Literature Love: Roald Dahl and Shirley Jackson Literary Portraits

As you know, I have always loved a dark tale or two. Here are portraits of the two of the best writers of the macabre, Roald Dahl and Shirley Jackson.

First off, the fabulous Roald Dahl (1916 -1990)!

roald dahl portrait cropped

I grew up with the stories of Roald Dahl, waiting all year for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (AKA Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) to come on tv,  I watched as more and more of his children's stories became films, such as "James and the Giant Peach", "Matlida",  "Fantastic Mr. Fox", "The Witches" and "The BFD". His stories were dark and unexpected, he had such a incredible way of looking through innocent eyes of children into strange and sometimes scary worlds.

In college, I discovered his short stories for adults. Dahl's twisted brain came up with the even darker tales. I devoured them. I am always surprised that his more mature work isn't better known. My favorite books are "Switch Bitch" and "Tales of the Unexpected".

I've illustrated Mr. Dahl's portrait against a backdrop of his famously delicious lickable wallpaper from Charlie and Chocolate Factory. I hope you like him.

Roald Dahl Portrait Unframed
Roald Dahl
A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.
— Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl Portrait Unexpected Tales

Debra Styer, Fabulous Mr. Dahl, 2017

Available here in my shop!

Now, Ms. Shirley Jackson(1916- 1965)

Shirley Jackson Illustration

My illustrated ode to Gothic novel writer, Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson is best known for her short story "The Lottery" (1948), which reveals a secret, sinister side to an all American town, and for "The Haunting of Hill House" (1959), which is considered to be one of the best ghost stories ever written. And my personal favorite, "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" (1962) a tragic story of a young girl and her family who is isolated from the world and what they do to survive.

I am currently reading, "Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life" by Ruth Franklin. I highly recommend reading this book for which highlights all the struggles Shirley had in her tough, short life.

She is a master storyteller and I hope to get more eyes on her books.

Title: "The Haunting of Shirley"

Shirley Jackson Literary Portrait Cropped
I delight in what I fear.
— Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson Art

Debra Styer, The Haunting of Shirley, 2017

Now available in the shop!

Fall 2016 Literary Portraits, Part 1... Colette, Anais Nin & Marcel Proust

Ahhh, France...I spent a week in Paris this August and was inspired to create some portraits of my favorite French writers. Here are my latest watercolor paintings...French Literary Portraits!

First off was the incredible Marcel Proust.

Marcel Proust Literary Portrait

Debra Styer, "In Search of Proust", 2016

Here's my sketch of Marcel. Just look at those eyes...

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) is best know for his 7 volume literary work, "In Search of Lost Time" aka " A Remembrance of Things Past". He is known to be one of the greatest writers of all time and one of my favorites.

"If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time."
Marcel Proust
Young Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust c. 1895

Next up, my portrait of French writer Colette!

Debra Styer, "La Vagabond Colette", 2016

Debra Styer, "La Vagabond Colette", 2016

My illustrated ode to French Novelist, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette AKA Colette (1873-1954). Best known for writing about the underbelly of the french art and literary worlds. Some of her most famous books were "Cheri", "Gigi," the "Caroline" series and "L'ingenue libertine."

Her stories spoke of the problems of love, of passion, and sex. She was no shrinking violet in her writing or her life and I love her for that. She is one of my literary heroes. A true feminist.

"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."
Colette for her Moulin Rouge pantomime,  Rêve d’Égypte -  Photography by Leopold Reutlinger c. 1907

Colette for her Moulin Rouge pantomime, Rêve d’Égypte - Photography by Leopold Reutlinger c. 1907

Isn't she awesome?

Finally, my portrait of the fabulous Anais Nin!

Debra Styer, Winter of Anais, 2016

Debra Styer, Winter of Anais, 2016

The incredible Anais Nin has always been one of my favorite writers! I poured through her diaries in my younger years and her thoughts always echoed my own. She is artistic, feminist and a writer who shared all of her darkness and her triumphs with her readers as if she was speaking with a friend.

Nin is most known for her diaries (which she wrote throughout her life), erotica, and love affairs with famous men. She was both loved and hated by the literary establishment, and struggled to be taken seriously as a writer. But to me, she became a icon of literature.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”― Anaïs Nin
Portrait of Anaïs Nin in the 1970s by  Elsa Dorfman

Portrait of Anaïs Nin in the 1970s by Elsa Dorfman

I hope you like all my new portraits, they are currently available in the shop.

Who's your favorite french writer?

It has been a crazy few months, (sorry about the lack of log post) I've had the luck of spending a month visiting Europe, which was incredible. My head is still spinning. I hope to write a nice long post about it but for now, it will all just have to sit in my memories. I have been drawing and painting a lot, and hope to share the second set of literary portraits in the next week or two.

3 New Lovely Literary Portraits: Fitzgerald, Kafka and Lovecraft

Wow, time sure has flown by. It's time to rip off my band aid of procrastination and get writing again. So sorry, it has been so long.

In the last 6 months, I have been finishing up a book project and working on a bunch of new portraits. In case you missed them in the shop, here are a few of my favorites.  I hope you like them!

F. Scott Fitzgerald!

F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Portrait

F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Portrait

F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for works the "Great Gatsby", The Beautiful and Damned" "Tender is the Night" and "This Side of Paradise" as well as many short stories. As a reader, Fitzgerald opened my eyes to the incredible hidden world of the 1920's. He will always be an inspiration to me and I am so happy to paint his portrait.

