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!

Enjoy Some Literature Love...George Orwell, Rumi and Charlotte Bronte Portraits

Well, I must say it has been forever since I last posted and I apologize. I am still getting used to the crazy new world and president. But I think I am back to it and back to a illustration schedule. Here are the latest portraits I've illustrated:

George Orwell Literary Portrait

My first portrait is of the incredible George Orwell (1903-1950). I read his books, Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm in high school but have recently started to reread them. Although they are works of fiction, there is so much truth there. His Dystopian world scares the hell out of me, and I hope that we aren't going down anything close to the world he speaks of in his writing.

Debra Styer, The Road to Orwellian, 2017

Hand painted in watercolor and gouache paints over a graphite drawing.

George Orwell Art Print
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
George Orwell
George Orwell's Press photo 1943

George Orwell's Press photo 1943

My Illustrated Ode to George Orwell is available here in my shop.

Rumi Literary Portrait

My Literary Portrait of 13th Century Poet, Writer, Theologian and Sufi Mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (aka Rumi).

Rumi (1207-1273) is one of the worlds most beloved poets and writers. His work is timeless. Although his work was written over 800 years ago. It seems to fit in perfectly in todays world. It's as if he wrote his words to go straight to my heart.

Debra Styer, "It Is Rumi It Is", 2017

Hand painted in watercolor and gouache paints over a graphite drawing.

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

I have always loved Rumi's poetry. His work is heartfealt and contemporary. Although it was written in the 13th Century, it seems like it is written today. Don't you think?

My Illustrated Ode to Rumi is available here in my shop.

Rumi art print


Charlotte Bronte Literary Portrait

Debra Styer, "Charlotte on the Moors", 2017

Hand painted in watercolor and gouache paints over a graphite drawing.

Charlotte Bronte (1816- 1855) tells her "Tale of Woe" in her writing. Her work is dark and deep and feminist. I love it. Best known for her book, Jane Eyre, she tells tales of unrequited love, lost love and bad timing.

"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."

                                                                                                                                   Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte is best known for writing the romantic, yet heartbreakingly tragic story, Jane Eyre. This classic Victorian Gothic of literature is one of my favorite stories. As readers, we read about the bad luck and the woes of love and between Jane and Mr. Rochester.

Charlotte is some of the most beloved writers in English literature. I love the dark twists in her tales as well as the the feminist characters. Her Heroines are strong women always trying to do the right thing, even if it means, almost, giving up on love.

Charlotte Bronte Portrait Framed
Charlotte Bronte by George Richard 1850

Charlotte Bronte by George Richard 1850

There is much controversy of what the Bronte sisters actually looked like. My portrait tries to find a happy place between all the different portraits.

My portrait of Charlotte is available here in the shop!

I hope you all like these new portraits!

Is there any of your literary heroes I have missed? Leave me a comment with your favorite historical writer!

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.

Introducing my new illustration portfolio website,!

I have been busy working on my new website, and would like for you all to check it out.

Of course, it is still a bit of a work in progress, but I am pretty happy the way it has worked out so far.  What do you think?

I will admit it is really strange to have something with my name attached, I have always been a bit shy about shouting my name out to the world, but I suppose at a certain age, you need to start thinking of yourself more seriously as a artist, so is born.

On top of creating a new website, I have also been really busy making new work. Here are a few new pieces...

I just finished this illustrated custom portrait for a lovely East Coast woman, her sons and their fabulous tuxedo cats. It was really fun to get to know her and learn about her family, furry and non-furry. There is always so much of a connection when you look deep into someone's eye enough to draw them. It is also pretty wonderful to watch a person seemingly come to life with a swish of a few pigments and some water...


Closeup of the custom portrait painting.

Closeup of the custom portrait painting.

My latest Custom Portrait. I love the Victorian Gothness of this portrait. You gotta love those cats.

My latest Custom Portrait. I love the Victorian Gothness of this portrait. You gotta love those cats.

If you are interested in me creating a custom portrait for you find out more here.

Next up is my latest Literary portrait, Ms. Dorothy Parker. She is such an incredible writer. I fell in love with her work about twenty years ago when I picked up a copy of her short stories. "Big Blonde" has a been one of my all time favorites, and I hope one day to illustrated it and the fabulous Hazel Morse.

Dorothy Parker Literary Portrait Art Print

Dorothy Parker Literary Portrait Art Print

“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”
Dorothy Parker, The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker

Debra Styer,  Here Lies Dorothy Parker , 2016

Debra Styer, Here Lies Dorothy Parker, 2016

Dorothy Parker 1943 portrait by George Platt Lynes

You can purchase a print of my Dorothy Parker Portrait here.

So much more to come, alas, I better get back to work and finish up my latest custom portrait. 

I hope you enjoy the new site!

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?