YabYum Seven: Debashish Samaddar

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All photos courtesy of Debashish Samaddar
Who are you and what do you do?

I’m terribly tempted to launch into a deep philosophical essay, but I’ll keep it matter of fact instead: I am Debashish Samaddar: friend to many, son to two, father to two and husband to one. I go by Dev because people mispronounce my name a lot (all the time).

I was born and grew up in India. Trained to be an engineer and management analyst but now trying to reignite my creative side through art and photography, mostly photography. It might even meet the clinical definition of obsession. I think about photography. I talk about photography. I actually even dream about photography. I take pictures. That’s what I do.

How did you get your start?

There isn’t really a well defined start to my photography. My father used to be a very serious photographer. I say used to be because he made a clean and complete cut away from photography 30 years ago. But I digress. When I was quite young I spent a lot of time with my father around his photography. I went with him on his photo outings, I hung out with him in his dark room. My rite of passage was falling into a tray of fixer when I was six.

Naturally, I started using his cameras here and there and learned the basics from him. I was also enrolled in art school from a very young age, around six, which I pursued with a lot of enthusiasm. (And vocal music too, with slightly less enthusiasm). However, once I finished school and went to college, all of my artistic, right brained creative activities ceased instantly. This is perhaps not the place for those details but college was such an intense and immersive experience that by the time I graduated as an engineer I had forgotten that I had once been very close to art and photography (and music).

Debashish Samaddar 06This is not hyperbole. I did not draw or paint or take a photo for perhaps ten years. I did exciting things during that period no doubt: rocket engines, super computers, but to quote John Keating (Robin Williams) from the movie Dead Poets Society:

“[…] medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Anyway, long story short I moved to Arizona, met my wife, and she inspired me to draw and paint again. And from that I found my way back into photography. It’s been several years now, almost another decade and my pursuit of photography hasn’t slowed down. It has picked up. I find that I really truly like this, more than I have ever liked doing anything. It gives purpose to my day. (PS: that’s why the photo magazine I started is called Purpose).

Debashish Samaddar 02What inspires you?

A lot of things, so many things! Where do I start? It’s everywhere! The first ray of light that comes in through the crack in the curtains in the morning and falls on the dresser. The beads of condensation on a window. The puff of smoke as a truck starts up. The lights of a gas station by the highway at night. Inspiration is pouring from the sky. Inspiration is driving down the road. Inspiration is singing out of the radio, playing in the theaters, jumping out of pages of a book.

I cannot explain this in words. That’s why I have to take pictures to show what I see. I always have a camera with me and I am constantly taking photos. At first when my wife would ask me what are you taking photos of and I would have to show her later. Now everyone in the family is used to my camera. It’s part of my daily attire.

Debashish Samaddar 05What do you like about AZ?

I did not like Arizona at first. I didn’t want to like Arizona. And it goes back to Question No. 2 above. I was looking from the left brain, analytical, utilitarian point of view. I liked Boston, I liked Silicon Valley. But picking up that camera has changed my perspective. Now I see what I missed before: the great open spaces, the contrasts between landscapes as you drive through the state, the smallness of humans compared to the world they inhabit.

Especially that last one. I grew up in a crowded city where this scale of grandeur isn’t apparent. You can’t see too far, there are people, buildings, lights. There is traffic. And that has its charm, I like that too. But here you can look far into the horizon and realize your own insignificance.

I do believe that Phoenix should be abandoned though and Flagstaff made the capital of the state. :)) Or perhaps Phoenix can become a monument to the folly of humans who thought 120ºF is survivable :)))

Debashish Samaddar 01Where can we see you(r) work?

There isn’t a physical venue where my work can be seen. It can be seen on my website and social media. I have also started a photography magazine, although that contains not just my photos but of several other people as well. I also have a couple photo books in the making. But they haven’t been published yet. And I can be found wandering about in urban areas: downtown Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, Flagstaff, observing people, camera in hand. And sometimes in less urban areas, off road on hiking trails in Flagstaff, Prescott, Yarnell, Wickenburg, camera in hand.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

From the point of view of photography/art: to make something, at least one single piece of art that outlives me for hundreds of years, it could be a single photo, it could be a photo book. Heck, it could be a poem or a story. From a philosophical point of view… well that’s a question for another time. 🙂

Debashish Samaddar 04What is your mantra?

