Painting with Purpose

Just a few years ago, Deborah Matthews Murray never would have spent time behind a painter’s easel. So it may seem like quite the stroke of luck that today the Evansville native is using painting as a vehicle to experience and spread life’s greatest joys.

The former stay-at-home-mom and Bible study leader discovered her love of art in 2009.

“I was still leading our Bible study at that time, and our family began going through a series of trials,” explains Murray, noting that was when a friend suggested taking a painting class. “I was so open to an answer that none of my normal excuses — ‘I’d make a fool out of myself,’ ‘I wouldn’t be any good at it,’ ‘I’m too busy,’ ‘I can’t even draw’ — were allowed.”

Murray soon ran with the idea and took a painting class with her daughter, not yet realizing she was answering what she now believes is her life’s calling.

“No one was more surprised than me when I showed some ability at it,” she says. “Painting became a productive distraction for me, eased my anxiety, brought so much joy, and, ultimately, became my passion. And that passion now is my ministry.”

For almost a decade, Murray has been honing her artistic skills through oil painting with artist Chris Thomas of Chris Thomas Fine Art school in Henderson, Kentucky, and taking what she learns to her home art studio.

Murray paints realistic portraits and scenes of what she is passionate about — family, pets, and nature from her own life and clients’ lives. As she creates each of her custom pieces, she says a story emerges that inspires her to choose and include a related Bible scripture on the back of the canvas.

The passionate painter hopes her pieces — from her late Golden Retriever to her young granddaughter — spread purpose, faith, and encouragement.
“I suppose all fall under the category of memories,” says Murray. “I paint memories.”

Describe your painting style.
My style essentially is realism with a bend toward impressionism, with more detail on the star of the show, less importance on the supporting cast, leaving some room for audience participation.

What subjects and mediums do you use?
I primarily paint in oils, occasionally acrylic, some pencil and charcoal sketching. Because I primarily am drawn to color and light rather than subject matter, I have painted a variety of subjects. But the past few years I am leaning toward figure/gesture (children/grandchildren), dogs, and some floral. And I do have a crazy, recently found obsession for painting portraits, which I said I would never paint.

What inspires your pieces?
For many of my paintings, I write an inspirational vignette that generally includes scripture I can print and attach to the back of the frame for the client. Sometimes the story comes to me first and prompts a painting; but more often than not, I am inspired by something and the vignette follows. When the painting is delivered to the client, then I post its image and the vignette on my blog and Facebook art page.

What do you hope to capture with your paintings?
I want to capture an emotion, so it translates to the viewer. That emotion may be anything, but it seems like most of us want to feel love. Even a flower can remind you of your grandma’s garden.

I recently painted one of our granddaughters, but I wasn’t pleased with it. My friend said she didn’t understand why — it looked just like her. It did look like her, but it didn’t feel like her to me. So, it’s still sitting in my studio while I try to figure out what I need to do.

What type of piece do you enjoy making the most?
My very favorite circumstance for a painting is when I am moved to gift someone with a painting of someone or something very special to them, and they don’t know it’s coming.

There’s no pressure and no expectation, no timeframe — nothing hindering the flow of the creative process. Money just can’t trump that, the freedom to create and give of yourself.

Where do you paint?
I have claimed the playroom over our garage as my playroom, now that our kids have homes of their own. I started painting at the kitchen island and couldn’t understand why anyone would need anything more than that. Now, I have plans for every square inch of my room over our three-car garage.

Tell us about your custom pieces.
Most of my paintings are custom pieces. I like commissions because I enjoy the relationship and communication with the client, receiving inspiration from their photos and stories; and I really like painting with a purpose.

Where are your paintings available for purchase?
My paintings and commission inquiries currently are available by contacting me through my Facebook art page, blog, or email.

What pieces are you working on, and what’s next for your art?
I’m finishing up two commissions of a client’s dogs. And I hope to spend the majority of the coming weeks putting together a book of my paintings and writings with questions for personal reflection or small group discussion.

For more information on Deborah Matthews Murray, visit

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