The Hill Rag Magazine, Washington, DC, The Hill Center, Art Show Review

Art and the City

"tell this the story or the dream?" 

"tell this the story or the dream?" 


Artist Profile: Deborah Cavenaugh



This is a story about flying – the rhythms of migration, leaving home to go home. Deborah Cavenaugh is soaring above the hard trials of life. You can see it in the bright, playful watercolors with the happy field plants and the happier birds always taking to wing. You hear it in the titles: “I Kept Hoping I Could Fly” and “At Daybreak I Go.” You feel it in the red/green and orange/violet harmonies.

For Deborah it’s all part of the theme of her show, now at The Hill Center on Capitol Hill: “Leaving Home-Going Home.” After 20 years in North Carolina she is coming home.

Deborah turned to art with a toy watercolor set, a gift from her young daughters, at a difficult timin her life. It became a way to cope, “to turn hard times into truth and beauty.” She is also a life- coach to preteens and teens, using art to explore the same chance to fly, to lift off, to explore the life story that leaves the hand and finds itself on the paper, fashioning a new spirit from shy dreams.

That is another important element in her work: the hand that physically connects the mind to the surface and actually enters the picture plane. You will see original pencil drawings under the watercolors and other media – the painting within the painting. It’s the understory, the imprint of the artist’s hand.

Also in the show are new works, torn paper mosaics. In these energetic larger pieces the images play hide and seek, creating new perspectives. The overall patterns introduce your eyes to Cavenaugh’s stories, pictures with which to fly.





NPR's The Diane Rehm Show: Diane interviews Deborah

National Public Radio – Diane Rehm Show - International Distribution

Deborah Cavenaugh appeared on the Diane Rehm Show as part of series titled “Women at Work”.  Ms. Rehm said of Deborah’s work, “The color is so vivid. The brightness in each and every one of these [works] communicates a kind of joy that one doesn’t normally see in paint.”

read the release

Reviews of Deborah's Website

Thanks to the following sites for their great reviews of!

Inspiration: 120 super horizontal CSS menu designs, (Germany)

"The knowledge of technical implementation, everyone can acquire. Creativity can only be encouraged" (translation)

inspirational blog designs, (Sweden)

"beautiful, smart and "Out of the box" design" (translation)

Featured Post about, (Russia)

"First glance of this site shows a lot of things happening. It is definitely not just another design blog on WordPress, it is a a full watercolor painting, and precisely what makes Deborah! It is very easy to see what she is thinking as the designer of this site." (translation)

Top 10 eCommerce Web Designs

"brilliantly designed and well organized examples of eCommerce web design""This colorful and vivid eStore is a personal page of Deborah Cavenaugh – artist and designer. You can buy unique and bright hand-made Jewelry, Prints and other stuff from Deborah at the site."

25+ Truly Artistic WordPress Header Designs

"Deborah Cavenaugh presenting the true form of water color. She presented her creativity on a wordpress header. All work has done in water color, She began painting on Mother’s Day in 1992 after her children presented her with a box of watercolors they bought in a toy store."

60 Websites with hand-crafted items, (Spain)

"designed with style, art and a touch of informality by the use of the technique." (again rough translation from Spanish)

Illustrators - Deborah Cavenaugh, (Portugal)

"The illustrator Deborah Cavenaugh does an amazing job, because with bright colors and happy she can put kindness, gentleness and peace in his art" (translation)

33 Nicely Designed And Well-Colored But Simple Web Designs

"simple and beautiful"

200 best illustrations in web design

"Deborah’s place is just her, all her artwork is present across the site, empowering her identity."

Watercolor effect in website design, (Russia)

"The Hand drawn design saves us from the strict lines and adds a "human" element." (translation)

14 Truly Artistic WordPress Header Designs

"This site’s header has a lot going on. It shows the true form of water color type art on a WordPress header. Would be curious to know what Deborah was thinking when this site was designed."

Friday Focus 11/28/08: Huge Backgrounds

"The designer certainly took risks in this instance, and you’ll probably either love it or hate it."">

Sketch in Web Design, (Portugal)

"positive and authentic web design" (translation)

36+ Unique Wordpress Header Design Inspiration

"worthy of the same attention as other art works receive in galleries"

40 Most Beautiful Hand-Drawn Website Designs

"The advantage for adopting this kind of graphics is that you will get a very vibrant, natural look which will convey a sense of sincerity and originality to your site or blog."

Design Inspirations - Magento Websites

"Deborah Cavenaugh uses hand illustrated design elements and background to create her beautiful Magento based site. Her blog styled site shows off her art and collection of products that she offers. Cavenaugh's site is one of the more unique eCommerce stores around the web."

