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Debra Stroud

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Debra Stroud first laid claim to her artistic gift at the grand old age of two and half years, when she immediately peeled off the nursery freeze that her mother had just secured to the wall moments earlier. Stopping short of citing ‘artistic differences’ for her wanton misdemeanour, Stroud’s next creative response was slightly more constructive.And was more a creative interpretation and proactive move rather than a reaction. Essentially the celebrated contemporary landscape artist would feverishly invent all manner of toys and proceed to send her visions off to the largest toy manufacturers of the day. On one occasion Stroud’s blueprint for a sort of gyroscopic pod-like sledge brought official acknowledgement from one such manufacturer. ‘Triang’ approved of Stroud’s design (although neglected to offer her a role as a product designer then and there) by way of forwarding her a lovely, encouragingly-worded letter and a doll’s cot for her troubles.

With this vote of confidence in Stroud’s creative pretensions the budding inventor threw herself into anything bordering on artistic and performance during her school days and general formative years spent in and around Guildford in Surrey. At her first educational establishment Stroud quickly became immersed in the daily activities of music, drama and art, only sadly this came to an abrupt halt when the school closed its doors when she was 9 years of age, whilst subsequent schools failed to measure up in terms of creative spirit thereafter. However at 14 Stroud’s artistic interest was piqued again when she read all about the Guildford School of Art and in particular, their photography course on offer. Buoyed by what she saw as a future channel for her creative overtures she returned home with bundles of associated literature only to be met with startling disapproval by her father, who in no uncertain terms implied that this wouldn’t be the route he would see his daughter opt to go down for reasons best known to himself.

Either way Stroud was heartbroken, and consequently gave up on her dream of pursuing a creative vocation in light of this over-reaction. Instead, when Stroud eventually left school, she elected to attend a higher education college, followed up by studying for a degree in Psychology at Sussex University. With this in the bag Stroud then went on to gain further qualifications in Philosophy in London. Eventually though Stroud began dabbling with photography as an extra-curricular interest in life, which in time brought her around to the art of painting. She freely admits that her background was geared more toward photography from the outset of finally venturing down a more creative route, whilst painting she sees as a more natural evolution for her rather than a pre-ordained path. The transition from the study of psychology and philosophy to becoming a bona fida professional artist was, as you may have already come to realise, not a particularly straight forward one for Stroud, and inevitably crossed a plethora of vocational postcodes and dead end streets. Not least spells in sales and marketing, couriering (albeit the glamorous version, where she’d regularly travel backwards and forwards to New York as opposed to New Maldon), noise pollution for a local authority, and then as a freelance photographer. Diverse isn’t the word.

Today Stroud is firmly rooted in Hampshire, and is based not far from the sea and the picturesque South Downs. She’s clearly in love and awe of her surrounds and speaks in excited tones about walking over the great rolling hills which characterize this neck of the woods between Sussex and Hampshire; paying specific respects to Butser Hill and The Trundle and describing in detail how she’s permanently inspired by the way in which the sun beams down its shafts of light out onto the distant carpet of sea. Indeed, it’s these rich and opulent colourations which most influence the strident hues and saturations which habitually reside in Stroud’s finest landscaped moments on canvas; these brilliant blues that are almost tangible. Photography is key too, as Stroud confirms that she facilitates her camera as a pivotal part of her whole design process, citing how she develops much of her final illustrative flourishes from the strong chromatic colours which are presented in transparency form. And again Stroud borrows, begs and steals from her camera days when stressing how she’s equally influenced by the minimalism more often than not depicted on film. Clean, crisp, uncluttered, clear lines as she refers to them as, ultimately representing this un-chaotic symmetry seldom furnished by contemporary landscapes.

Stroud chooses solitude in which to paint, and feels that this works best in her pursuit of the perfect art, maintaining that peace and quiet allows her to focus and channel her creative energies into the task at hand. Not entirely unusual for an artist it has to be said. She also champions the cause of both watercolours and oils, and dependant on her mood at the time will seek to employ either for capturing the dramatic sea and coastalscapes which she’s made her own in recent years. the sea itself continues to be Stroud’s greatest source of inspiration as already touched on, yet the artist herself cannot emphasise enough as to just how these vistas move her. Yet Stroud’s luminous and narratively-fulsome pictorials do time after time, as she tells the ever expansive stories of the sea and the way in which its presence impacts her daily life and times. From the wild white breakers of the Atlantic coast which cascades on Cornish shores such as Holywell Bay and Sennan Cove to the almost translucent azure aquamarine tints found around Studland in Dorset and Salcombe in Devon. Despite having visited the likes of the Seychelles, California and South Africa whilst on previous travels, Stroud concedes that there really is no place like her South West home.