New Gallery Show: My "Seasons" Portrait Series at City Art Gallery

This month, I am so excited to be participating in my first show at City Art Cooperative Gallery in San Francisco! Check out my new portraits!

I have been wanting to experiment with different time periods and seasons for a while now, and getting into City Art Gallery gave me the opportunity to play around with some new portraits! I am inspired by all the strong women that lived through out history.

First up Spring...

City Art Gallery Spring.jpg

Debra Styer, Blossoms Awake Spring, 2018

Watercolor and Gouache

This was inspired by my love of Jane Austen and the English countryside. Here's Miss Emmeline and the buzzing (and stinging) of her springtime bees.

City Art Gallery Summer.jpg

Debra Styer, The Wings of Summer, 2018

Watercolor and Gouache

My summer portrait was inspired by the amazing style of the Harlem Renaissance and the 1930's. I imagine Miss Georgette listening to with the music of Billie Holiday as the summer butterflies dance around her in the summer wind. 

City Art Gallery Fall.jpg

Debra Styer, Fall of the Dead Leaves, 2018

Watercolor and Gouache

Of course, I need to have at least one dark Victorian portrait. Here's my inspiration for a 19th Century Fall portrait of the wonderful Miss Thora as she hides in the deep dark woods with her adorable (but very scary) little owl friend.

Lastly, is Winter...

City Art Gallery Winter.jpg

Debra Styer, Red Fox in Winter, 2018

watercolor and gouache

My winter was inspired by the fashion of Queen Elizabeth and her contemporaries. I love all the crazy stiff collars of this time period. Could you imagine what it must have felt like to wear such things. 

This is my winter wonderland portrait of Miss Sybyll and her pet fox, Finn.

If you want to see the portraits in person, they will be hanging at City Art Gallery until April 1st.

City Art Cooperative Gallery

828 Valencia St,

San Francisco, CA 94110

UPDATE: Prints now available in the Shop!

Victorian Spirit Photography

It's that time of the year...

As you probably know by now, I'm into all things spooky, and old. So, finding these amazing Victorian Spirit Photos is a truly awesome thing. It gets me in the Halloween mood and I thought I would share some of the favorite photos I found.

I really love these things. There is something so sweet and innocent about them. Maybe it was just a trick done by the photographer on a naive sitter wanting to connect to their loved ones. Or maybe it is something else. Maybe something we want to believe. Everyone wants to believe that we have someone watching over us, someone protecting us. No one wants to be alone. These spirit photographs might just have given these Victorians a little bit of hope that they were indeed not alone.

Spirit Photo via
The Ghost in the Stereoscope, photographer Unknown, c. 1856
Lady Helena Newenham and the Spirit of Her Daughter via Photography Museum
Portrait of Prince Arthur, 1854, Roger Fenton, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum
Mrs. Bentley and the Spirit of her Deceased Sister via National Media Museum
Ghost Stories, via Blenders
Photographer Unknown, Woman with Daisies and Spirit, 1875 via American Museum of Photography

Want to see some more? Here's a wonderful post from the American Museum of Photography.

This also fascinates me....

Here's Medium Stanislawa with her Ectoplasm from 1913
 What's Ectoplasm? A lovely post from Cabinet Magazine.

Pretty amazing stuff, don't you think? Although I am way too cynical to believe 100% in any of this stuff. I do enjoy letting myself imagine myself in a time where anything spiritual was possible.

Do you believe in Ghosts?

Here's a post on Victorian Spirit Photography I did a few years ago.

New Work...Emily Dickinson

Here's the second painting for my series, The Writer's Project.

Miss Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets. Her work is so heartbreaking and sincere. I can help but feel such sadness and loneliness when I read her work. I tend to wonder, would her life have been any different if more of her poems were known before her death? Or was she happy to keep herself and everything else locked up in her little room?

 If I Can Stop

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
- Emily Dickinson

Much Madness

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

- Emily Dickinson


I hope you like her. And as always, this print is now available in my shop.

New Art Series...The Foundlings

I'm happy to announce a new illustration series that I'm working on. It called, "The Foundlings". Of course, you know I have been a bit obsessed with the Victorian era, well, I wanted to explore something new. This time I'll be doing portraits of orphaned children. I remember seeing the movie "Orphan Train" on TV
 as a little kid and it has always stuck with me.  Anyone else see that movie?

I love the dark stories that can come out of these kids too. I love creating little histories. It is so much fun. So much sadness and so much hope. Here are the first of "The Foundlings", portraits. I hope you like them.

I created Hattie a few months ago..she is sweet but very, very lonely.

 And now I'd like to introduce, Martin. He is 7 and a bit of a hellion. He has a mean streak and will do just about anything for attention.

And this is little Gertie. She is 3 and looking for anyone to love her. She carries around a dirty little rag doll, the last thing she ever got from her family.

I'll still working out the stories but am having fun creating all the new characters. I am going to include some illustrations of Victorian toys and other kid related drawings.

Here is a little history of the Foundling Hospital and Orphan Trains in New York City.

And of course, these new portraits are available in the shop.

Art Heroes - Southworth & Hawes Photography

Some of the most inspiring (and oldest) photography was done by the photography firm of Southworth & Hawes  ( Albert Sands Southworth (1811–1894) and Josiah Johnson Hawes (1808–1901).  They were primary active between from 1843-1863 in Boston.

These guys really amaze me. I love the way they arrange their subjects. The sitters seem a lot more real then most of the Victorian photography I've seen before. They photographed some of the most famous people of the time including Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Daniel Webster. But the daguerreotypes that really stand out for me are the everyday people...the "unidentified" people.

Unidentified Child, circa 1850
The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Family, 1849

"The artist, even in photography, must go beyond discovery and the knowlege of facts; he must create and invent truths and produce new developments of facts. "
--A.S. Southworth, 1870
Death of Pain (first public administered Ether anesthesia)1847

Rollin Heber Neal

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1857

Alice Mary Hawes, 1852

"Learn to look and see the difference under different lights in the same faces. Learn to see the fine points in every face, for the plainest faces in the world are human faces, belonging to human beings... "
--A. S. Southworth, 1873
Unidentified Girl with Ringlets, circa 1850's
Unidentified Woman, circa 1850
Unidentified Dead Child, Circa 1855

"In the nice production of light and shade which is the perfection of modelling, the Daguerreotype will be found to surpass the Artist's best efforts, being capable of representing independently, action, expression, and character to a great extent; and in some instances approaches very nearly, if it does not equal these higher branches, thus developing beauty in grace of motion and in repose, which is the first object and the supreme law of all Art."
--A.S. Southworth, 1855

Two Women Posed with a Chair, ca. 1850 
Unidentified Woman, 1852
Laura Bridgman, 1855

Winchester Family Tomb, Mount Auburn Cemetery, circa 1853

Unidentified Girl, 1850
Winter Portrait with Fur Coat and Gloves

Unidentified Child, 1850

Of course this is only a tiny bit of work by Southwork & Hawes. You can find more in the book, "Young America: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes. You can also see more Photographs in this flickr set from the George Eastman House.

I hope these daguerreotypes have inspired you as much as they inspire me. 

Now, I'm off to work on a custom portrait...