A truly gifted artist, Deb's presence in Bucks County may not have
attracted local attention, because she works independently from
commissions, mostly portraits, illustrations and murals. "I haven't
explored the gallery markets yet," said the artist. "I've always
represented myself, because I didn't want to get pigeon-holed," she
said. "I started out with romantic novels. And I've done a lot of
medical work and children's books."
She is quite happy with her relocation. "For me, moving to Bucks
County is another step in the exploration of life as an artist. The
friendliness of the people, the beauty of the area and the active
artists community make this a very inspiring place to live."
Deb doesn't need to win awards or have exhibitions. Her fame on the
Internet is well known to newspapers, magazines, portraits and
children's book publishers: her Website gives a comprehensive survey
of her artworks. "I get a lot of my work from e-mail," said the
babyboomer, who has 25 solid years as a topnotch illustrator to her
credit. "People contact me. I've done work all over the country. In
the last five years, it's all been technology and word of mouth."
Like journalists, Deb works well under pressure and thrives on the
adrenaline challenge of commissions. "I never know what's around the
comer. That's the fun about being an illustrator," said the artist,
whose commissions have included research on rare breeds of dogs and
cows. She anticipated the editor's directions on a two-day deadline
for Uncle Sam for the millennial. issue of U. S. News & World Report.
First things first, she worked on the face. The details could come
At present, she is working on a portrait commission of two little
girls. "When photographing children for portraits, I always try to
spend a lot of time getting to know who they are. A child's
personality is as important to me as the face," said Ms. Hoeffner who
is intensely focused on capturing the subject's persona—their
soul—if you will. She has created commemorative stamps of Princess
Diana, Bruce Springsteen pub glasses, a portrait of Daddy Warbucks for
Broadway and one of Senator Al D'Amato of New York.
The artist moves adroitly from secular to religious subjects. Her
images of Jesus Christ range from the very human Jesus wearing a
placard that reads - "Will work for loaves and fishes"-to her
magnificent Raphaelesque image of the beatified Saviour's
Resurrection. "I've studied the different paintings of Christ and I've
been painting them for a number of different projects over the years,"
said the artist, who did a series of 12 images for a video cassette.
"It was for a major retailer and it had to appeal to the masses. And
my homeless Christ grew out of a story for a magazine which is now
defunct," she said.
Her manifold inspirations are noteworthy considering the fact that
nobody really knew what Jesus looked like. In her 1988 book, His Face:
Images of Christ in Art, editor Marion Wheeler, points out that his
physical appearance remains a mystery. "No where in the gospels is he
described ... Yet, his face is the most familiar and recognizable in
In addition to portraits, Deb's evolving emphasis is now on the
painterly realm of murals. She just completed a huge triptych for a
private home in the Jericho Mountain area whose owners are steeped in
the history of Philadelphia. The project, which took two years to
complete, has three panels, the center in the foyer, the right panel
going over the entry to the dining room and the other leading to the
"Since this project was for a residence rather than a commercial place
as my previous pieces have been, I tried to create something that the
children who live in the home would enjoy and be inspired by. The
history of Philadelphia is alive and well in Bucks County I plan on
painting more of it," said the artist. The mural depicts
Philadelphia's harbor in the 17th century. "It's my imaginary version
of it. I just wanted to tell the story of this wonderful place that I
found in living here. I am so excited about it," said Deb, who uses
the computer for sketching and built the stretchers herself.
Born and raised in New Jersey, her formal education includes a
master's degree in fine arts from Montclair University. While in
college, she spent her time in life drawing with a model, and took art
classes at New York's Art Students League and the School of Visual
Arts, weaning herself from the acrylics of undergraduate days to the
oils she now uses exclusively for their blending properties. But she
feels she learned more from her lengthy forays at museums, positioning
herself myopically as close to the canvases as the nervous museum
guards would permit.
Deb's art historical background runs the gamut from French classicists
like Claude Lorraine and Nicholas Poussin, the Venetian colorists, the
abstract expressionist Jackson Pollack and American illustrators
Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker. Its too bad that the Saturday
Evening Post is no longer around, because Deb would have been a
perfect heir to the legacy of the latter two. Ideally, her perfect
studio would feature Monet's Waterlilies, Michaelangelo's Sistine
Ceiling, Rembrandt's Nightwatch and Picasso's Guernica.
As an artistic pilgrim, so to speak, a visit to Venice dramatically
changed her colorism. In the opinion of the Italian art historian
Terisio Pignatti, the period between 1470 and 1590 is the zenith of
600 years of independent and magnificent achievement. During this time
there was one unifying vision in Venetian art, a vision intensely
bound to color." Deb said she can never paint brown again. "Like many
artists before me, the visual experience of this shimmering city has
had a permanent influence on my palette. The city changed every hour
and it was just so beautiful," said the artist, who likes to hang out
at the Society of Illustrators in New York City.
Interestingly enough, Giovanni Bellini (ca. 1426-1516) paved the way
for Venetian Renaissance painting. Much like Deb Hoeffner, his image
of Christ passed through many stages of inspiration, ranging from the
grief-stricken to the triumphant. But rather than slavishly imitate,
Deb has subconsciously absorbed and incorporated these manifold
influences into her own signature style of soft realism. "To thine own
self be true"—the dictum of Socrates, has served her well.
E-mail: email@example.com; telephone: 215-766-9911.
Cathie Viksjo is a regional art critic who holds both undergraduate
and graduate degrees in art history from Bryn Mawr College.
© 2005 Montgomery Newspapers LLC dba Bucks County Town and Country
With a studio now located in the heart of Bucks County
Pennsylvania, deb is available for original assignments and
commissions both commercial and private.