How it all began
Deborah Kepes, founder of the Cobble Creek Studios Art Academy, http://cobblecreekstudios.com/, celebrated her 5th anniversary on November 7th. As she celebrates, she also reflects on the years of hard work, support from her family & friends, and her strong faith that drove her to the little cobblestone house on 124, Scenic Hwy, just north of East Main Street.
Deborah, the youngest of five girls, discovered her artistic desires at a very young age. Her mother always gave her a coloring book to keep her busy, but after a page or two, she would become bored and realized she wanted to draw her own lines. Deborah pursued her art basically on her own until high school where she was able to get into an actual art class.
It wasn’t until her senior year that she had an instructor with a BFA, and with her instruction she began to really blossom. When she was a junior she was asked to paint a mural on a 40’ long wall that was 10’ high for her city. It was painted in a room at the local community center where teens could gather afterschool or on weekends for dances, etc. Although she was promised the help of others, she ended up doing the whole project alone. The mural was the image of the cover of Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road” album. Throughout high school she was asked to draw or paint several school projects such as graduation stage decorations and graphic images for the advertising in the yearbook, but this project gave her the confidence to pursue art.
However, after high school and with limited funds, Deborah went on to graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Legal Science with the aspirations to become a Paralegal. In 1977 she married her husband Mark, had two sons, Dylan and Damon, and worked as a secretary to help make ends meet. But she always loved art and always knew that it was her passion.
In the next few years she found herself working as an Account Coordinator for a large food broker in Pittsburgh, PA. This is where they soon discovered her drawing skills and asked her to do the artwork for their newspaper ads for certain manufacturers and other art work that might be needed. Soon after, the vice president of the firm informed her that he planned to open a marketing department and asked her to accept the position of Marketing Director.
During this same time, her husband was promoted to an outside sales job. This would mean she wouldn’t have to work, so they decided she would stay at home to raise their sons and possibly begin her own business in art, and so she turned down the position.
With her children now school age, she began “Wall Creations”, a muraling business painting children’s murals. She was working as a muralist when she met an individual who owned a custom faux molding business. He asked if he paid for her to take faux finishing classes would she consider doing the painting for him.
In 1993, Deborah began taking classes in faux finishing and muraling at the Pittsburgh Center of The Arts. It was here, during a portrait workshop, that she met Jamie Adams who became her first real mentor of fine art. This is where Deborah was first introduced to portrait painting, a genre that she wasn’t aware artists still pursued, thinking it was a lost art. For the next five years she would go wherever he was teaching and study primarily with him.
Then in 1998, her husband was transferred to Atlanta. In 2000, she began offering portrait painting classes out of South Gwinnett High School’s adult education classes. The class was very well received and in fact, began a following of regular students. These students were signing up for the class before the class was offered for the next semester.
In 2002, she was awarded “Best Teacher of the Year”, from the Adult Education Classes offered by Gwinnett County School Systems. This is when she knew it would be more profitable to open her own studio. Her first inclination was to find a location near her home. But a location could not be found, so she decided to begin offering the same classes from her home on Cobble Creek Lane in Grayson, which originated the name of her studio.
The transition was very successful and continued to gain ground through advertising with post cards that listed the classes she offered. They could be found throughout the area, frame shops like “The Great Frameup” with Bob Brown in Grayson/Loganville and specifically at “Snellville Framing and Fine Art”. Owner Eric Bachman has played an essential role in advertising the school.
Deborah decided some time ago that she would pursue portraiture as her specialty and became a member of both the Portrait Society of Atlanta and the Portrait Society of America. She held positions with both organizations and indeed became the first Georgia State Goodwill Ambassador of the Portrait Society of America. As a Goodwill State Ambassador, she met with many individuals throughout the state promoting the fine art of portraiture. Through this international organization she has won many awards through the Ambassador Program.
It wasn’t until 2010 she finally, almost accidently, found her home for the Cobble Creek Studios Art Academy and James H. Ankrom Gallery, 2257 Scenic Hwy, Snellville, GA.
Make sure you check back next Tuesday for Part II