Deborah Reilly Photographed and Interviewed by Debbie Zeitman
TribeLA Magazine Acrostic Interview.4 with Debbie Zeitman
Aura: How would you describe your energy, style, etc.?
I’m very casual and my favorite place to sit is cross-legged on the floor as if I’m in kindergarten. By nature I’m an observer. My eyes zero in on all around me, as do my ears. Images and words lure me in. I aim to capture the experience of being alive. How grandiose does that sound?
Room: Where in your home do you work? If not in your home, where do you feel most compelled to create?
My entire home is my workspace. Most often I can be found on my couch in my living room with a Lapdesk and laptop when I’m editing photos or writing. I move to the loft above for printing (and when I play with paint on a canvas). When I do shoots for clients in my home, I use odd surfaces and wall colors as well as the surrounding walkstreets for the unique backdrops they offer. But in my photo life in general, my creating takes place out in the world rather than in a studio.
Tools: What do you prefer to work with, physically and otherwise?
These days I mostly use digital cameras, though my film cameras still come out to play from time to time. I write on a laptop and with inexpensive fountain pens on unlined paper because I don’t like the restrictions of lines. And I play with paint and wire and found objects, anything that sparks me. My cell phone is always with me because I get inspired at the oddest moments, often in the midst of a run, and that means I can make a photo or write in the notes app. I shudder that I could lose the thought.
I wish everyone who isn’t battling immediate survival would slow down, kindly ingest the world that surrounds them, and think of ways they can help build community. To tread with greater care on the planet. To mitigate anger with compassion, which is starting to sound cliché but is so vital at this time. And to go vegan for the sake of the animals and the world.
“Everyone needs art. It’s a way of cultivating compassion with humanity.” Deborah began her portrait-a-day project back in August 2016, painting those she admires. “It’s been my daily meditation, a willful way of focusing on the good.” Another goal of the project is to improve her portrait skills. “My original love with art is abstract.” While she could draw people, Deborah says she always had a really hard time capturing an actual likeness of someone. This project has helped her improve a lot.
“As a kid all I wanted to do was paint and draw,” but Deborah says she gave it up because she couldn’t do realism and her abstraction was labeled as childish. But abandoning art brought on panic attacks and insomnia. Eventually they subsided when she took up art again in her early 20s. “I reached for Crayola watercolors and just started painting abstracts. And it released – just seeing color come out of my body.”
A children’s book author, Deborah is working on her second book. Her first book, “The Collected Writings of A. Morkus Dog,” features drawings and ‘the words of’ her own rescue dog. “Writing and images has always been synonymous. In my writing and sketchbooks – it’s always together.”
Along with her personal art pursuit, Deborah is a passionate art teacher at Kenter Canyon elementary school and at Virginia Park in Santa Monica. “I liken my teaching style to yoga. We start where you are and go from there.” She’s grateful for her schedule of teaching Monday through Wednesday and having Thursday and Friday to work in her home studio. “I got really lucky. I wanted that age group and I wanted these days.” Deborah says she always knew she wanted to teach. “The teaching feeds me as well. If I didn’t need this for money, I’d be volunteering.” She sees the importance of being there for the kids who are told they aren’t artists, and tells her students, “You’re all artists. You just have to find your way.”
Debbie Zeitman has photographed over 50 Venice Artists and still counting. Fifteen artist portraits and stories are hanging at Wabi Venice (1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice). Her photographic life began as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press covering primarily sports. Now her eyes drift to life’s everyday rich details, whether tiny or grand. She also spends an extraordinary amount of time trying to capture the meaningful expressions of shelter dogs and cats in an attempt to get them to safety and into permanent homes. In addition, Debbie advocates for all animals and lives a vegan lifestyle.