Meet Sundridge artist Debra Barr-Smith

PUBLISHED: 17:54 06 June 2015 | UPDATED: 17:54 06 June 2015

Debra Barr-Smith

Debra Barr-Smith

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Debra’s rainbows of colour are inspired both by Florida’s clear, bright light and the wonderfully lush green Kent countryside

Debra Barr-Smith tells me: “I think I am a colourist” and when you see her canvases and paintings 
at her studio in Sundridge, there is of course no doubt.

Her landscapes, life drawings and abstracts sport a fantastic array of colour and cheer up the day – helped by the fact that she spends half her time in Florida, where the sun heightens colour.

However, Florida, she says, doesn’t have the range of exhibition and cultural venues of London and although she might have wished to live and work in London when younger, Debra comments “at my stage of life, Kent is far superior.”

She enjoys going to London and is a regular visitor to its many galleries and exhibitions, but here in Kent, her studio 
is formed from a converted cowshed and her house was once a dairy.

I ask Debra whether she has a design in her head when she works or whether it evolves. “Yes, I have a subject in my head, often I have sketches, with something in front of me,” she says.

She often paints or sketches en plein air, particularly in Florida where the climate lends itself. But even here in Kent, her painting group will go out into the countryside once a week in summer.

“When I go on my yoga holidays in Greece I will spend the afternoons, when not exercising, sketching. I have many holiday landscapes from Greek trips.”

Debra’s preferred medium is gouache and acrylic ink. The gouache has more intense colours and this informs her 
main painterly interests.

So if she had to paint in only one colour, which would it be? Debra laughs: “I don’t know. A bright one I guess.

“Perhaps bright pink, impossible but a bit silly, intense pink, or intense turquoise. I tend to work in high-key colours, I’m not much of a grey or brown sort of person.”

The question crops up again as I ask how she goes about choosing a colour in her representative works where her choices are fiercely non-naturalistic. “Even when I do my naked ladies, I see colour; people say how can you see purple and yellow, it’s not the colour she is?” smiles Debra.

We talk about Degas’ Woman Bathing, one of my favourite works in the National Gallery, where the pastels of the woman’s skin show all sorts of colour in the make up of the flesh.

Debra suggests that intellectualising a work often lessens its power. “I don’t like the art shows where there are three paragraphs explaining. The picture should express itself. Visual art is just that: visual”.

So how does Debra describe her subject matter? “I go to life drawing workshops twice a month. Still life always interests me, because I like the shapes and colours and really my paintings are more interested in shape, colour, lines and patterns, more than giving a photographic rendering.”

Her landscapes are vibrant and fade towards the abstract, which is another genre she works in, but she doesn’t ‘do’ portraits “because you have to 
be more literal.”

“A good question,” Debra comments when I ask how she knows when a work is finished. “Somehow your picture tells you ‘I’m done’, but I probably don’t just do my final paint stroke. I may think it seems finished and then go back the next day to see if my thoughts are confirmed.”

Debra works in series and may do three or four fruits or vegetables in a certain colour or shape of paper. The challenge is that when she comes to sell, it is often just one of a series that goes, where she would like to keep the series together.

She adds: “I am not a professional artist, I couldn’t support myself, although I earn enough to pay for materials and painting holidays, for example at West Dean.”

Debra recently took a printing course at West Dean and now plans to do more prints, and plans to continue painting, teaching and taking courses

“I have a lovely time,” she beams.

Get in touch

Debra Barr-Smith, Dibgate Farm, Chevening, Sundridge NI4 6AB, 01959 569054. Email to arrange a visit by appointment at debrabarrsmith@yahoo.co.uk or visit www.debrabarrsmith.com.

Debra’s works are to be found at the Portico Gallery, 25 Riverhead Mews, Sevenoaks TN13 2BU, 01732 456655.

Debra Barr-Smith’s work will also be seen in the Kent Painters Exhibition at Sevenoaks School in October, Florum exhibition at the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve in September and with Sevenoaks Art Club at the Kaleidoscope Gallery, Buckhurst Lane, Sevenoaks TN13 1LQ, 03000 413131.

This month: Visit Debra’s studio during the South East Open Studios from 5-21 June 2015.

n

More from People

With light at the end of the Covid tunnel at last, we take heart from how Kent recovered from previous calamities, from the 1930s depression to two world wars and the credit crunch. Article first written in July 2020

Read more

We’re all familiar with blue plaques, but could Kent Life come up with 10 notable births in our county – avoiding the most obvious ones? See if you agree

Read more
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

How the sheep farming heritage of Romney Marsh, an area of great natural beauty but high unemployment, helped inspire the creation of Romney Tweed | Writer: Sarah Sturt - Pictures: Manu Palomeque

Read more
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Who was your favourite doctor? Tom Baker regularly appears in the top two in Dr Who polls, is still acting and would never rule out a come-back | Words: Bernard Bale

Read more
Thursday, November 19, 2020

You might think you’re a bit of an expert on Kent but when the clock starts counting down, simple facts may start to elude your memory...

Read more

Pets are proving a lifesaver for many, providing companionship and consistency in uncertain times, as these Kent Life readers reveal

Read more
Thursday, November 19, 2020

Working closely with the most seriously ill of patients, Joanna Mitchell knows only too well the difference it can make when they are cared for at home.

Read more

Test your knowledge of Kent with our bumper sized 100 question quiz with a distinctly Kentish theme

Read more
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

In a year when we got an inkling of what living through a war means, we remember the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII | Words: Stephen Roberts - Photos: Manu Palomeque & courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Read more
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Unknown Warrior’s journey from the World War One battlefields via Dover to his resting place in Westminster Abbey is 100 years old this month | Writer: Lucy Shrimpton - Pictures: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Westminster Abbey and Manu Palomeque

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Latest from the Kent Life