Awakening Creativity


By Monica Petrova, Special to the Independent


Internationally recognized artist Deborah Paswaters’ inspiration comes from life and its ever-changing patterns.  She shares her creativity through various mediums, including sculpture, collages and painting. Much of her work can be seen on canvases displayed in galleries or at her studio in Laguna Beach.  Often related to dance and the performing arts, the canvas pieces are captivating and allow personal interpretation. Paswaters opened her first studio in Laguna Beach in 1990 and has since been mentoring artists and helping them develop their creative potential. “There are no mistakes in paint,” Paswaters said.

As a figurative fine artist, she believes that drawing from life provides artists an exercise in flexing their technique. Constantly shifting light, movement of the figure and life energy challenges the artists’ eye.  “It is the way to open the pathways in the visual brain, eye to mind to hand to art, instantaneously creating in a fleeting moment.  Throughout art history, this may explain the significance of auto-portraiture in nearly every master artist’s oeuvre,” said Paswaters.


The afternoon sun was still shining bright as I entered her studio for a Friday figure workshop. To soften the incoming glare, white fabric was stretched across the open roll-up door.

Canvas paintings in a wide assortment of sizes were displayed on the walls or neatly stacked to one side of the studio. Tripod easels held paintings in progress. Paint tubes and jars filled a shelving unit. A large mirror leaned against one of the walls and gave the illusion of an even larger studio space. 

A feeling of hesitation came over me as I thought about the last time I held a brush or tried to sketch. The emotion melted away as Paswaters instilled confidence in her workshop students, declaring a   manifesto that exempts expressions on canvas from rules or mistakes. Her studio at 2225 Laguna Canyon Rd. is on the city’s Open Artist Studios tour, offered the first Saturday of the month through March. Her figure workshops, at a cost of $40, materials included, are offered every Friday, from 7-10 p.m.

After some chatting and inspecting the instructor’s works, everyone got comfortable either sitting on the floor or standing by an easel.  Most participants started with paper and charcoal as two models moved fluidly from one pose to the next. It was fascinating to see how everyone’s work progressed as pages were turned over and over again and a new pose emerged from a blank page.

As a photographer, I was fascinated by the dynamic between participants and the models; everyone was immersed in their own creation. Soon I too I realized that the workshop served as my canvas and captured a few scenes with a camera rather than charcoal.

“Every workshop will be a surprise,” promised Paswaters, who creates distinct themes for each.  Regardless of whether participants are sketching a recreation of a Van Gogh still life or a Degas dancer, both new artists and those looking for inspiration are welcome.

Though art workshops abound in Laguna, ones offering life-drawing are more uncommon. “A salon style environment allows for creative discussion or expansion for artists in a non-judgmental supportive space, where the creative is allowed to flow,” said Paswaters, whose work is carried by Laguna’s DeBilzan Gallery and Newport Beach’s Ty Alexander salon among others.

“Currently, as a single mom I am thrilled to be diving back into my creative career, now that my children are of school age,” she said.


For more info: [email protected] or call 949 338 3400


Monica Petrova made her dream come true by moving from Scottsdale, Ariz. A published photographer and owner of Impromptu Pictures, she is always in search of inspiration.

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