In the striking wildlife paintings of Colorado-based artist Debra Sindt, the first thing you will notice is the eyes. There, a compelling sense of the animal's individual personality and emotion is powerfully expressed. Then your gaze will be drawn to the creature's bearing and stance-its quiet alertness, its interaction with others of its kind. It all tells a story, set within the gorgeous hues and often soft-focus surroundings of the animal's natural world. Beyond this, the other story Debra's paintings invariably tell is of the artist's lifelong deep connection with-and intimate understanding of- the subjects she paints.
Raised on an Iowa farm, Debra remembers countless hours of wandering and exploring on horseback or foot, through pastures, woods, and creek-side trails, encountering and observing the many forms of wildlife she came across. By the time she was six a sketchpad was her constant companion, and plein air sketches became another means of learning about the creatures that shared her life. Frequently that sharing took the form of caring for orphaned or injured animals-among them, lambs, foals, kittens, baby raccoon, ducks, and geese. "There's hardly a childhood memory that doesn't involve caring for or drawing animals," she says.
In high school Debra took every art class available and found herself magnetically attracted to painting with oil paints. “From the first moment I brushed the oil paints onto the canvas," she recalls, "I knew I had found the perfect way to express my deep connection to this world I love." She immediately began receiving commissions and selling paintings and it was her desire to continue art studies in college. But as often happens, marriage, children and helping with the family business intervened, and it was years before she returned to art.
In 2000, the family settled in Colorado, providing Debra with access to the magnificent wildlife of the Rocky Mountain West. When her youngest child left home, her passion for painting returned to center stage. Workshops and studies continued with internationally recognized wildlife artists such as John and Suzie Seerey-Lester, Jan Martin McGuire and John Banovich, as well as a a mentorship with nationally recognized landscape painter Jay Moore. Working with such artists helped hone Debra's innate talent, and it wasn’t long before her work was being juried into national shows. By the end of the second year she had received a Best of Show award and gained gallery representation, where her first paintings sold within weeks. "Once I started applying paint to canvas again," she recounts," "everything exploded. It was like deep inside of me I was and always had been a wildlife artist, and the moment that part of me saw an opening it broke free and reclaimed my life. All the images, smells, and emotions stored up in me all those years came pouring out on to the canvas."
Today Debra' home and studio in the mountain foothills are surrounded by aspens and pines and visited frequently by mule deer, elk, coyote, fox and occasionally moose. Within a 10 minute drive the artist can reach the habitat of bighorn sheep. While her first works on returning to painting reflected her childhood intimacy with animals through a focus on close-up wildlife portraits-especially capturing the animal's essence in it's eyes-recently Debra has begun incorporating more of the landscape into her art. In either case, her time at the easel is unequivocally joyous, her brush moving quickly and seemingly effortlessly across the canvas. "It never feels like work." she says. "It just pours out of my heart."