EVERY DECADE BRINGS SOMETHING NEW

by CONNIE DUFNER

DEBRA PAYSINGER’S TRADEMARK IS, literally, “the raddit®,” a series of 169 paintings of rabbits in all sorts of clever personas, from wearing nothing to modeling bows, pearls and even a Dracula cape.

Go Play, Acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 11″

But the popularity of the cheeky bunnies belies Paysinger’s artistic range. The South Carolina artist came to paint as an adult and over the years has taken on a variety of subjects. Her animals, still her favorite subject (“except for dogs, I won’t do people’s pet dogs anymore,” she says), feature deeply expressive faces. Fishing lures have almost a pop-art quality, all shiny and feathery and anything but mundane.

“I’m endlessly interested in new things,” says Paysinger, who started painting in 2003 and turned to it full time after 2013, when her gig doing light-and-sound for her husband’s doctor band slowed down. “Every decade brings something new.” Her 10-year teaching career, her time as a stay-at-home mom to three children, the band. Before painting, her artistic outlet was needlepoint. “I did gazillions of projects until that last kid could drive,” she says. And now, “it’s all art.” She has worked with two teacher-mentors, the second of whom encouraged her to switch from oils to acrylics. She appreciates the ease of acrylics and the way the quality of paint has improved over the years. She now paints and sells more than 100 paintings a year.

“the raddit® 162,” Acrylic on canvas, 20″ x 16″

Of her latest series the artist says: “The black-board thing is my Cy Twombly interpretation. I call it the $70M Series because one of his paintings sold for $70 million.” One in the series features a painted canvas resembling a chalkboard, with Beatles lyrics etched into the paint. “It was fun to put them all together,” she says of the lyrics. Another example of the $70M Series is one she’s keeping for herself. “It’s called The Ways I’m Not Going to Die, inspired by stupid stuff my children have done that I know I won’t do, like volcano surfing,” Paysinger explains.

In fact, her children have inspired much of her work. One $70M painting includes medical school terms. “My daughter Kristen is an ER doctor. Her method of studying was to scribble while she was learning; it’s how she learned the material so fast,” Paysinger says.

Sweet Loretta Martin, Acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 40″

Her son, Daniel, has requested farm scenes. “He’ll ask me to do stuff for him that I wouldn’t have thought to do, like a duck pond,” she says. “He went to The Citadel, and I did four or five paintings that pertained to that.”

And it was Meredith, her youngest, who inspired Paysinger’s now-trademarked “raddit.” The artist had just completed a painting of a large-scale rabbit while she was still working in oil. She couldn’t think what to name it until she spied Meredith’s first-grade drawing of an Easter rabbit in the family room. The b’s had been transposed in the title. The idea took off and Paysinger worked with an attorney to acquire the trademark. She’s completed 169 “raddit” paintings. “the raddit® 100” is wearing a checkerboard party hat and found a home with a buyer in Dallas. “He’s in a great kitchen, with two dishwashers and two of everything,” Paysinger says.

Fish Cabin LVI, Acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 24″

What appeals to Paysinger about the life of an artist is that even when subjects are similar, like her beloved birds and rabbits, each one presents itself in a new way.

“I’ll be painting along and all of a sudden I’ll say, ‘Well, hello.’ I’m painting a bird or a rabbit or other animal and all of a sudden it pops. There’s some little switch you do in some spot, and there he is. You’ve got your creation that’s not the same as the one before,” she says.

Tweezer Things, Oil on canvas, 36″ x 4

Paysinger exhibits in two South Carolina galleries and also sells paintings through her website. She has sold to patrons all over the world and enjoys discovering where her paintings find homes. Eight lures are on a yacht, a giant squid is in a bachelor pad, a barracuda is behind an office desk “to intimidate” and, sadly, seven fish paintings were destroyed in a plantation fire. “My birds and rabbits are everywhere,” she says. “Every room of a house, even wine cellars and bathrooms and bookshelves and nurseries and foyers.”

Freelance writer and editor Connie Dufner is a proud Texan transplant living in Washington, D.C. She is a former editor for Modern Luxury Dallas and The Dallas Morning News who has been covering interiors journalism since 2001.