Missouri artist Debi Pickler began drawing and painting as a kindergartener, and had soon amassed quite a collection of work. She decided to stage an art show in her backyard. But before a single soul saw her creations, disaster struck.

By Peg Cameron Gill

An unexpected downpour that day did nothing to dampen Debi’s passion for art, and she knows exactly who to thank for her successful career as an artist. “My Mom was a tremendously gifted artist,” she says, remembering her mother Judy. “I remember watching her paint and draw when I was a little girl, wishing I could be that good at creating art.”

Debi could’ve dissolved in a puddle of tears at the loss of all her art. “Dad came to the rescue though, and bought the whole collection for 2 dollars,” she says. “And that was the beginning of my artistic career.”

She continued to develop her skills, becoming adept in a variety of different media such as pencil, oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, clay, wool sculpting, airbrushing, digital art, and woodworking and steadily becoming more proficient. After earning a BFA, emphasis in illustration from University of Kansas, she ventured into the world of commercial art. 

Now, after more than 20 years as a designer, she has worked for many different organizations such as universities, retail/manufacturing companies, law firms as well as a financial firm. “Sometimes I think I’d like to focus on just one media, but I just wouldn’t be happy,” she says. “It’s just how my mind works. It seems like I’m always thinking about art, about new ways to do things. I’ll have dreams about creating art and I’ll wake up at 3 a.m. with new ideas that I just have to try. My mind just never, ever stops. I call it BOF or Brain on Fire.”

Regardless of the media, there are common threads that run through nearly all of her work. Debi is obsessive about extremely fine detail and loves incorporating it into her work. “I like for people to be able to really look at my art, to spend time with it and be rewarded by finding some new, tiny detail that maybe no one else had noticed,” she says. “That drives me.” She also loves to create places and creatures no one has ever seen before. “I like the thought of people escaping reality for a moment, being still and getting lost in my artwork.”

That inspiration seems to be a constant for Debi, whose greatest attribute may well be that she sees the world as her canvas, a place full of art and the potential for new, more intriguing works of art. “I love to let my mind wander, taking my imagination wherever it wants to go.” she says. “Of course, it’s up to me to see what’s out there, dare to live outside the box, work extremely hard developing my talent and have the ability to share it with others.”

While Debi’s path has taken many twists and turns throughout her artistic life, she still looks back to where that path began, at a backyard art show in New Jersey, where a dad and his little girl turned a rain-out into a life.

View more of Debi’s work online here. You can also find her work at the Missouri Life Mercantile in Rocheport.

Meet another Missouri artist in this article.