Small Art, Big Impact Winner: Debra Keirce

Casino, oil on Dura Lar film, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2"
Manhattan Arts International had it's third juried exhibition opening in December with the show Small Art, Big Impact.  As a sponsor of the event, Dynasty chose an artist from 60 finalists to win the Dynasty Brush Award, a treasure of $200 worth of brushes from a range of our series.  

The winner we chose is Debra Keirce, a wonderful realism artist, who paints in very small scale.  Her piece Casino won for its original subject and accurate detail, but also because the size is ultra-impressive.  The image you see above is actually larger than the artwork itself.

Ties, 8" x 10", oil
Debra has always considered herself an artist, and knew from entering and winning her first painting show that she would always be painting.  When she graduated from high school, Debra had a scholarship to Cranbrook Academy of Art, but didn't find the modern art world appealing.  She shares, "I didn't want to learn cubism, expressionism or any other 'isms'.  I just knew that I wanted to draw and paint the world as I saw it.  I was told that I should consider myself an illustrator then - not an artist." So, her career as a representational artist unfolded over a few decades, while she pursued a career in biochemical engineering.  She started out painting a few commissions a year, and then built up that business while raising a family.  In 2010, she began entering her work in shows and developing her portfolio.  At the end of 2012, Debra began pursuing galleries and likewise found some pursuing her.  

Favorite Labels, 9" x 7", oil
Even though Debra began her work as an artist in graphite and charcoal, an ideal base for drawing and realism, when she started incorporating color, acrylics were ideal for her technique.  She could achieve the bright hues and quick drying time, which she needed in her layers.  Alkyds also worked well for her as they blended smoothly like oils, but dried much quicker.  She explains, "Likewise, with the new acrylic mediums on the market, I could slow the drying times for my acrylic paints a big, and buy high flow paints that apply like watercolors or oil glazes - all without sacrificing the high chroma I enjoy.  So whether it is acrylics or oils I am working with these days, I can use the same process and techniques."  

Debra's work might be small, but her brushes of choice are often not very small.  Her favorite is a #6 round, giving her the sharp springy point and holding a rich amount of fluid.  "People assume I pluck hairs out of caterpillars and paint with them. . . not true.  I actually prefer a watercolor type brush that holds a great deal of paint.  The important thing for me in a brush is to have a very pointy tip that springs back again and again.  So, my favorite brush is a #6 round.  I can flatten it and use it like a filbert, or drag the point like a liner.  Of course, for parts of my paintings, I will use smaller rounds and flats, and initially, I will use larger flats to lay in the ground."

The Scholar, 5" x 4"
Debra has several upcoming shows this year where you can see her miniatures and other pieces in person.  Beginning soon on January 19th, her work will be at The Miniature Art Society of Florida International Exhibition at the Dunedin Fine Art Center in Dunedin, FL.  She will be at the Myth's and Legends Show at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Solomon's Island, MD running February 7- May 4.  Debra will also have two shows at the Seaside Art Gallery in Nags Head, North Carolina.  The first show opens February 6th and runs through March 1st. Her second opening there is for the 23rd International Miniature Art Show where she will be the demo artist on May 3rd.  To see more of Debra's amazing work online and hear some of the stories behind it, check out her website at:

For Debra's brush award, she will be getting Black Golds, Faux Squirrels, Microns and some Mastadons as well as few from the IPC line.  Congrats, Debra!

Keep Painting, 

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.


  1. Thank you so much! What a wonderful way to begin the new year. I am so grateful to Dynasty for their generous gift. And thank you Karyn for your kind words and beautiful feature article.

  2. These paintings are absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for introducing us to such a wonderful artist!


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