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Opening Reception with Featured Artist Debra Bradley

"A Dip of My Finger, 

the Essence of My Soul"

 "Coltrane" by Debra Bradley

"Coltrane" by Debra Bradley

About the Artist

 Debra Hayes Bradley - Shreveport, Louisiana-based artist

Debra Hayes Bradley - Shreveport, Louisiana-based artist

When was the last time you finger painted?  Was it in kindergarten?  For me it has been a life time.  As a child, there were no paint sets, brushes or colored pencils in my home.  I only had crayons, and number two pencils in those days, so when it came to blending and shading I dipped my fingers in residue from coffee grains for depth.  I find it therapeutic to paint this way. It is an intimate bond that bonds me to my work.

Looking back over my art classes I was taught which brush should be used for different technique. That was too confining. I always found myself sitting at the back of the class, and when no one was looking I would use my fingers. See it was OK to use your fingers to blend in a drawing but not in painting.  I can still hear my teachers “use your brush Debra and not your fingers”!  I grew up  embarrassed that I could not get the same effect with a brush.  Using my fingers allowed me to achieve some intricate blending on the canvas that I could never achieve with a brush. I can feel the texture of the paint before I applied it to the canvas. It was just like applying makeup. The feeling of paint on my fingers as I manipulate it across the canvas was liberating.

I first realized I could draw at the age of 9. I remember seeing a commercial on TV that asked the question “Do you have what it takes to be an Artist”? I send off for the test and checked the mail each day until it arrived.  When it came, I ran upstairs and sit on the floor and secretly open the letter and took the test. They asked you to draw pictures printed on a shiny expanse brochure.  Now I had to made each picture my own by adding details, but it was hard with shiny paper, so I used residue from coffee grains to add high lights and depth.  I waited each day for a reply, but nothing came in the mail, so I gave up, but one day my mother called me downstairs and there stood a woman with a pill box hat on her head asking are you Debra?  All I thought about was what have I done wrong!  She showed me my drawing and asked if they were mine? She explained that most people drew the pictures exact, but did not make them their own. That was why she came to see my parents.  My parents did not know I could draw. She talked to my mother about opportunity in art school, but my mother was not hearing that. She is going to college!

I started taking art classes in Jr. high and attending Commercial Art Classes at Caddo Career Center. After graduating from Southwood High School I got an Art scholarship from Southern University Shreveport where I study under the late Dr. Roosevelt Daniels.  Later I transfer to Southern University Baton Rouge. I had several professors who taught me many things, but Dr. Hubbard was my mentor.  After leaving Southern I married Gregory Bradley and we raised two sons. I started working at Libbey Glass for 32 years.  I had not painted since my college days. I told myself once I retire I will paint again, but I feared that my talent had been diminish.  In 2014 after my job had been down sized I was asked to do a show for a White Linen Party given by my krewe Harambee.   I started with comfortable painting, but every day the voice from God would say paint portraits, but I ignored it. This went on for three days. I finally pick up a paint brush to paint a picture and he said put it down you know you paint with your fingers.   I had conformed to using brushes that I had hidden that fact from myself and everyone else that I used my fingers. I have put down the brush and have been using my fingers ever since.

I was asked once as a child by my mother why I did not like drawing pretty things.  I have always been inspired by the wrinkles in an older person face, the emotions shown in the eyes, and dilapidated objects. In these things there is a story struggling to be told, and a beauty of a life well lived. In my paintings when you look into the eyes you can see the soul of a being. With each stoke of my fingertips I leave tiny fingerprints behind, which is a part of my story and journey. I am not longer ashamed of painting with my fingers.  I said it with pride. I am a finger painter, and I hope when looking at my painting you realize that finger painting is not just kids’ stuff.

 "Betsy Smith" by Debra Bradley

"Betsy Smith" by Debra Bradley