Getting Started At 30, She Put Her Heart Prize-winning Art

Posted: November 15, 1987

When pastel artist Deborah Camero wanted to draw a moose, she didn't just open a wildlife book and start sketching. She went to Maine and tromped around the wild northern pine forests until she found the object of her artistic desire.

"It was nothing like I envisioned it," Camero said, recalling the moose as she spoke in the civilized safety of her spacious studio on Davisville Road in Warminster. "I envisioned this great animal," she said, waving her hands in the air to show the massive antlers she had anticipated seeing. What she got, after several days of dedicated searching, was "a dreary old cow, feeding in the pond."

Undaunted, Camero spent more than two hours sketching the animal, noting ''which direction the hair would go," the subtle colorings on the animal's brown coat, and other details. The encounter has inspired Camero to plan a wildlife portrait featuring a moose and calf wading in a pond.

"I'm giving all my secrets away," she said as she described the pastel work. "Now, I'll go and do something different."

Camero strives to capture the realism of her subjects, and her talents have been recognized with numerous awards, most recently at the international Oil Pastel Association show in New York earlier this month. Her winning entry, a pastel of wild ponies titled Sheltering, Assateague, came out of a trip to Assateague, Md., she took in the spring with her husband, Richard Russell.

The award-winning Assateague pastel and other Camero works will be exhibited at the Bucks County Audubon Society's sixth annual Bucks County Wildlife Art Exhibition Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 at the Eagle Fire Company Hall, Route 202 and Sugan Road, New Hope. The Assateague trip that inspired Camero's pastel was sponsored by the Audubon Society.

Camero, 45, hasn't always spent her days stalking wildlife and drawing pastels.

It wasn't until she was 30 that Camero began discovering her nascent artistic talents.

Camero went back to school in 1970 to study nursing, but it was "one little course" on basic drawing at Bucks County Community College that changed her life. "It just exploded from there," she said.

For the next 10 years, Camero continued taking art courses, a few at a time, while raising her sons, now 18 and 21.

During this time Camero also studied privately with a local portrait painter, Jacques Fabert of Buckingham. She finished her studies at Philadelphia College of Art, where in 1980 she found a job with an advertising agency run by a former PCA professor.

Several years later, Camero "did a very scary thing - I just quit" to do free-lance commercial work.

"It was exciting," she said, especially after she landed a major account.

From there, "I went up and up, it just blossomed."

As she has "blossomed," Camero has gradually turned away from commercial illustration toward the wildlife pastels and portraiture she prefers. Her move toward more artistic projects has been aided by her husband of three years, who serves as salesman and market developer for his talented wife.

Camero's studio, a converted garage, is decorated with plants, stuffed deer heads, props like a large steamer chest, and some of her work, including a print of her first major pastel of two draft horses, Abraham Zook's Team, Lancaster County.

Camero said she had had no training in pastels when she did the piece, so she worked in the layering technique more often associated with oil paints. When she showed the pastel to her teacher, he could not tell what medium Camero had used. She thought she had failed, she said, but the teacher told her not to change her unusual style.

She has followed that advice, and has a little of her own for the aspiring artist:

"You are never too old to begin. . . . Life is not long enough to learn everything there is to know about art."

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