31 web design as depicted in watercolor paints, (Japan)

"Deborah Cavenaugh. The menu buttons and logos for the web site are made by the design style of watercolor including the backgrounds, all parts by hand. By using large background anyone would have an interest with this website. It is pretty, with well designed menus and buttons." (translation)


"The very best of these designs are still well organized, but they bring a little of that un-restricted, freeform nature of pen and paper to our screens."

Illustrative examples of web sites, (Spain)

"the drawings and colorful illustrations, which enable to give the website a colorful and friendly presence" (translation)

30 Super Cool Grunge Blog Designs

"very distinct mix of professional and grungy elements"

Creative Illustration On WordPress Themes

"a new breed of artist in town"

Illustration-inspired design, (Japan)

Post about "The illustration style design in vogue today. Website design is apt to be inorganic, warm design in this manner creates a good impression." (rough translation from Japanese)

cssCatwalk - Featuring Sites With Style

"Most people can quickly design a header with photoshop but not everyone can draw."

60 Mind-Blowing Hand Drawn Website Designs for Your Inspiration

"artistic and personal touch that awes people"

25 Attractive And Creative WordPress Header Designs

one "of the most attractive, creative designs by talented designers who push the limits of WordPress theming and raise the bar for the rest of us"

Designing The Holy Search Box: Examples And Best Practices

"In fact, search is the user’s lifeline to mastering complex websites. The best designs offer a simple search box on the home page and play down advanced search and scoping."

20 Creative Hand Drawn Website Designs, Turkey

"hand drawn design made with great passion" (translation)

Web Navigation Design Reference - article about horizontal menu design, China

"user friendly, but also consistent with the site design" (translation) on "Best Of..." Lists!

Thanks to the following sites for featuring in their “Best of” lists!

WordPress Design Inspiration 5 – for Header Design for a Blog

60 Mind-Blowing Hand Drawn Website Designs For Your Inspiration

40 of the most beautiful hand-drawn site designs, (China)

7 Sites Da Vinci Should Have Painted

“Some web designers like to push the boundaries in terms of artistic design, and for most of us it’s nice to come across some eye candy once in a while. Here’s a selection of a few of the best.”

60+ Amazing Examples Of Illustrative Web Designs With Overview

Blog Design: Beautiful templates from Photoshop, (Germany)

The 50 backgrounds of the web’s most creative, (Italy)

20 Creative Hand Drawn Websites Designs

“cool creative hand drawn design style”

43 Impressive and Fully Creative Hand Drawn Websites

“trendy and unique design”

Showcase: 30+ Creative WordPress Blogs Design Layouts

Nice & Creative Website Headers for your Inspiration

25 Incredibly Artistic Websites

60 hand-painted graffiti style sites, (site is in Chinese – rough translation)

Getting Inspired by 35 Eyecatching Illustrated Websites

“inspiring creative talent”

Hand-drawn website designs

“beautiful websites that were based on hand-drawn designs”

Showcase Of Websites With Watercolour Effect

40 Beautifully Designed Search Boxes to Inspire you

“examples of search boxes that push the envelope”


30+ amazing “cartoony” websites

30 Creative Examples of Illustrations in Web Design

50 Awesome Examples and Tutorials of Illustrations in Web Design For Your Inspiration

17 Dazzling Hand-Drawn Website Designs

Web Design Trends 2010-2011

56 websites with awesome footers

Web Design Inspiration – 25 Websites With Beautiful Background

20 Super Search Bars

40+ Websites with Awesome Backdrops

Getting Inspired by 35 Eyecatching Illustrated Website

Comunitatea Wedmasterilor din Romania – Art Web Designs,(Romania)

16 Beautiful and Creative Website Headers

20 very creative design of search box, (China)

50 superbes designs, (France)

CSS Bag Daily Inspiration

CSS Dance web design inspiration

69 Attractive Hand-Drawn Website Designs

21 Great Examples Of Artistic Websites Design

This Week’s Top 10 Web Design, (Netherlands)

Creative website designs


20 must-see eCommerce sites


Star News Interview (by Lois Carol Wheatley)

Posted on January 4, 2011

Article from Wilmington Star News January 4th, 2011

By Lois Carol Wheatley

A certain storybook quality inhabits everything in the studio; fairy tales told in the form of candlesticks, clocks, lamps, glassware, jewelry, picture frames, small furniture, sculptures, cards and prints. “People walk in here and the first thing they say is this place makes me so happy,” said artist Deborah Cavenaugh.

She is the creator of the 2010 StarNews Media Commemorative Cup, a prime example of the storytelling motif of her artwork. Bright colors and a whimsical style depict Mott’s Seafood in Wrightsville Beach, all the way down to the fat cat on the porch and the miniature delivery truck—real details in an otherwise surreal setting.


“I’m a narrative painter, and my interior decorating is a narration,” she said. “I am a lifestyle artist, which means I have a cohesive, complete thought and I put art into everything. I think that home should be beautiful and I think that home should tell your story.”

