Curiosity Drives Debbie Shaw


Curiosity has always driven Anderson Artists Guild member Debbie Shaw. That was evident from childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, when she and her sisters regularly got into trouble for capturing bees from dandelions and shaking them in a jar to hear them buzz.

After high school, Shaw worked for Southern Bell in Miami as a long-distance operator. She mostly enjoyed the job though she carries a particular memory of Henny Youngman, a comedian who became famous in the 1940s and was best known for the line “Take my wife…please.” “He was so rude to all of us,” she said. “He always called collect, and he had an attitude.”

She worked her way up to network clerk before relocating to upstate New York, a time of struggle when she earned milk and meat by sanitizing the milking cups and shoveling feed from a silo on a dairy farm. But she also learned medical transcription and worked in that field through moves to Texas and South Carolina, where she worked for AnMed and Anderson Orthopedic until retiring last year. She enjoyed learning new words and terms and interpreting different accents until voice recognition artificial intelligence transformed her job. At that point, she said, “We were just glorified spell checkers for computers.”

Shaw took a couple of art lessons as a child but never liked working under restrictions. She remembers one experience at the Cleveland Art Museum, where an instructor told her which painting to copy. “I got mad,” she said. “I didn’t want to paint a red circle on a black background. It didn’t speak to me.”

So she’s mostly taught herself, moving from oils to acrylics, which she finds more efficient, fun, and easier to correct. She enjoys capturing animals and has tried diamond painting and other crafts like crochet, counted cross stitch, and embroidery. She’s especially proud of several commissions she’s done at AnMed, including animals on sheet rock panels during a cafeteria renovation, a floor-to-ceiling mural of Lake Hartwell on 4 South, and canvases with an underwater theme for Kids’ Care.

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