Featured Artist - Deborah Mitchell Print
Written by Cara Mae McGuire   


Out in the open air is where you will find Deborah Mitchell, sketching away a landscape vision that has caught her artist’s eye as she rides along the highways and byways of Mother Nature on her BMW motorcycles.  Ever changing, constantly fascinating and surprising are the images waiting only a moment for Deborah to capture in her artwork. 


The artist: Deborah MitchellArtist

Deborah Mitchell has always had a racing mind and a restless body. Many attempts at meditation and sitting in one spot usually ended up in failure. As an active child she remembers her father giving her paper and pen to keep her occupied in church, unknowingly introducing her to the sanctity of art. Growing up outside of Boston, she was surrounded by art in her home and schooled during Saturday classes at the Museum of Fine Arts. And to fuel the flame, Deborah’s grandmother, a painter herself, encouraged her in the arts, but she never took it seriously until her mid 20’s. At that time she had moved to Idaho and discovered a skill for painting the spectacular mountains.  Feeding off this newfound love of landscape, Deborah went on to get her Masters at Utah State University. While getting her degree, she was a graduate assistant in the campus museum and also did a summer internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Currently, when she is not art journaling around the country, Deborah is Associate Professor at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology while also serving as Director of the Apex Gallery.  


beartoothpass2aug2010 webMotorcyclist

Riding is both exhilarating and meditative for Deborah, mirroring the dualities of her life; one foot in the boat and one on the dock, wilderness/culture, plant a garden/take a road trip. It all started when Doug, her boyfriend, introduced her to motorcycling on their first date. She had never been on a motorcycle before, so he was patient and respectful of her fear. But before long, after many rides with Doug, Deborah started to realize she may want a ride of her own. Her first long distance trip riding on back was the kicker. After the miles of mental contemplation, she couldn’t stop wondering: “How do passengers do it! What do they think about? Do they re-live good times? Rewrite the conversations that went wrong? Mentally change the outcome of their childhood?” To quell her racing mind, luckily the first rally she attended had a women’s rider seminar, where she received the added confidence, resources and push to get on the road. In 2004, Doug gave her a 1990 red Honda Hawk, which she began to ride all over the Black Hills and to BMW rallies in Idaho, Colorado, and BC for several summers in a row. Each year putting over 5,000 miles on the Hawk, with each trip her confidence grew. Recently she acquired two BMW’s, a 1999 R1100R and a 2007 R1200R, logging over 16,000 miles on both by cruising around the Pacific Northwest. 


art alley webMotorcycle Art

Deborah has always loved to paint “en plein air”, which is a French phrase that means painting out in nature and receiving inspiration from the landscape itself. The love of travel and the motorcycle fit perfectly into her artistic repertoire. With so much quality-thinking time across all the miles, she is able to create conceptual pieces that mentally take shape. This experience lends a more holistic quality to her ride. Her journeys are documented with small colored pencil sketches drawn on location or may be a quick snapshot used later in the studio for a more detailed and accurate portrait all inspired by Mother Nature. 

In the summer of 2007, Deborah was invited to create a piece during a “paint in” for a place called Art Alley in Rapid City, South Dakota. Art Alley is a constantly evolving urban graffiti lane, where at she did a painting from a photograph of two Indian motorcycles. The painting did remain "untagged” for several years but unfortunately was finally stolen off the wall last summer.  Other accolades include an art exhibit for the 2008 BMW Rally in Gillette, Wyoming entitled “Guard Rails, Pull Offs, and Passing Lanes” featuring a series of graphite drawings taken from photos of the road.  And recently, at the 2010 70th Annual Sturgis Rally, three of her motorcycle monotypes were auctioned off to support the Black Hills Children's Home and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum during the Legends Ride. 


nmutah webArt Ride

The speed and the freedom from riding are exhilarating for Deborah, but the thought of zipping past a breath taking vista is too unimaginable, as she found out in her early days riding pillion with Doug. It was just so difficult to remain on the bike when there was so much beauty to be captured. Her solution was to put together a small kit of water color pencils and a travel watercolor paint box. Then she would have Doug drop her off at a scenic spot for about an hour or so. For other aspiring “en plein air” aficionados she suggests you do the same, pull over to write down your fabulous ideas and draw, draw, draw! A small sketchbook that fits in the tank bag and a selection of pencils, colored pencils, or a small watercolor kit won’t take up that much room. When everyone is anxious to move on down the road, but you rather sit and draw, make plans to meet up later in the day. Or buy more time and have them do a few twisties and return to see if you're finished. Another option is to create your own 'art ride' with other motorcyclists who would fancy an excursion for that very purpose. Or better yet, take a solo ride and stop anywhere you feel inspired. And of course, if it is too cold or the weather starts to turn, Deborah advises taking photographs to refer back to when working at home or from your studio.



 beartoothpassaug2010 web

To view more of her artwork click here