That story should vary from the family room to the bedroom to the kitchen, and she said that families should build on their unique experiences—collections, souvenirs, heirlooms—to bring artistry to their home and illustrate their lives and their values.

“At the end of the day home is what you have, and it can be beautiful and wonderful and completely about what’s important to you. The reality is that’s often done in the smallest of ways, the perfect mug that you have your evening tea out of. You have fewer things but the things you have are important and beautiful in your eyes.”

She does commissioned paintings based as much on how things look from the exterior as the stories that inhabit their interiors. “I listen to you, I hear what you say and I interpret it into a painting. That’s a story about your family or whatever it is you’ve come to me for, and those go all over the world.”

She specializes in painting family portraits and she’s also portrayed significant scenes like a home or a bridal bouquet. “I take what I think and put it together with what you think. That’s what folks want. They want me to paint a painting of their house, but they want me to paint it like a Deborah Cavenaugh painting, so I bring it forward to a little story level.”

The items in her shop are no such collaborations, but rather her own complete artistic vision. “Everything from a little hand-painted box to a little vase that I’ve added a few jewels to a little table, it all works together. Nothing is out of place. It’s all one thought.”

Many are Wilmington scenes and themes, but some are from various different places and others are not rooted anywhere in particular. “My cards and prints have gone international. I’ve been in shops from Maine to Florida pretty steadily, and from time to time out in the Great Lakes.”

Children are inexorably drawn to her studio and she has about 30 students, an even mix of boys and girls, who come to take lessons and learn to work with their hands in various media. “They are really powerful young artists,” she said. “They’re highly motivated. I push them hard and we get incredible results.”

They don’t necessarily learn to paint bright pictures of happy scenes. “I want to see their point of view. I want to direct them and help them with technical skills but I definitely want them to develop along their own line. I’m very successful with my kids because I find out what they’re good at and as they get better at what they are good at all the other things follow along.”

She raised her own two children by herself and they grew up in her studio, contented to watch, learn and help out. In the sense that her studio is her home, it models what she thinks a home should be.

“What I think you should do in your house is you should build collections, that your house should talk about you, the same way if you’re an artist someone can look at your painting and know something about you. If they can’t you’re not putting much of yourself into your art. You just have good hands but your heart isn’t coming out into it.”

For some colorful illustrations of hand and heart, visit her studio at 4113-E Oleander Drive, call 367-5211, or go online at

The "This is Charlotte!" Interviews

Deborah Cavenaugh Introduces A Collection of New Paintings By Eight-Year Old Wilmington Artist, Charlotte Armitage.

Charlotte, a student of Deborah’s and the daughter of Dr. Sam and Debbie Armitage, created these paintings from October 2009 through June 2010. Having just completed the second grade at Friends School, Charlotte paints about the things that interest her, delight her and tell her own story. Her works are complete, composed, colorful and, just like Charlotte, bring such joy to the world.  With impressive drawing skills and tremendous brush control, her technique, artistic insight and abilities belie her age.  Charlotte also writes fiction and poetry, composes for violin and piano, and sings in a beautiful, child’s soprano.

Deborah Cavenaugh Studio...Goodbye

Everything comes to an end. Every ending is a new beginning. If I am willing, my life is about to start anew.

I have enjoyed my years here, in Wilmington, as an artist. It has been a big and impactful time of my life. I have found my art. I have raised my children. I have made a new beginning and a new ending.

I have learned so much and written what I know to be true on my paintings. I have told my story and been heard. I have been myself and been loved. I have opened my heart and been healed.

I don’t leave here easily. How could I? Here, on this southern soil, I have poured out my heart and sent soaring my hopes and found pieces of myself I never knew existed.

Where do I go from here? I wish I had the answer to that. The only thing I know is, I go forward. I keep trying. I believe in myself and my God and hope. “Hope is the belief in things not seen.” I am believing that there is a new beginning out there for me. I just have to go and find it.

Star News Interview: This Is Charlotte

June 17, 2010 – Wilmington Star News – Ben Steelman

Article about Deborah Cavenaugh’s Student “Charlotte Armitage” and her new show “This is Charlotte”.

“The thing about her work is, it’s clear, it’s innocent,” Cavenaugh said. “Charlotte paints like a storyteller. She paints what delights her.”


Little Big Shots - Charlotte Armitage Interview

July, 2010 – Focus on the Coast 
Jennifer-Jon Choate

Article about Deborah Cavenaugh’s student Charlotte Armitage

“Deborah helps me with my strokes, layering paint the right way, blending the paint and learning cutting out techniques. Like Like mosts artists, Charlotte has a favorite time and place to paint, but her mom shares with a smile, “Charlotte would paint night and day if I let her.”