Funny you should ask. I actually have one, it’s in Sanskrit but translated it means:

Do your best without expectation or attachment. If you succeed, splendid. If you fail, just as well.


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YabYum Seven: Barbara Valles

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All photos courtesy of Barbara Valles
Who are you and what do you do?

Barbara Valles: I am a painter. I was born and raised in Spain. My work has evolved over the years into conceptual and dimensional paintings. Some of the paintings come out to become part of the space, or their surroundings. I use unexpected materials in a way that seems almost improvised, but in fact, I follow a rigorous method that has been best described by Lucinda Barnes as a “single stroke” when talking about the wine thumbprints, for example.

How did you get your start?

In the beginning. I don’t remember starting…my parents, teachers and other people say they only remember me drawing, because that is what I did most of the waking time. Art and Art History were always in my life, and as my mom is also an artist and painting teacher, formal training began super early. I started professional Art School when I was 12 years old, and won numerous national Art competitions at a very early age.

Barbara Valles 04What inspires you?

Everyday moments. Light, materials, paint, a work table, the color white, a blank wall.

What do you like about AZ?

The people! I have lived and worked in different countries and US states and I have felt more at home here than in my own country.

People here seem like they are so busy with their lives but in fact, they are so welcoming, and warm. I get a lesson in acceptance on a regular basis, people here are so accepting of others’ views, lifestyles, and respectful of people’s opinions.

Even the Art community, so often tightly closed, I feel that I have a place here in Arizona.

Barbara Valles 03Where can we see you(r) work?

Recently at Walter Art Gallery. I often show in San Francisco at Don Soker Contemporary. Hopefully there will be other opportunities to show my work locally in the next year.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

As an artist? Recognition.

What is your mantra?

Slow down.


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YabYum Seven: Jennyfer Stratman

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All photos courtesy of Jennyfer Stratman
Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jennyfer Stratman. I have been a full-time artist (sculptor) for 17 years, working primarily in metal.

How did you get your start?

I made my first ceramic sculpture of a reptilian creature when I was 3 years old. This was certainly a prophetic indicator of my future passions: sculpture and lizards!

I later graduated with a Fine Art degree from ASU and have never stopped making art since. I first started exhibiting my work in Downtown Phoenix when it was just on the cusp of being transformed into an arts destination. From there I began showing at more established galleries around the world, allowing me to continue working as a full-time artist.

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Connection Point
What inspires you?

I am continually inspired by observing patterns and connections between humanity, nature and the cosmos. These connections appear equally evident to me whether I am walking through the forest, looking at the stars or welding two pieces of metal together.

Science, poetry, music, storytellers and other creative people are also great sources of inspiration.

What do you like about AZ?

I was raised in Arizona and feel the desert has really informed the person I’ve become and the work I make. My studio is on a ranch style property near the base of South Mountain where I create and spend time with my 28-year old iguana and various farm animals. It’s a very inspiring place to live and work.

I also live part of the year in Melbourne, Australia (I married an Aussie) where I have a more urban style studio. Having studios in two countries is a life I never would have planned, but I seem to have made it work.

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My Mind Is A Garden Of Stars
Where can we see your work?

My work is always on display locally at Calvin Charles Gallery in Scottsdale. I have an upcoming solo exhibition there opening March 8th and running until early April.

I also have a public sculpture on display in the Heritage District of Gilbert, 206 N. Gilbert Rd, just south of the American Legion.  This was commissioned via a grant from the INFLUX AZ public art program and is on display until the middle of this year.

My website is stratmanstudio.com or I can be found on the usual social media sites (Facebook, Instagram).

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I hope to continue being inspired and passionate about the work I do and I would like to scale up and create larger public and private sculpture commissions. I would also like to create some kind of creative hub, reptile sanctuary, and small organic farm on my Phoenix property.

