She may be known as ‘The Rock Lady’ in Pictou County from her whimsical rock paintings of houses and all kinds of other things, but Debbie Nowlan is branching out to paper now it seems.
Growing up, she took the regular art classes in school but never really got into painting until 1998 when she picked up a book on how to paint rocks. From there, her painting took off and hundreds of rocks later Nowlan has herself a reputation as ‘The Rock Lady,’ painting scenes of the outdoors and houses onto rocks.
Working from her home and studio in The Consulate in downtown Pictou, Nowlan has been a staple to the art scene in Pictou County for some time.
“This summer I started doing fish,” she said. Although most artists start on paper, Nowlan is working in her own direction as she branches out from painting on rocks to paper and even furniture. Her fish are unmistakably hers, however, with her signature bright colours and a style that she describes as “wonky.”
The adventure into other subjects began when she painted some fish on rocks for the Northumberland Fisheries Museum and Lobster Hatchery in Pictou. From there, she began creating fish with bright colours, patterns and lips on paper. Lobsters came along with the fish in a plaid or tartan pattern to show off the heritage of Pictou.
“They all have personalities, and I guess it’s unexpected to see a fish with lips,” she laughed.
Fish are something that Nowlan is pretty familiar with herself and, as evident from her colour pallet, they are not local fish.
“I grew up in Bermuda, I swam with the fishes as they say,” Nowlan laughed. “It’s all from growing up in Bermuda with the pastel colours and stuff, that’s my pallet — I just can’t get away from that.”
Along with her fish, Nowlan has been dabbling in furniture painting as well with a growing collection of creative, brightly coloured and patterned tables, chairs and just about anything else she can get her hands on.
“I guess it’s the reaction from people … even me,” smiled Nowlan about what she likes about making fish and furniture best. “Everyone that looks at my furniture or fish smiles.”
It’s a process to create fish with polka dot skin, however, as Nowlan pointed out that as she paints on dots she has to wait until everything dries to come back around and put the next layer of dots and paint on the piece.