Stuck at Home by Debbie Lee

Debbie Lee, Arm Wrestling, oil on canvas, 91x122cm.
Debbie Lee, Self portrait fly on the wall, oil on canvas, 70x60cm, 2020


My background is that I attended the Glasgow School of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Royal College of Art in the late 80s-early 90’s. I trained as an art therapist and currently work as a painter, printmaker and animator.

Art and Parenting

I worked as an art therapist in the NHS working with children and families. Behind some of my work is the intention of raising awareness and opening a conversation around the subject of perinatal mental health and its connection with art as a medium to promote good mental health. I have taken part in some projects which help to support the balance between art making and parenting such as: Project After Birth, the Brood Film Festival (Digital Institute of Early Parenting), The Quickening with Extended Practice, The M Wall Collection (Desperate Art Wives) and Woman House Revistited

Stuck At Home

The home provides a container keeping the inner world apart from the outer space, and the walls within the home create further boundaries within that frame. Not many people get to see inside. During the lockdown I have been homeschooling my kids so my studio has been overflowing into different rooms around the house as I supervise their work. Whatever your approach to balancing art-making and parenting, it is important to continue to be creative.

I have provided images for the ‘Homeworks’ residency project which is an online platform coordinated by The Spilt Milk Gallery with the aim of sharing how creative parents work during lockdown. Some of my work was selected by The Chapel Arts Studios to take part in an online exhibition of House bound art.

Debbie Lee, Arm Wrestling, oil on canvas, 91x122cm.

During the lockdown it has been great to have my two children at home to model for me. Given the choice they would rather do this than maths. There can be some tension between them at times and this is captured by the atmosphere in this painting. I feel as if it is a home-based artist’s residency, using what’s around in the domestic space for inspiration. The home is like a backdrop for the play to unfurl.

Debbie Lee, Winding the Skein, oil on canvas 91x122cm.

As a reward for sitting for me I invited my daughter to begin the portrait of me in Winding the Skein. Collaborating creatively is a bonding experience which reinforces attachments drawing the thread between us. This picture was inspired by the film ‘Transfigured Time’ by Maya Deren.  The painting of the cello player in the background was made by painting on top of a child’s discarded drawing. Like Dubuffet I have often looked to child art for inspiration and I admire the raw essence of things in children’s art.

Debbie Lee, Like a Tree in the Wind, acrylic on canvas 152x122cm.

This picture is of a warm up exercise from a mentalization workshop. One person blows like a wind at their partner who sways like a tree who is rooted to the spot. It encourages us to reflect on how we influence each other. I was thinking about the mythical figure of Daphne whose arms turn into the branches of a tree in the story. It reminds me of the way in which a baby will sometimes hold its breath when the wind blows.

To find out more about Debbie Lee and her painting practice:

see her website  and instagram

Written by Debbie Lee