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The Gravity Between Us
What is your mantra?

I reread The Alchemist recently and there is a beautiful passage that resonated with me years ago when I first came across these sorts of ideas…

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. When you want something; all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I really believe this is true, but also know that it takes more than just talking about your dreams- an enormous amount of hard work and dedication is required!


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Giving Tree
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Cultivating The Wild
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Grown A Phantom Limb

YabYum Seven: Jessica Speer

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All photos courtesy of Jessica Speer
Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jessica Speer of J.Speer Fine Art. My past projects included L.B.Paintings and Halcyon Fine Art. I am a Visionary Artist and Spiritual Abstractionist.

As a Visionary Artist I explore all opportunities within the unlimited universe to create art that is profound and innovative. In this effort to create I take spiritual concepts and explain them through abstraction. My goal is not only to reach the curious mind but also communicate through the windows of the soul to the spirit.

My artwork is heavily influenced from my study of God, language, symbolism, numerology, sacred geometry and the esoteric world. Each piece I create is an unfolding of the extensive research I do on Metaphysics, Astrophysics and Esoteric Mathematics.

How did you get your start?

I started working as a self taught artist in 2005. My creativity for the majority of my working career has been in the field of science. This later took a turn into expressing that creativity through visual arts. Combining my two passions art and science.

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ShinKatsu 新生活 | 4″ x 4″ (9 pieces)
What inspires you?

As a seeker of truth, my inspiration as an artist comes from my study of the creator, creation as a whole, multi-universes, dreams, and the spirit realm. I am constantly being inspired by life in all it’s beauty and sorrow.

What do you like about AZ?

I am a native to Arizona by three generations and take pride in that rarity. The gorgeous landscape is an open wonder to all those who live here and visit. It is truly a place to fall in love with, as the sites are breathtaking and unique.

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Origins of Metatron | 30″ x 40″
Where can we see you(r) work?

I do many art exhibitions around the valley and state. As of recently I have become an international artist and will be exhibiting in France in the summer followed by my solo exhibition in Peru at The Museum of Contemporary Art in November. I will also be conducting a lecture and speech at the University of Cusco in Peru regarding my work as an artist. I have plans to show my work in Italy and Japan in 2019.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I have many things I want to accomplish before I move on in this life. The main thing is to fulfill my purpose as an artist. This includes translating truth through art. I plan to travel the world exhibiting in various countries which will only further my esoteric studies and research of the universe. I will complete my invention of the first electromagnetic painting which is only in its first stages. These are just a few things I plan to accomplish before my time is up.

What is your mantra?

My manta is simple….. “Knowledge is power to all those who seek it.”


For more Jessica Speer, visit her website.

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Shino Hajimari 死の始まり | 48″ x 48″

YabYum Seven: Benjamin “Benjam” Goens

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All photos courtesy of Benjam
Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Benjamin Goens aka “Benjam”, and I produce hand-cut stencil artworks with spray paints. I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Art History. My initial plan was to teach art history or pursue a career in an art museum or gallery setting and soon after graduation I ended up in a director position at a Scottsdale Gallery.

The gallery experience afforded me the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the art business/world, as well as learning priceless techniques from world-class artists, which quickly led to the realization that I had an insatiable desire to create.

I dabbled with various mediums and ultimately began experimenting with stencils. I cut my first stencil back in 2008-2009, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I really started investing the time into developing my craft, hand-cutting single layer stencils. During the last three years I dedicated myself to learning to cut intricate stencils to create detailed depictions of my subjects and began production of my own multilayered artwork.

I use anywhere from 4 to 20 layers in one image to create photorealistic tonal gradations in my imagery. Over the past couple years I’ve spent countless hours creating several commissioned works and portraits for private collections.

How did you get your start?

I simply told myself that I needed to paint enough pieces to participate in a show and when I had a body of work I took the next step and decided to submit to a call for art to be part of a RAW Artists group show in November 2014. After the success of that first show, I was approached by a curator to be part of another group show shortly after. I made a personal goal to have my first solo exhibition within a year and accomplished that with the opening of my solo show “Cutting Edge” at the Funk Lab in November 2015.

