Monday, June 16, 2014

Aussies 'n' Fairy Tales Week: Debra Phillips, Painter of Stories

You may have seen her work recently in conjunction with the AFTS conference, but not known the name of the creative woman behind this new vision of Snow White. Her name is Debra Phillips and she tells stories. But not just with words. She also tells stories with paint.

While she is a writer and is currently involved with an academic study related to storytelling and fairy tales, she also creates stories using paint and often incorporating other media as well. Be it stitching, photography, old maps or her own brushstrokes, there is always a story woven into the work.
A Grimm View of Life series: Three Little Pigs
From Ms. Phillips:
When I paint I tell myself a story about the people in the scenes, the events leading up to the scenes and the qualities of each person within the painting. For me, a painting is a story. Although it is entire in itself, there is always a story before the image and a story after the image.  Decades ago when I painted the series of saints, I also wrote on the back a short story about the life of the saint (either imagined or real). 
A Grimm View of Life series: Goldilocks and porridge

What you see here are some of her intriguing paintings, exploring familiar fairy tales in a new ways, something, she says, is bring influenced by her current academic research and study, with an emphasis on the notion of time experienced in fairy tales and how they can transform to become a distinct narrative about an imagined future.

But that's not all she does.

A Grimm View of Life series: Snow White and rotten to the core
In the past, Ms. Phillips could often be found writing stories for friends by request, often with the purpose of commemorating a specific and special life event (birth, wedding etc). Over time, she began to include water colors, collages or photographs she had created. At some point she added stitching and the concept of her unique brand of hand crafted books was born.
Detail from a mixed-media collage

Story writing has overtaken my self and my life. There is always a tension between the desire to write and the desire to paint. Sometimes the paintings emerge from writing and sometimes the story comes from seeing a theme running through paintings or collage images. 
Fairy story themes are a constant thread running through all the stories. Some fairy stories are obvious and others are hidden in the other themes of the story. All my stories are about the human condition, especially its frailties and it’s complex relationships.
As you can see at the head of the post, Ms. Phillips had the honor of being the cover artist for the AFTS Inaugural Conference program this year. She also attended and, along with everyone else, has been reported as being both delighted and inspired by the papers and presentations of all kinds.Which can only mean one thing: we should be seeing more from Ms. Philips very soon.  
A Grimm View of Life series: Snow White & Rose Red have the wolf at their feet

In the meantime, she has a small website with a few examples of her work HERE, including a fascinating introduction to her current studies with fairytales. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Phillips does next.


  1. This is an interesting conference not only to discover more fairy tales but also to meet some of the authors.

  2. Very Great Arts, full of Creativity !!