We had the good fortune of connecting with Debbi Smith Rourke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Debbi, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The idea for ArtfulGalleries.com came to me while I was on a holiday with a girlfriend visiting art galleries in the Cleveland area. While we were laying at the pool at her place in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, I started thinking about the things I love most in life. Beyond spending time with family and friends, and traveling, those favorite things include fine art and keeping up with the art scene, painting and exploring new directions in my own painting practice, and finally finding ways to give back to the community. These all light me up. So, I started thinking about ways to combine these efforts into one initiative. Also, being in marketing, I saw the opportunity for the art platform to move online. I saw an opportunity to create an online gallery that gives artists a broader reach, one that would allow me to paint more and share my works to a larger audience. It would be a platform where I could partner with nonprofits and donate a percentage of each sale back to the community. And the collectors would get to select which nonprofit among my partners they would like to receive my donation. All this goodness was born from some fun holiday time with a dear friend.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My professional background is all about advertising. I earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in Advertising. I was smitten with this business — from its glamour to the power of creative ideas and problem solving. I spent 10 years working for large national and international ad agencies in Chicago and Dallas as a writer, then ACD and later as a Creative Director. I was blessed to work with some fabulous creative minds and create award-winning television spots, radio and print ads. After this fun and hard work, I chose to go freelance and eventually returned to my home of Austin to enjoy more of a work-life balance.
It was here that I decided to finally dive into the art world. I had dabbled in painting throughout my young life and wanted to see where it might take me. I began taking art classes and workshops from talented local artists in a range of media and subject matter. I discovered the joy of painting colorful landscapes in pastel. Some of my favorite creations are in this medium. Next I discovered painting in oils. Quite a challenge to learn all the intricacies of painting in this medium. After years of painting in oil, I now love the textures I can create in this medium, ultimately delivering a very painterly artwork using both the brush and palette knife.
Today, I paint landscapes and still life works and even abstraction. After taking workshops from amazing artists across the country and across genres, my work now primarily explores simplifying shapes and forms, whether clearly representational or abstracted in nature. Design, color, contrast, texture, movement, value and mystique guide every move. Exploring the line between representational and abstraction is my current pursuit. I’ve just begun a new “duality” series that seeks to combine a bit of both disciplines into one cohesive and hopefully intriguing image. So look for more of these duality works to come.
Throughout the years, my advertising career has evolved as well. I am now a Creative Director for the in-house ad agency of Dell Technologies called Dell Blue — one of the largest in the world. We are doing amazing work and my colleagues are inspiring and collaborative. So between my advertising/marketing career, my art practice and growing my ArtfulGalleries.com business, I have quite a full life. And that of course includes having a loving husband, amazing stepsons and daughter-in-laws , plus five (and soon to be six) grandchildren.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Austin’s growth has been explosive. But even with all the new venues, some of the traditional favorites are still some of the best. Most of my friends love some form of Mexican food, whether Tex-Mex or interior Mexican cuisine. So I’d start with Fonda San Miguel for an exotic interior and amazing menu. They grow their own fresh vegetables and herbs and deliver exquisitely displayed fare. Not far is La Mancha, our regular stop for some of the best enchiladas and margaritas in town. Finally, Manuel’s is a marvelous place with its contemporary decor, lovely outdoor-garden dining and superb cuisine. My favorite as of late are the flautas, which are grilled not fried and amazing. Prickly pear margaritas are another highlight along their seafood entrees.
Live music is a must so depending on my guests’ music slant I might choose the Elephant Room for jazz or head to the Broken Spoke. Austin’s new Moody Center opens in April with John Mayer. It will host world-class talent in a world-class venue. Andrea Bocelli, George Strait, Bon Jovi, The Who, and the list goes on. Austin City Limits at The Moody Theatre is essential. I’d get tickets to see The Mavericks. I’ve seen Diana Krall perform there – was amazing.
If they came in the fall, a UT football game and F1 at Circuit of the Americas. Or Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament in the spring (this weekend!
A picnic at Pease Park and tour of its gardens and Kingsbury Commons’ Treehouse is a treat, especially after a swim in Barton Springs. Then we’d head to the Fredericksburg area for wine tasting. The range of vineyards has grown and each venue is glorious and unique.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people throughout my life who have helped fuel and support my broad creative interests and pursuits. But I’d like to dedicate this Shoutout to my mom, Pat Smith, who encouraged me from an early age with my writing and artistic endeavors. When my fourth grade teacher praised my writing skills after our limerick writing project, my mother said she was not surprised and thought I could one day write and illustrate my own books. So special.
Instagram: @dsr_fine_art and @DebbiAustin23 and @ArtfulGalleries
Linkedin: Debbi Smith Rourke
Twitter: @DebSmithRourke and @ArtfulGalleries
Facebook: Debbi Smith Rourke and Artful Galleries Online Art Source and Debbi Smith Rourke Art
They are all scene grabs from the website and I have permission from the artists. The artists’ names are in the images. For the one headshot, Owner ArtfulGalleries.com