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“The Journey” – mixed media and spray paint on framed canvas – 2017
What inspires you?

I’m inspired my my life experiences and variety of sources I encounter on a daily basis. My work always starts with a photograph that I gravitate towards. During my university studies I fell in love with the art of classical antiquity and European masters, so that is the foundation of my inspiration, but I’ve always held an obsession for the raw grit of hip-hop culture, graffiti, and street art.

The contrast of old-meets-new has always interested me, so I draw inspiration from past designs, ideas, and innovations. I often find beauty that exists in images of the past and attempt to reinvent them by bringing them into a new light on my canvas.

My inspiration truly stems from my family. My wife and my two young daughters are eternal reminders of why I choose to relentlessly chase my dreams.

What do you like about AZ?

I was born and raised in Arizona. I’ve grown to love what this home has to offer. The art community is constantly pushing development and evolving, which I’m thrilled to be a part of. I feel like there is an abundance of creativity and a wide array of sources to collaborate and draw inspiration from with in the Valley of the Sun and I’m looking forward to seeing it shine.

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“Pointe of View” – mixed media and spray paint on canvas
Where can we see you(r) work?

I’m currently showing several new works in “Benjam: What The Cut”, as the first featured guest artist with the collective at {9} The Gallery.

I will be part of an upcoming group show as one of the TLC Community Foundation Artist Grant recipients, opening First Friday, March 2nd at Sisao Gallery during Art Detour.

I have two paintings currently on display at the Muswellbrook Regional Art Center in Australia, as part of the of the 2017 Stencil Art Prize touring exhibition.

You can also view my painting “Play Ball”, acquired for the permanent collection at the Mesa Historical Museum, as part of the AZ Spring Training Experience exhibit.

You can follow my artistic journey on social media on Facebook / Instagram: @benjamzart.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I want to contribute to the betterment of society and, if I’m privileged enough to do that through my art, then I can’t ask for anything else other than leaving a legacy behind for my family to be proud of.

What is your mantra?

Give back more than I take.


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“The Walk” – spray paint on wood panel – 2017
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Sprayed stencil set for “The Walk”
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“Harmony of the Hearts” – mixed media and spray paint on canvas – 2017
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“Quatre Impromptus” – mixed media and spray paint on canvas – 2018

YabYum Seven: Scarlett Decker

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All photos courtesy of Scarlett Decker

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Scarlett Decker (Scarlett Ministero-Decker on Facebook) and I do mixed-media constructions and installation.

How did you get your start?

In Kindergarten, we had clay and I made a basket and snakes and I didn’t want to stop. In second grade, I contact-papered the entire living room as a surprise for my mom (she was surprised!) and I continued throughout school with an uncontrollable urge to make things. Later, it became more acceptable.

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“The Game” | marble chess board, bullets, lipstick

What inspires you?

Artists inspire me. Nature inspires me. Words inspire me. Politics inspire me (not in a good way). Satire inspires me.

What do you like about AZ?

I like absolutely everything about Arizona. When I go elsewhere all I do is complain about the weather. I love the heat! I love the geography. If we had more water here I wouldn’t have to go to California and see the ocean but otherwise Arizona is perfect!

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“Checking” | installation

Where can we see you(r) work?

My website. And currently I’m really doing more in Instagram. I have some small works in Chicago now but more planned for the Phoenix area this year.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I have about 100 things on my bucket list and 10,000 art ideas that I have yet to create. I don’t have time to die! Mostly, I would like the respect of my peers and to continue to make art, those are my goals of success.

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“Domestic Violins” | broken violins, aprons

What is your mantra?

“Push”. I write the word “Push” every day and I try and PUSH myself outside my comfort zone, both in art and in life every day. It always is so worth it.


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“One-Sock Danny” | mateless socks, various clothes and shoes
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“Uncle Albert” | zippers, plaster cast leg, shoe
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“Sighs and Whispers in the Night” | plaster ear, fabric

YabYum Seven: Cody Rex Chamberlain

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All photos courtesy of Cody Rex Chamberlain
Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Cody Rex Chamberlain. I’m a visual artist. I identify as a painter, first and foremost.

