Deborah Bentley, a Wisconsin native, has explored and experimented with art across a wide variety of mediums her entire adult life. Weaving rugs and baskets, crafting distinctive stained-glass pieces, painting with watercolors, acrylics, and paper collages have each played a role in Deborah’s creative evolution. In 1995, Deborah discovered what was to become her signature medium, when she was introduced to silk painting, and began creating contemporary, eye-catching scarfs and wraps.
Deborah’s work has been shown in several Wisconsin and New Mexico exhibitions. Her whimsical designs of animals and reptiles were reproduced in a line of colorful paper dinnerware. One of Deborah’s most memorable commissions remains a 4x10’ distinctive silk alter cloth, created to become the focal point in the worship space of a large Episcopal congregation in Little Rock, AR.
Educated in mathematics and science, Deborah’s professional career included tenures as a high school mathematics teacher, computer programmer, corporate training manager and an instructional designing consultant for many of the largest corporations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Largely self-taught, and an avid international traveler, Deborah has found continuing inspiration during her world-wide travel adventures, captured in photos shot with a keen eye by her husband photographer, Roger. Deborah knew no other silk painters until 2012, when she and her husband visited New Mexico, considering that they might retire in the area. On that exploratory vacation, Deborah had the good fortune to be introduced to a group of women in the New Mexico Silk Painters Guild. The friendship of these creative and talented artists and their willingness to share ideas and techniques ultimately contributed to the decision to move to the Albuquerque area in 2014, where Deborah’s silk panting style has continued to evolve. The Land of Enchantment has influenced her painting in many ways; none more so than the beautiful view in her own backyard of the Sandias. In 2022, Deborah won the Festival of the Cranes art contest with her Birds of a Feather watercolor.
My fascination with using silk as a canvas for my art began in the mid-90s, when, while living in Wisconsin, I began painting silk scarves. My love of painting on silk has evolved and taken many gratifying detours over the past 20 years. One of the most rewarding happened during a vacation trip to New Mexico when I was introduced to the talented artists in the New Mexico Silk Painter Guild. Their warm welcome, exceptional creativity and generous willingness to share ideas and techniques, along with the pure beauty of New Mexico, encouraged our move to Rio Rancho in 2014.
During the past two decades, my husband and I have enjoyed the good fortune to travel extensively. Roger’s photographs from our trips have influenced many of my favorite paintings. From the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan … to a simple fishing boat in Patmos Greece … to a curious monkey in the Caribbean, I’ve remained intrigued with interpreting the bright colors and the graceful lines of landscapes, flowers, architecture, and people on my silk canvasses.
Silk is the ideal medium for me. I find the luscious movement and blending of dyes on silk exciting; the bold colors suit my personality. Most of my paintings are done on 16mm crepe de chine with fabric dyes and paints. Silk crepe is different from other silks, in that the weaving method used results in a unique rippling giving the fabric a three-dimensional texture. Because of this texture, the sheen is much more subtle and the results more luxurious than other silks.
Most recently I started exploring ways to really make my paintings “joyous,” which led to my newest subject matter - Color Pops. This unique painting approach was born out of my boundless love of bright colors, boredom with my tried-and-true painting style, and an ever-growing inventory of never-used supplies. There are many steps involved in each Color Pop; other than having its roots in a general idea (like birds, butterflies, or hollyhocks) there is often little to no preplanning with this technique. When needed, Deborah will often do a watercolor as a study for her silk paintings. Deborah sells many of her Color Pops with a custom frame made by her talented husband.