female artist Deborah Shapiro

I created this page specifically for students who are writing a report about me for their class project.  About once a month, I receive an email from students elementary age to college age, asking for an interview with a list of questions for me to answer.  If this is you, I hope you will find your answers here, feel free to email me if not.  For those of you who are not students, perhaps you'll enjoy reading what I'm asked.  And for a point of reference, I left the questions as they were written.    


Where do you get your inspiration from?

I'm inspired by the everyday items and the situations in my life.  Beauty is everywhere, you just have to see it.

How do you make your art?
I first come up with what I want to make, then create a drawing, mostly just an outline, figure out a color scheme and then search for colors in magazines.  At that point, it becomes like a jigsaw puzzle putting it together.

What do you use to make your art?

Besides magazines, I use a stretched canvas, acrylic medium as the glue and finish, plus a couple layers of varnish.

What inspires your art?

I'm inspired by what I encounter in my life.  I like to garden, I have two dogs, two cats and fish.  I love to hike, hang out with my friends and of course make art and look at art.  So, you will find I make lots of animals and still life collages of coffee, musical instruments and flowers.  I really enjoy creating my leg series because each one has a story to it.

What influenced you to create pieces of art based on musical instruments ? 

I work on subjects that are a part of my life because they have meaning to me which makes me enjoy creating the collage even more.  Music is a part of my life. My husband is musician and he plays bass, plus we have a lot of musician friends.  When they come over the house, I will often take photos of their instruments so I have a reference for future collages.  I used to play piano myself, but it's been years and I'm pretty bad at it.  I still have the piano, which is horribly out of tune.  

How did you collect the pieces of paper of the collage, for example magazines, newspapers, your own photos, etc?

I use mostly magazines, but I will occasionally work with a photo or words specific to the collage that I will print up on glossy paper and use in the collage.  I do that with commission pieces, so there are more personal items for the person to search for in their collage.  I have stacks and stacks of magazines.  I will spend a few hours going through magazines searching for colors, which I rip out and separate into piles.  When I work on a collage, I usually work with one color at a time, otherwise it's too hard to stay organized and difficult to find that great piece I thought I had somewhere.

What is the purpose of your art?  

Hmm, a tough one to answer.  First, as any artist, I just enjoy creating art, which I suppose is a selfish reason for the purpose.  I also like to create art that makes people wonder by making everyday objects and animals a little more interesting through my technique.  I find it especially rewarding when people find a personal connection to a piece.  

Did you create your musical collages for an exhibition or for part of a particular event?

No, I did not.  I made them because I wanted to and for the challenge of doing something that had fine details like the strings and frets. Its tough to cut those out of magazines without ripping the paper. I do try to make several collages on the same subject for a series.  I plan on adding to my musical instruments over time.

Why are animals important in your life?
Growing up, I never had any pets because my father felt animals belonged on a farm, but I was always enchanted by them.  Once on my own, I got myself a fish tank and a cat.  I've had pets ever since.  I feel that all living creatures are connected.  If one species becomes endangered, or goes extinct, it has a domino effect on many other animals, humans included.  Today, my husband and I do not have children, but we do have two dogs, two cats and tropical fish and support our local humane shelter and other animal welfare causes.


Do your pieces portray messages or symbolize anything?
My animal collages reflect the love and compassion I have for animals.  Sometimes, I'll incorporate an article or words that relate to that animal.  For instance, one of a cat's face, I have bits of an article on feral cats in the white parts.  My collages in my legs series each have their own story with a number of symbolic images.  If you are interested, you can read about one I did on our recent election.
How did you get into/develop the collage medium?
My mother gave me a bunch of magazines to look at as I was recovering from a double jaw surgery.  I kept noticing all the colors and thought I could use that as paint.  I did my first collage and became addicted.  I studied what other collage artists were doing by reading everything I could find and then experimented with their different techniques.  I eventually settled into my style.
Which was your first break-through piece?
I don't think I've made it yet.  There is always room for improvement.


Where do you get your magazines?

My mother is a big source for my magazine collection.  I do have a couple subscriptions to fashion magazines, but most come from my mother, friends, and neighbors.

Do you need more magazines?

No.  I have so many now that it will be a while before I need more.

What are your favorite magazines?

I like ones that have a good quality, heavy paper.  Unfortunately, many magazines are getting thinner and going digital, so a good quality is harder to find.  If the paper is too thin, you can see through it.  I like a variety of magazines like fashion, architecture, and food.  Corporations annual reports usually have good paper too.

Deborah Shapiro please come hier in swis.  
Can you spic deutsch?
(Note from teacher: D.S. please come to Switzerland.
Can you speak German?