How did you get your start?

Some of my earliest memories of are of my parents painting and drawing. They were both creative people, though they didn’t consider it their vocation to be so. I started creating art myself very young. My mother made sure I had the tools to.

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What inspires you?

My inspiration is, in large part, the desert. Being there is a sort of beautiful reality check. The natural process of life and death are starkly exposed to the desert explorer. You’ll see a weathered skull nestled up against a living tree, or the new bloom of a yucca next to a withered juniper.

What do you like about AZ?

Arizona has been a favorite retreat of artists I admire. I remember seeing photographs of Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning hamming it up in Sedona. Ernst said Paris and Sedona were the only places he wanted to live. Arizona lends itself well to surrealism, and I consider myself a surrealist.

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Bird Of Prey
Where can we see you(r) work?

The quickest fix is my Instagram.  There you can see a visual chronicle of the various shows, collections, and articles I’m featured in at a given time.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I’d like to have created a body of work that bears witness to the beauty of the western landscape as I’ve experienced it. What I hope to accomplish is what I’m actively working towards accomplishing.

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Inside The Mesa
What is your mantra?

The earth is forever.


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Rush Valley
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YabYum Seven: Genevieve Rice

genevieve-rice 01Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Genevieve Rice, and I am a stand up comedian and writer. I’m also the founder and executive producer of Bird City Comedy Festival, which is going into its third year in downtown Phoenix March 29-31, 2018.

How did you get your start?

I started doing stand up in 2007 at an open mic in Norman, OK, my college hometown. I thought it was something I would do once, but something told me to keep going. This has been the worst decision of my life.

What inspires you?

I tend to gravitate toward people who consistently find the funny, even in bad situations. I like positive people who like their lives and are committed to making things better for themselves and the people around them. To me, that is always heartening. I also look up to people who know how to fold fitted sheets.

What do you like about AZ?

In regards to the arts, Arizona is still very much the wild, wild west. There’s so much potential here for development, and I feel like it’s anybody’s game. Churros and balmy winter weather don’t hurt, either.

Where can we see you(r) work?

I perform a few times a week at various places throughout the Phoenix metro. I also host Jazz & Jokes, a comedy and music show at The Nash in downtown Phoenix, every third Thursday of the month.

I co-host a podcast on The Golden Girls called Thank You for Being a Podcast, which you can listen to pretty much everywhere. Oh, and Bird City Comedy Festival is taking place March 29-31, 2018. Go to birdcitycomedyfestival.com for a complete lineup & schedule.

What would like to accomplish before you die?

I’d like to write a book. I’d like to look through the eye holes of a painting in a haunted mansion. I’d like to convince at least one neighbor I’m a witch. But mostly I’d just like to have an interesting life.

What is your mantra?

I have a few, I suppose. Laugh early and often. And if you’re looking for a good restaurant nearby, just put “small plates” into Yelp. Also, don’t be the server who sits down at the table to take orders. Sorry, this is mostly just restaurant advice.


For more Genevieve Rice, check out her webpage and follow her on Twitter.

YabYum Seven: Joe Willie Smith

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All photos courtesy of Joe Willie Smith
Who are you and what do you do?

Joe Willie Smith, multimedia artist. I work in whatever medium is necessary to realize an idea. Presently I build ‘Sonic Sculptures’, basically sculpture that are amplified using piezo microphones, some are passive others require performance interaction. I recently completed a large scale, 32 ft, concrete and steel public art sculpture. The sculpture, commissioned by Harrison Properties, is located on the SW corner of Buckeye and 5th St.

How did you get your start?

I’ve been making art continuously since I was a child. My mother got me started weaving pot holders by the hundreds, painted plates, and toilet paper Carnation flowers. She would sell my creations and give me some of the money.

joe willie smith 05What inspires you?

I’m inspired by my surroundings. My work is usually created from the context of place.

What do you like about AZ?