He is available here in the shop!

Next up, The incredible Franz Kafka!

Franz Kafka Literary Portrait

Franz Kafka Literary Portrait

Franz Kafka Literary Portrait

Franz Kafka Literary Portrait

Kafka is another favorite writer. He brings out the goth in me. Kafka is most know for his stories, "The Trial", "The Metamorphosis" and "The Castle". Kafka is regarded by critics as one of the most influential writers in the 20th Century and he is beloved around the world.

I drew him here with a Metamorphosis homage to his Dung Beetle self (Gregor Samsa) wrapped around his neck.






He is available here in the shop!

Last but not least, Say hello to the incredible and strange H.P. Lovecraft!

Lovecraft is such a inspiration to me, although I came to know him later in my literary life. I love the way this mind works, digging deeply into the psychology and heart of reader. His life was full of tragedy which influenced the way the wrote. Although he became most known after his death, I couldn't imagine the world of horror with out him.  Below is my illustrated ode:

Debra Styer,  The Call of the Lovecraft , 2015

Debra Styer, The Call of the Lovecraft, 2015

Isn't his little Cthulhu cute? You can find them both in my shop here!

Now that I am officially blogging again, I promise not to take so much time between post!

Thanks for reading!

More Literary Love: Gertrude Stein and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Here's a little catch up to what I am doing lately. I love been busy spreading more literary love on my watercolor palette.

Here are my latest Literary Portraits: Ms. Gertrude Stein and Mr. Nathaniel Hawthorne

Debra Styer,  A Stein is a Stein is a Stein is a Stein , 2016

Debra Styer, A Stein is a Stein is a Stein is a Stein, 2016

“You look ridiculous if you dance
You look ridiculous if you don't dance
So you might as well
Gertrude Stein, Three Lives
Gertrude Stein Portrait Framed

Gertrude Stein Portrait Framed

Say Hello to Ms. Gertrude Stein!

Gertrude has always been one of my literary heroes. Her writing about Paris is the early 1900's is incredible. It seems like you are right there in the thick of things. Who wouldn't want to live in that world filled with artists and writers? My favorite book is "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas",  written in the point of view of her love, Alice.

To me she is a visionary, anactivist and a woman with a hell of a sense of humor.

Carl Van Vechten,  Portrait of Gertrude Stein,  1934   

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1934


“It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.”
Gertrude Stein

Print available in the shop!

And now presenting...Mr. Nathaniel Hawthorne!

Debra Styer,  The House of the Seven Hawthornes , 2016

Debra Styer, The House of the Seven Hawthornes, 2016

As a New Englander, Hawthorne is in my blood. I remember visiting the House of the Seven Gables in Salem Massachusetts as a kid and I was fascinated. Hawthorne is best know for writing the novel, "The Scarlett Letter",  a scathing look at life, love and religion in the Massachusetts. His work is known to be Dark Romantic. I am currently reading, "The Whole History of Grandfather's Chair" (written in 1840), which is a surprisingly funny and truly satisfies the history nerd in me.

Nathaniel Hawthorn Art Print

Nathaniel Hawthorn Art Print

Nathaniel Hawthorn Portrait Framed

 “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne



Nathaniel Hawthorne by Brady c. 1860

Now available in my Shop!

Right now I am working on a portrait of the wonderful writer Dorothy Parker, I will post her as soon as I can.

After that, who should I paint next? 

My Illustrated Ode to Arthur Rimbaud!

Here's my latest Literary Portrait...the 19th Century French Poet, Arthur Rimbaud!

Rimbaud has always been one of my favorite poets, he was a true, Enfant Terrible.  The I was so excited to create a portrait of him with all his teenage angst. He was truly a wild one!

Sadly, he did all of his incredible writing between between the age of 17 and 20, after that he seemed to fall of the face of the earth. He traveled extensively throughout the world, working at very non-writing jobs such as an accountant, mason and coffee exporter.  Rimbaud abandoned his life of the libertine,  never recording any of his any dark dreams or surreal verses again.

He remains one of my literary heroes...

I hope you all enjoy my portrait of him. 

 Arthur Rimaud in Sketch form.

“I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.”

Arthur Rimbaud

A Season in Hell/The Drunken Boat

Debra Styer, Arthur Rimbaud, Soleil et chair ("Sun and Flesh"), 2015

“A poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons, and preserves their quintessences. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes all men the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed--and the Supreme Scientist! For he attains the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone! He attains the unknown, and if, demented, he finally loses the understanding of his visions, he will at least have seen them! So what if he is destroyed in his ecstatic flight through things unheard of, unnameable: other horrible workers will come; they will begin at the horizons where the first one has fallen!”

Arthur Rimbaud

Rimbaud Framed

Arthur Rimbaud, age 17.

“By being too sensitive I have wasted my life.”

Arthur Rimbaud

If you would like to learn more about Rimbaud, I highly recommend the book, "Time of the Assassins, A Study of Rimbaud" by Henry Miller. It is one of my all time favorite books. 

So here's to the young rebel in all of us....and here's to Arthur Rimbaud. 

A limited edition print of my original watercolor painting of Rimbaud is now available in

here my etsy shop! 

p.s. Who should I paint next? Who is your favorite writer?