Highgate Cemetery Portraits

In August, I was lucky enough to visit the incredible Highgate Cemetery during the London Letterheads Conference. I was so inspired by my walk around the the gorgeous graveyard, I decided to dedicate my next gallery show to it. It is truly a dream world for any Victorian Goth lover.

To me, Highgate is kind of a living city to the dead. Although, it is still a working cemetery, I loved exploring the darkest of the lost paths. Highgate was built in the 19th century as one of the London Cemeteries that were on the outskirts of town. It housed the bodies of people could no longer be buried within the churches of London. As time wore on, it now has wild vines wrapping around the graves, showcasing some, while burying others, it is filled with birds and animals as well as a spooky legend or two. I loved it.

There is something that is so wonderful about visiting old graveyards that seems to be missing these days. Victorians were surrounded by so much death everyday, that they sort of embraced death, now we seem to be are more afraid of it.

Here are some of my illustrations (and a few photos I took) inspired by my trip to this legendary cemetery in London.

I thought these portraits would be a perfect countdown to Halloween.

I hope you like them!

My October gallery wall at City Art Gallery in San Francisco

My October gallery wall at City Art Gallery in San Francisco

Graves rearranged by time at Highgate Cemetery.

Graves rearranged by time at Highgate Cemetery.

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Debra Styer, Georgina in the Sun, 2018

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Debra Styer, A Sacred Magpie, 2018

In a Disused Graveyard

The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never anymore the dead.
The verses in it say and say:
”The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.”
So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
A Disused Graveyard

What is it men are shrinking from?
It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

Robert Frost
My favorite Angel monument at Highgate

My favorite Angel monument at Highgate


Debra Styer, Mourning Flowers, 2018 (in progress)

Circle of Baby Angels, Highgate Cemetery 2018

Circle of Baby Angels, Highgate Cemetery 2018

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Debra Styer, Caught in the Web, 2018

Sacred, Highgate Cemetry 2018

Sacred, Highgate Cemetry 2018

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Debra Styer, Watching from Above, 2018

Two Graves Bound at Highgate Cemetery

Two Graves Bound at Highgate Cemetery

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Debra Styer, The Woman in White, 2018

If you want to see these paintings in person, they are up in the Gallery until October 28th.

City Art Gallery

828 Valencia Street

San Francisco, CA


Prints from the show will be available mid-November in my shop!

I hope you enjoyed the show!

All images and Illustrations ©DebraStyer

New in the Shop! Goth Moth Illustrated Portraits

I love Moths, the fuzzier the better. I have always wanted to catch a giant one in real life but nothing so far. I might as well illustrate my favorite Goth Moths!

When painting these wonderful creatures, I imagined them flying through homes taking little breaks on walls in different historical times. Just sitting there long enough to get noticed.

I created a small series (which I will be adding to) of beautiful illustrated moths for the June group show at City Art Gallery in San Francisco. Now, I am happy to announce you can buy the prints here in my shop!

Cecropia Moth

First off is the Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia)! He is the one of the largest silk moths. Don't you love his red spots? Here he is in a sea of black....

Debra Styer,  Cecropia Noir , 2018

Debra Styer, Cecropia Noir, 2018

Cecropia Noir print available here.


Luna Moth

My Second moth is the Luna Moth (or Actias luna). I think the Luna Moth is the most glamorous of all moths with it lovely green wings. Although, pretty their lives are kind of sad. After emerging from their cocoons, the only live about one week and only to mate. They are also born without mouths. What a strange little beast. Here I have him settled in on lovely art deco wallpaper in the 1920's.

Debra Styer,  Deco Luna , 2018

Debra Styer, Deco Luna, 2018

Deco Luna art print available here.

Deaths-Head Hawkmoth

Lastly, is the creepiest of all moths the Deaths Head Hawkmoth (Acherontia )! I love the little skull design on his back. Besides the amazing gothness of these moth, they are rather strange creature. They actually emit a loud chirp when irritated. I wonder what that would sound like?

I imagine this guy visiting a sweet family home in the 19th Century.

Debra Styer,  A Victorian Deaths Head,  2018

Debra Styer, A Victorian Deaths Head, 2018

A Victorian Deaths Head Art print available here.

Do you have a favorite moth you would like me to paint next? Write it in the comments.

Here's to a New Year! (Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018)

Happy New Year, Everyone!

2017 was pretty interesting/fabulous/terrible year. Politically, it was a huge mess for me. I don't remember a year that seemed to wrestle with my heart strings more. I am still struggling with the decisions being made by our government. Although, I don't want to get too political, I hope 2018 will be a better year for most people and we will all reclaim our sense of fairness and justice in the world.

On a personal level, 2017 was pretty good. Of course I had a few ups and downs but in general things went well.

Here are my favorite arty things that happened in 2017:

1. My first book and largest illustration project "Happily Ever After I Do", was released in October! I am so proud to finish such a huge project. It was definitely a learning experience but I am so happy to have done it. I am looking forward to many more book projects in the future. And here's a little shout out to the amazing author Valerie Chiappone. Thank you for taking me on this book journey with you, it has been a privilege working with you.

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2. The Pre-Vinylette Society Art Show in Chicago. It was such a honor to part of this awesome women in sign painting show. It was even written up in one of my favorite publications, Uppercase Magazine! (If you squint you can see my painting on the wall). Read my post about the show here.

