My Outlook: Debbie Curtis

Debbie Curtis' Barbie ArtHave you always wanted to be an artist? How did you get started?

When I was a teenager, my mom and I took an oil painting class together. This was a way for us to spend some time together doing something we had in common, and I could learn something too. I have always wanted to be an artist—always believed that I WAS an artist. Somehow, getting paid for my artwork validates what I do and refuels me to do more. In a way, I don’t think that it should. I am literally living my dream of being a working artist, earning my living this way.

You’re famous for your Barbie paintings. Did you have a favorite Barbie as a child?

I don’t remember having a favorite because I don’t think I had many, just one or two, and no Ken. But who needs Ken anyway, right?

What made you focus on Barbie as a subject?

Focusing on Barbie for my paintings happened by accident about 12 years ago. I wanted very much to get to the place within myself where I would discover what I was meant to paint—to express my art in a direct way that would not be related to deliberate thought, or approval or success at all, just to let it be whatever it is. So what I did was just a lot of free-form painting, some with my eyes closed. The paintings that came from this search were very primitive. One day, out of nowhere, I painted one that looked like Barbie! It was as if I had found what I had been looking for. So I just kept painting Barbie and I haven’t stopped yet!

What about her inspires you?

I am inspired by Barbie in a couple of ways. First, she is absolutely beautiful and perfect in my eyes. And of course, one thing about her that is very cool is that, just like us, she can do anything she sets her mind to do.

I’m sure you are aware of the controversy about Barbie and body image, what is your opinion on the matter?

As for any controversy about Barbie, I think it is because of her success. Sometimes people have to find fault in success or beauty. She can’t help being perfect! What is the problem with perfection anyway? In my opinion, people shouldn’t base their ideal body image on a doll. I think of her as art. Even before I painted Barbie, she was—and is—a beautiful piece of art to me.

How do you use your art to make a difference?

A benefit I enjoy from being a painter is that I get opportunities to give to charitable organizations at a level that I could not do monetarily. So now I am able to say yes when I am asked to help with fundraising. What a privilege that is!

Debbie Curtis with a Pet PortraitTell us about your pet paintings…

My Pet Portraits for Pet Charities is a branch of my art biz that focuses on helping the local pet rescues. It is great for people to get a painting of their pet, or get one for a gift for someone, and in so doing they are giving $50 to their favorite pet charity. So they not only are supporting local art (me!) but also getting a chance to help pets in need at the same time. Over $5,000 has been raised so far!

What was your first love, pets or Barbie?

My first artistic love was Barbie, pets came later. I had painted one or two dogs for friends, and one day I walked into a pet retailer on a day that a Chihuahua rescue was there. I was so touched by those little dogs, and hated to think that I couldn’t take them home with me. That is what gave me the idea to launch my Pet Portraits for Pet Charities.

Do you enjoy painting other subjects besides Barbie & pets?

I do enjoy painting other subjects. I have done some abstract commission work, and I also like painting from old photos.

Discover Debbie’s art at Blue Seven in OKC, The Paper Lion or Eye Candy Lash Studio in Edmond. They can also be purchased directly at, or on Etsy. Debbie is happy to paint anything on request. 

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