded hilltop in Oklahoma. My influences range from Monet and Matisse to Lilly Pulitzer, but nothing inspires me quite as much as simply taking in the wonders of nature right outside my own front door. Bursting with flowers, color, and a dash of whimsy, my art is how I put light and cheer out into the world.
My art (and my heart!) is rooted in a desire to connect and share joy. Making connections is just what I do. My family often jokes about how I can meet someone standing in line at the grocery store and know their life story within five minutes, so now it’s my turn to tell you my life story!
I’ve been drawing my entire life. We had a craft table in our den where my mom encouraged my creativity and the messes that often came along with it. A business making and selling candles in Junior High was the first of many entrepreneurial ventures that showcased my art. A few years later, I enrolled at the University of Oklahoma as a Fashion Illustration major, but I felt adrift in the crowd. I lost confidence in my art and decided to take the “safe” route that would lead to a reliable income. I switched my major to Accounting, got my CPA, married my college sweetheart, and entered the corporate world.
Fast forward a few years. I was 32 and had two boys, an almost four year old and a six-week-old baby, when I found a small lump in my neck. After a few weeks of appointments and tests, the doctor called me and said: “You have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but it’s one of the best kinds of cancer.” It didn’t feel like that in the moment. I couldn’t believe that there was a “best” cancer to have, but after speaking to many more doctors and survivors, I adopted a positive attitude. Treatment wasn’t so scary when I looked at it as just something I needed to do to get better.
Of course, between treatment and raising two boys, art wasn’t a priority. But ten years later, the boys were a little older, and I was itching to create. I never wanted cancer to define me, but it was something I had to go through to find my new beginning. Starting my business, Happy First, was my new beginning. What started as a clothing line for women, children, and yoga became a movement to inspire people to “find your passion and pursue it.” Its egg logo represented the limitless potential for growth living inside each one of us and my belief that everyone has creativity inside them that’s waiting to burst out of its shell!
By 2014, I was so wrapped up in running the business side of Happy First that my creativity was suffering. Besides that, my oldest son had gotten married, and my youngest son was off at college. Burnt out with my business and experiencing a bit of empty-nest syndrome, I started drawing again. I took art and Adobe Illustrator classes, and I gave myself the space to rediscover my creativity. I designed a few notecards and notepads, and friends and local stores started buying them through word of mouth. I even designed a book cover in 2015! I was finally becoming the artist that I’d always wanted to be, and I was eager to see where it led me.
But as I already knew all too well, life has other plans. In July 2015, we lost our younger son to suicide. Losing a child is like nothing else. The pain and grief were unimaginable. As I tried to forge a path forward, I joined support groups, talked with counselors, joined a Bible study, took yoga classes--and I drew. There were many days when I felt like drawing and yoga were the only things I could do.
Drawing and creating were my grief therapy, and I began posting more of my doodles and cheery bouquets on social media. The encouraging comments from friends and supporters were energizing. Even in one of my darkest moments, I was making new friends and connections through my art. As I watched how my work brought people joy, the light began to peek back in.
Eventually, knowing the impact that art can have when you’re at your lowest, I was inspired to illustrate and publish an adult coloring book called Happy Flowers. I hoped that adding color to the bouquets and blooms in its pages could help someone else find respite from their grief by exploring their creativity. Also around that time, I started selling my stationery, prints, and a coloring book on Etsy, and my community grew even more. Not only was I making new connections with customers, but I saw them using my designs to connect with others--whether they were sending a handwritten note on my stationery or gifting Happy Flowers to someone who needed a lift.
I’m an Enneagram 7, also known as “The Enthusiast.” I’m an artist, but beyond that, my calling is to inspire, encourage, and connect. Life is not always easy, but I’m living proof that faith and an optimistic spirit are a light during the sad and scary times. And when it’s hard to be optimistic, I believe that art has the power to heal and connect us. Whether you need healing or just a little extra cheer, I hope you find it here.