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Hillard: Layers of mystery beneath the surface

Shea Stanfield~ 8/13/2014

NORTH VALLEY – Imagine the sweeping color of a desert sunset, the gentle, swirling movement of a life giving river flow, the shimmer of rain drops on a wildly lush landscape under the expansive twinkling night sky. Artist Debra Hillard captures nature’s soulful spirit in her meticulously rendered canvases.

Expression of spirit is not what Debra does – it is who she is. Debra gives credit to her parents for providing life’s simple pleasures and creative ways.  Her dad introduced her to the beauty of nature through exploration of vast wooded areas and intimate garden spaces of their yard. Here Debra learned the value of color, texture, form and care in producing a sustaining living environment. 

Debra’s mom, on the other hand, taught her the richly creative habit of cooking without recipes, blending flavors, smells, and tastes into savory meals, producing a lifetime of memories. Mom was further in tune with the basic need of feeling cozy, teaching young Debra to knit stitches into items of admiration. Her aunt, an expert seamstress, spent hours coaching her niece in the art of making things from scratch.  The sensual feel of fabrics and yarns, the smells of the kitchen and her hands in the soil set the stage for Debra’s creative spirit to flourish.

Debra majored in art at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, focusing on painting and printmaking.  She went on to study at the London Polytechnic, where she spent days in art museums writing, drawing, and filling her soul with the works of the greatest artists of all time.  After graduating, Debra won a commission for an outdoor installation on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J.

Debra went on to work in glass, creating windows, decorative mirrors, and lamps.  She grew her business and reputation as one of the most prestigious and innovative artists in the U.S. Fine Craft Market. In 1992, her creative work moved from glass to her other passion: transforming the human form and spirit through physical training and inner awareness. She devoted herself to this for the next 17 years, sculpting the possibilities of the human psyche.

In 1994, Debra followed her inspiration and heart, once again moving, from New England to the desert of Arizona. Here her art continued her journey of self-exploration. After a car accident in 2000, Debra found herself again reevaluating her path.  Not certain she would be physically be able to continue her training, Debra used her recovery time to develop a program to assist clients in transforming their lives from the inside out. During this time, she resumed painting as a way of aiding in her own healing process. Painting became her way of turning herself inside out to reveal the most tender, yet powerful aspects of being a woman. Her mission as an artist is to communicate in a way that inspires others to live their lives more authentically. 

Debra’s reintroduction to painting began with watercolors; today, she works primarily in acrylic. Her forms are fluid, sometimes quiet and at times explosive.  Her paintings are richly textured using many layers of medium and glazing. When working on paper, Debra often tears and layers multiple paintings, suggesting the complexity and hidden truth beyond the surface. 

Always exploring new avenues of creativity, Debra is printing her images on fabrics.
These richly decorative surfaces may be used for everything from decorative pillows and headboards to garments and fashion accessories. Her images are also available on glass, ceramic, and porcelain tiles. Debra envisions her art and business in future terms.  Her passion is to make her art accessible. She explains, “Art should be available to everyone, not just the privileged few. It is necessary to life. Without it our spirits wither. We all need to live surrounded by things that inspire us.”

As Debra shares, “I paint to remember…to be inspired, to express the truth and the beauty we so easily forget to acknowledge in ourselves.”

To view Debra Hillard’s newest creations into the world of tiles, fabrics, murals, and interior spaces, visit her Web site at or contact her at for an appointment. Her work is available as original paintings and giclee prints, as well as special order commission pieces. 

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at