Debra Keirce: Engineer to Artist

NOAPS Keirce Sips2219449w360   “Sips”, Oil, 16×20 Winner of Best Still Life from the 2017 NOAPS Spring Online International.  Available through the artist.

The exquisite detail in Debra Keirce’s painting “Sips” is certainly remarkable; but this skillful artist has used much more than detail to draw us in.  The composition is carefully positioned to attract us at once to the pot on the lace cloth, then the series of handle shapes takes us rhythmically through the scene.  Small areas of red are placed strategically to lead our eyes, gratifying us with more and more delightful discoveries.  The beverage containers are from various parts of the world, and the theme behind the painting, as Keirce states: “no matter where you are on this planet, there is an opportunity to bond with a fellow human over a cup of tea, some coffee, or whatever…”

NOAPS Keirce DarkHorse   “Dark Horse”, Oil, 16×20, available through the artist.

At a time when classical realism was on the back burner at many art schools, Debra Keirce decided to pursue a degree in biochemical engineering, realizing then that realist art was her natural inclination.  After a successful career as an engineer, in 2010 Keirce transitioned to a full-time professional artist.  She was never far from her art, however, and took many workshops and classes while building a commission business by drawing and painting portraits while still working as an engineer.

NOAPS Keirce Pink Ladies   “Pink Ladies”, Oil, 18×24, available through Huckleberry Fine Art Gallery

Many artists have helped Debra along the way, giving advice and inspiration.  She recalls a few quotes that are frequently brought to mind: “The art journey is a marathon,  It’s not a sprint,” a quote by Robert C. Jackson; and “Keep it simple.  Life gets complicated on its own,” told to Debra by David Cheifetz.  She finds that the most inspiring contemporary artists are those that she has met personally, artists such as Tina Garrett, David Gray, Sarah Siltala and Felicia Forte.  Among her favorite Master Artists are Vermeer for his value schemes and Sorolla for his “luscious play of warms and cools in his outdoor scenes.”  She also finds inspiration from a group of artists composed of five women with whom she has participated in several shows; the group is called WAM-Women, Artists, Mentors.  These women are from various parts of the globe, and stay in contact regularly.

NOAPS Keirce BonVoyage   “Bon Voyage”, Oil, 11×9, available through Seaside Art Gallery

Debra has found her niche in classical realism, and paints in oil and acrylic.  She finds everyday scenes inspiring in addition to the still lifes she sets up in the studio.  She paints on a rigid support such as gessoboard or brushed aluminum panels primed with acrylic gesso.  Her colors include Ivory black, titanium white, raw or burnt umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, cadmium orange medium, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, ultramarine blue, viridian, and permanent alizarin.  Her favorite brushes are Rosemary Shiraz short filberts and Escoda 1492 rounds and liners.  She may have more than four projects going on at once, and her day starts by reviewing what she has been working on and making corrections.  Debra works both from life and photos, making certain to take color notes from life if working from a photo is necessary.  She starts with a grisaille for her underpainting, after which she begins to block in the colors in an indirect style.

NOAPS Keirce TheArtisan   “The Artisan”, Oil, 6×4,available through the artist

Debra’s three adult children are her greatest endeavor, however in art, her greatest accomplishment is that which is to come next.  Her tenacity has been her biggest asset, and she encourages artists to keep trying, don’t give up, art is a marathon, not a sprint.

Debra participates in many national shows, and has won numerous awards.  She is an Art Renewal Center Living Artist and is a member of the Copley Society of Art in Boston, MA.  She is represented by Huckleberry Fine Art Gallery in Rockville, MD, Seaside Art Gallery in Nags Head, NC, and Ellis-Nicholson Gallery in Charleston, SC.  To view more of her work, visit her website at

To view more of the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society 2017 Spring Online International visit, and view on Instagram at Natoilandacrylicsociety.





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