The Pre-Vinylette Society in Uppercase Magazine (Issue 36)

The Pre-Vinylette Society in Uppercase Magazine (Issue 36)

3. My French Revolution portraits for the Tiny Show at Studio Gallery in San Francisco.

4. My trip to Oslo, Norway with my husband for the Oslo Letterheads Sign Painters Meetup was amazing and it reignited my love for Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

Some of my favorite portraits from the Edvard Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway! Aren't these amazing?

Some of my favorite portraits from the Edvard Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway! Aren't these amazing?


5. Although not technically a art moment, I did adopt two new kittens at the SF SPCA Meet SinJin Otto and Poe in December.

Yes...they are awesome and they will inspire me to be more creative, if they are too busy distracting me from painting.

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Now that 2017 is over, it is on to 2018!

I am feeling pretty optimistic and had grown so much as an artist in the last few years, this year should be another fulfilling art year.

Here are a few of my plans for the new year:

  1. I became part of City Art Gallery in San Francisco. I will be working on a series of portraits for March show. I will be sure to post them as I make them.
  2. Get into more gallery shows.
  3. Work on getting in more publications
  4. Submit to more blogs, magazine and book publishers.
  5. Continue to work on my new Artist Portrait Series.
  6. Add more portraits to my Literary Portrait Series.
  7. Finish my Little Goth Riding Hood illustration Project.
  8. Draw more animals...
  9. Blog more...
  10. Travel to London for the next Letterheads Meet with Damon. 
  11. Delve into more historical illustration projects.
  12. Read at least one book a month.

What projects are you most excited to challenge yourself with this year? What are you most scared of?


The Tiny Show is here!

I am so pleased to have 4 new pieces in the upcoming Tiny Show at Studio Gallery in San Francisco.

This is my 5th year in doing this show. All my painting for this show are, well, Tiny. Each portrait is 5"x5". It can be a bit of a challenge to work that small but I actually enjoy it. My usual portrait size is about 9x12.

I decided to go with something new this year...the French Revolution!

Famous and Infamous portraits of 18th Century France.

First off...The Famous.

I was inspired to create these portraits after visiting the Palace of Versailles last year. I found the palace to be truly obnoxious. I couldn't imagine living in such luxury, and self aggrandizement. Honestly, it made me pretty depressed walking around. Having that reaction, I knew I need to paint these two.

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Debra Styer, Louis XVI, Last King of France, 2017

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Debra Styer, Marie Antoinette, Last Queen of France, 2017

In the end, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were kind of made for each other. They were blinded by their riches and hidden away in their royal fortress.

The world finally chose the power of the people over the ruling of King.

Next, the Infamous...

Jean-Paul Marat

Debra Styer, Portrait of Jean-Paul Marat, 2017

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Debra Styer, The Assassin Charlotte Corday, 2017

The Revolution must have also been an exciting/terrible time to live. One of the most intense happenings was the murder of scientist, journalist and political activist Jean-Paul Marat. His murderer,  Charlotte Corday, assassinated him at his most vulnerable while he was taking a health bath (he had a a incurable skin disease). Ms. Corday blamed Marat for possibly inciting a violent massacre with his political writing, so she stabbed in the heart. Only to be executed for her crimes four days later.

Both rose to great notoriety in the history of France.

Want to see my portraits in person? Stop by and say hello, and check out my work and the work of over 195 amazing local Bay Area artists!

I will be at the reception on Sunday.

The Tiny show opens today!


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small pieces from local artists

Nov. 10th - Dec. 23rd, 2017

opening reception - Sunday, Nov. 12th 1-6 pm
14th anniversary party - Sunday, Dec. 3rd 1-6 pm

STUDIO Gallery
1641 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA  94109

Hope to see you there!

Today's Inspiration: 19th Century Spirit Photography

The leaves are turning and it is getting colder. It is time to start thinking of one of my favorite times of the year. Halloween! In honor of my favorite holiday, I have chosen some of my most inspiring Victorian Spirit Photographs finds, as well as my most own 19th Century inspired haunted illustration.


Anonymous - c1870s spirit photograph of two ghostly figures, one of which is a young nun.

Although, most of this Victorian Spirit photography is known to be the artists trickery. I still love the results. And maybe just for a moment, having a photo where the sitter believed their loved one was still with them was helpful, maybe even healing, I hope anyway.

The Spiritualism Movement still fascinates me, even though I am too much of a skeptic to believe it to be real...But sometimes, especially at this time of year, I allow my mind to wander and let myself believe a bit more.

I mean who doesn't love a good ghost story?


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William Hope, Family Group with Two Spirits, c.1920

From The National Media Museum

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Wylie, Mrs. Bentley and the Spirit of her Deceased Sister, c.1920

National Media Museum

Edward Wyllie Spirit Photograph c. 1900

Edward Wyllie Spirit Photograph c. 1900


William Mumler, Mrs. French with a Child "Ghost", 1868

As promised, here is my illustrated ode to Victorian Spirit Photography. The Ghosts in the photos, were they tricks of the camera or memories of things not to be explained?

This is the sad tale of Mr. And Mrs. Thomas Lewis and their son, Fredrick separated by the cruel curse of Cholera. Their love (and sadness) lingers in the air all around them. One must wonder, will they be reunited on All Souls Eve?

Debra Styer, "And Her Soul Lingers", 2017


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Available here in the shop!

Happy Halloween, Everyone!