Burow_pumpkin papers

‘Pumpkin Papers’ started as a teaching lesson for children, and morphed into a full-fledged mixed-media work of art.

To say that Deborah Burow has a lot of energy would be an understatement. Up early every morning, she starts her day off with a run before anything else, including her “joy,” her art.

“Otherwise it’s too easy to do something else,” Burow says of her commitment to running before all else.

The Iowa-born, now North Cape May resident, who is in the midst of training for a half marathon, has had varied career experiences from teaching to running a bed and breakfast. Throughout it all though, all she ever wanted to do was paint. When she finally got her wish, things didn’t go quite like she had envisioned.

“I was incredibly naïve. I thought the world was waiting for me and everyone would buy,” she laughs. “I found out really quickly that they weren’t waiting for me.”

She realized that art was more than just painting a pretty picture. And to actually sell her art … well, let’s just say this is where her unbridled energy comes in handy.

“The more I get in galleries … that’s great … but my goal is to sell stuff commercially,” she says. “My goals are different than those who just like to paint. I knew I was really going to have to work hard. But that’s OK. I am typically a workaholic. A 16-hour day for me is average.

“I’ve worked really hard at the business end to make it profitable — to do it as a living. The more you get your stuff out there, the more contacts you make. (And) I have my list of where I want my stuff to be, and I believe it will be there. I am very committed to making this happen.”

With a website filled with options from originals and prints to pillows and totes to even children’s books that she’s illustrated, Burow is as business savvy as she is artistic. And regarding “getting her stuff out there,” she presently has that taken care of as part of the Squash Soup exhibit at Nashville North Studios in Linwood, which runs through Nov. 16.

Where Burow’s business side skews toward serious, her art is anything but — leaning much more in the direction of playful and whimsical. In fact, she is quite thrilled when her work pleases others — even if it doesn’t sell.

“Whenever I do a show, people say over and over, ‘your work is so full of joy — it’s so happy.’ And it just is. It just pours out of me,” Burow claims. “There’s so much in the world that’s not happy. It’s a gift when people smile at my work. It’s great to sell, but it’s about seeing that joy.”

Burow’s own joy is displayed clearly on her canvas where floating objects, “little treasures” and vibrant colors abound — the last being something she especially enjoys.

“I can tell when I’m painting ... if I find myself smiling, I know I’m on the right track,” Burow says of her affinity for using bright colors. “People tell me they want to live in my paintings. I say so do I.”

Burow_happy purple whale

Deb Burow’s ‘Pumpkin Papers,’ above, started as a teaching lesson for children, and morphed into a full-fledged mixed-media work of art, which often has flying fish, dancing sailboats, the occasional giraffe and other fantastical items. ‘Art doesn’t have to make sense,’ she says.

While viewers can often find elements of Van Gogh, Chagall, Klimt and Matisse in Burow’s work, her style is 100 percent her own.

“I really study how they (the masters) did things,” she admits. “But it’s not that I even think of it when I do it. I don’t say, ‘oh, let’s put in some Van Gogh.’ It just becomes part of your work.”

Her art often has some recurring images and themes: cats are a particular favorite, as are clouds and the shore — a seamless blending of her two diverse homes.

“I love humor … and (cats) are very fun. They bring a lot of personality to paintings,” she giggles. “And the ocean has so much to do with what I do … there’s always a sailboat or a sun. And the sky — the clouds are amazing in Iowa. So maybe I’ll paint sailboats or colorful fish dancing through the sky. It’s a little bit country and a little bit Jersey.”

Pumpkin spice

For Squash Soup, the exhibit at Nashville North Studios, one requirement was that the art should have a fall theme.

“I didn’t have anything for fall. Then I remembered I had a pumpkin picture that I did in a guided painting class for kids. I probably did it in 15 minutes — it was very simple art,” she recalls. “I pulled out the pumpkin at 5 or 6 in evening. I thought it needed something. So I just kept painting and adding stuff … I’d think, ‘we need a giraffe in here.’

“That’s the great thing. It (art) doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t have to be the right proportion. There’s such freedom doing that.

“The next thing I knew it was 6 in the morning. It’s so typical of me … I don’t stop, I have too much fun. I don’t even get hungry — and I’m a huge food person. And I loved the way it came out. It was really, really fun to do all of that.”

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