I would love to come to Switzerland.  My mother took a vacation there last year and from her photos, it looks beautiful.  That would be a big trip for me, so maybe some year, but I don’t have plans to do so right now.

No, I don’t speak German.  My heritage is German and my Grandparents moved from Germany to the United States in the 1920s.  My father spoke German, but I never picked it up.

How many paintings have you made?

I keep track of every collage I make with a number on the back.  I’m currently over 100.

Have you ever painted?

Before I took making art seriously, I had made a couple oil and acrylic paintings over the years.  Neither really clicked with me like working with paper.

Have you always been interested in art throughout your life?

I had been making art before I was in Kindergarten.  In High School, I had several art classes and received an art scholarship to my local state university.  Back then, in the 80's, I didn't think there was much of a future as a fine artist, so I became a videographer for corporations making marketing videos.  I did that until my jaw surgery in 2013.  Between 1981 and 2013, I made a total of only 8 or 9 pieces of art.  


Did you ever paint with a child? / When did you start to paint? 

I have not painted with a child.  Maybe you mean did I paint as a child?  Then yes.  I was making lots of art before I was in Kindergarten.  I still have lots of my art from back then that my mother had kept.

Did you also paint objects?

Yes.  I’ve made collages of musical instruments, coffee cups, flowers and wine glasses.

How did you have the idea to paint with newspaper?

I paint with magazines.  I tried one with newspaper once, which was a collage of a coffee cup. I was afraid it would yellow over time.  Someone bought it and tells me it still is holding up.  As for the magazines, my mother gave me magazines as I was recovering from my jaw surgery and I thought they looked colorful.  I decided to play around with them as if they were paint and started to create collages.

I really like your paintings; you are a role model for me. Your artwork is beautiful! 

Thank you.  I hope you are inspired to make lots of art.

Which is your favorite painting/who is your favorite artist?

I can only pick one?  Well, my favorite artist is Salvador Dali.  He originally had a museum in Cleveland, where I’m from, and I saw it when I was in 8th grade.  I’ve been a fan every since.  There is a museum now in Florida that I visited this past summer.   Two of his paintings that I am fascinated by are:

“The Hallucinogenic Toreador”  because its a double image.  If you look at it one way, it’s several Venus deMilo statues.  If you squint, its a face of a bullfighter.  

“Lincoln in Dalivision”  which is a painting of U.S. President Lincoln.  You can only see Lincoln’s face from a distance.  I have no idea how he was able to do that!

Has any movement or other artists' influenced your own work?
When I was 14, my art class took a field trip to the Salvador Dali Museum, which was in my home town at the time.  I remember walking down an isle of some of his early works that were paintings of fish on a dinner plate and thinking it was good, but I didn't know what the big deal was about.  Then the tour guide took us over to his large painting, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, and explained how you can see two different painting in it.  I was blown away.  I couldn't imagine how someone could create two different paintings on one canvas.  I was a fan of his works ever since.  While I don't make surreal art, my works do have small images from the magazines within the larger subject.  I feel it's a nod to that experience I had at the Dali Museum years ago.


How are your dogs called? Your dogs are really sweet.

Riley is they yellow dog and is 10 years old.  We also adopted a Rough Collie, Dakota who less than a year old.  She's keeping us very busy.  She also likes to chew my magazine collection.

Did you study art?

No, I’m self taught.  I couldn’t afford to go to art school when I graduated so I learned on my own.  Although, I did take lots of art classes in high school.

How can you do such art? Did you learn this somewhere? Because I really like it!

Thank you.  I just started to do it on my own.  I eventually looked online to see other artists work and I would study what I saw.  It takes a lot of practice.  I made 15 collages before I was happy with what I did.

Do you like children?

I love children.  While I don’t have any of my own because I didn’t get married until I was 40, I do have three nieces and nephews.  One of my nephews has two children under the age of 5.  They are just adorable.

Where have you been? (countries)

I’ve traveled mostly in the U.S. and love Alaska.  I did take a cruise once that went to Mexico, Honduras and Belize.  I’ve also been to Canada a few times, mostly because it’s close for me.

Is Deborah Shapiro your real name?

Yes, it is my married name. 

Did you always wish to become an artist?

No, I didn’t really think of doing it for a living until the last five years.  I did toy with being an artist when I was in high school, but that was back in the 80's.  I wasn't sure I could make a living as a fine artist so I became a videographer working for corporations.  I did that until I had my jaw surgery in 2013.  I still take on a video gig now and then, but I prefer making art.

Are you fine after your jaw surgery?

I’m doing great.  Thanks for asking.

How old are you Deborah Shapiro? Your pictures are beautiful!

Thank you, I’m 55 years old. (This one came from an elementary school, I was tickled by the question)