I moved to Arizona in December 1987, from Youngstown, Ohio. Leaving Ohio during a major snow storm, I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, 87 degrees. I was sold, no one mentioned the summers. I still love the southwest and Arizona for the fantastic skies, amazing landscapes and the amazing wealth of creative, talented friends. Arizona and the southwest never cease to inspire me.

joe willie smith 06Where can we see you(r) work? 

My public art can be seen at Matthew Henson Community Gardens, 7th Ave. and Buckeye Rd. and the SW corner of 5th St. and Buckeye Rd. I also perform on my Sonic Sculptures with Datura Ensemble, a improvisational Performance group.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I would like to have a solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

What is your mantra?

My mantra is ‘Where am I’.


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YabYum Seven: Donna Bernstein

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Donna Bernstein pictured with Amadeus
Who are you and what do you do?

Donna Bernstein: I am a contemporary equestrian styled artist, creating both abstract and modern horse paintings. I use mixed mediums, acrylics, inks and archival sprays. I paint on linen, canvas, wood. Whether a textured, complicated painting or a minimalist graphite, pastel or charcoal sketch, my vision is always centered upon the beauty, balance, sensuality and wisdom of the essential, classic equine.

How did you get your start?

I started doing artwork as a child. Always in awe of the horse, this passion for them seemed to be born with me – I was not brought up around them, and no one in my family was connected to them. We could not afford one, so my only way to connect with or obtain a horse – was to draw it myself.
I spent all my youth studying everything about them – their anatomy, their breeds, their illnesses and cures. When the time came that a neighbor got a horse I taught myself to ride. Through reading books, and watching others do it.

I would also watch the horse incessantly – what a pest! But I never drew while I was watching – I was afraid I would miss something… and I think I was right. By drawing and painting afterwards, out of my memory and imagination, my horses have come to be defined by a signature style all my own.

My art was born of a boundless love for this animal. As I have come to understand, because of this, I was painting the horses I never had. I was painting the horses of my imagination and my dreams.

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“Lover’s Rock”
What inspires you?

What inspires me is the nature of horses. They express the ideals I most value – an honesty, a purity of emotion, courage, beauty, balance, sensuality, a willingness to serve, companionship, and compassion. The most fiery, brilliant, and powerful stallion, will do as you ask when he trusts you.

They are herd animals… family animals, and exhibit tenderness and loyalty, with a sensitivity that has been honored through the ages. From the first cave wall renditions of the magnificent horse, he has been both companion and teacher to man, in every endeavor.

Everything about the horse inspires me. His great vulnerability; his great contradiction. He is such a symbol of freedom; an icon in this regard. Yet his entire history is wrapped in ours, as he has not been at liberty, but has done our bidding, whether in war or at play.

Truly a debt of gratitude is owed.

What do you like about AZ?

Arizona has a wonderful energy, weather that evokes a positive point of view, and a truly growing and expanding business and culture base that is energizing to be around. I started doing art shows in the area a few years back, and my husband and I bought a home not long after, we loved it so much.

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White Horse Grazing
Where can we see you(r) work?

In Arizona my work is currently shown and represented at a beautiful gallery, Desert Mountain Fine Art, located in the elegant Keirland Commons in North Scottsdale. The business of an amazing young couple, it is just completing its first year in Scottsdale, and I am honored to be included in its roster of artists.

What would like to accomplish before you die?

That is a difficult question! I think living a life I am proud of, and allowing my art and brand to be a demonstrative and, if possible, collaborative expression of that vision. I’m developing my artistic energies into an equestrian lifestyle brand, with products that include jewelry, scarves, handbags, etc., and fashion accessories for the modern equestrian. I see my art as expansive into these areas in a way that allows others, who have dreams of horses, to experience the equine’s wonderful and playful energy through Donna B.

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Cowpoke II
What is your mantra?

My mantra – Actually, I have two… one that defines my personal commitment to my work, which I learned about myself through the process of making art:

“It is not horse that I paint; I paint the way they make me feel.”

The other – as it defines the Donna B Brand:

“Love Your Horse – Live Your Horse Style.”


Check out more Donna B on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Hi Ho Silver
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Two Horses
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Field Horse Watching // Field Horse Grazing