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You might say that Las Cruces artist Debra Vance came to watercolors by way of a dentist’s chair and a cattle ranch.
A native of Strongsville, Ohio, Vance moved to Colorado in 1986 and began a career as a dental hygienist that would last for 30 years. She met her husband, Dene, when the two were involved in co-ed softball in 1993. Together, they owned a 168-acre cattle ranch for 18 years.
“We just enjoyed the heck out of it,” she said. But after feeding and watering cattle twice a day in temperatures that sometimes dipped to 20 below, the couple sold the ranch, retired and moved to Las Cruces four years ago, where she has focused mostly on creating and selling art.
“We love it,” she said.
Settling into 11 acres surrounded by about 350 pecan trees on West Union Avenue in what she dubs Hacienda Vance, Debra has located her studio and gallery in a courtyard casita. She also has studio space in the couple’s RV so she can paint while they travel to plein air (outdoor) events in the region.
Her work can be found in private and corporate collections throughout the West. Vance has also exhibited her work in juried shows in Mesilla, Albuquerque and Santa Fe and has participated in plein air shows in New Mexico and Arizona, including Santa Cruz Plein Air 2019 in Tubac, Arizona, where she won second place.
Vance has discovered a non-traditional way of painting, using palette knives, which are usually reserved for artists working in oil, and a substance called watercolor ground to create texture in her watercolors.
“I’m playing with it more and more,” Vance said. “It adds a whole other dimension of interest.”
Vance is a signature member of the New Mexico Watercolor Society, Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, ArtForms/Las Cruces Art Association and the Doña Ana Arts Council.
Although she didn’t get “serious” about her art until a few years ago, Vance said she “always doodled and sketched as a kid,” using crayons and colored pencils and painting with acrylics on sliding glass doors.
The Vances are also amateur wine makers. They buy grapes from Deming and make their own Hacienda Vance Wine. The label features Debra’s painting of the hacienda. The wines have won medals in Colorado and New Mexico.
“It’s just fun to share,” she said.
Vance learned how to sell cattle on a website and on Facebook and has since transferred “marketing from cows to artwork,” she said. She also sells greetings cards and has her artwork featured on dish towels and pillows for VIDA (shopvida.com), an e-commerce platform whose products benefit literacy programs worldwide.