Deborah Kehoe: Helping others find their palette

When Deborah Kehoe left Vermont to study graphic design and painting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, teaching wasn’t one of her career goals. Nevertheless, the summer after she graduated, she was contacted by the Arts Institute of Boston, and by September, she was in front of a classroom. “I wasn’t much older than the students I was teaching,” she said. “I had great instructors in college and I modeled my teaching after them.” This summer, Kehoe will be bringing those teaching skills home to Charlotte for a series of workshops at her barn on Church Hill Road.

Deborah Kehoe
Deborah Kehoe

In addition to working as an adjunct design professor at the Arts Institute, Kehoe taught at Clark University and the Rhode Island School of Design. She also did work for several design studios, assisting a number of entities, including the local PBS affiliate, Raytheon, and Harvard Art Museums. Kehoe moved back to Vermont in 1989 and started a graphics design business a year later. Initially called Kehoe and Kehoe, it is now Deborah Kehoe Design. Kehoe does work for companies across the country, as well as some non-profits, with a focus on branding, packaging, and publication, web and environmental design. “It’s really all about listening and creating a personality that is compelling and speaks of the companies I work for,” she said.

Deborah Kehoe painting.
Deborah Kehoe painting

In 2000, Kehoe helped rebrand Champlain College and joined their staff nine years later, teaching design, drawing and painting. “I really enjoy teaching,” she said. “I like to help my students think about the design process and bring that into their painting. It’s very process driven.”

Kehoe has been painting since she was 11 years old. She started with oils and then switched to watercolors before adding pastels five years ago. “Each has its beauty,” she said. “I like them all.” That’s one of the reasons why Kehoe’s upcoming workshops do not specify a particular medium. She noted that most of the students who have already signed up are watercolorists, but there are also some pastel artists and a few who use oils. She will be doing demos in each of the mediums.

Deborah’s barn on Church Hill Road. Photo contributed
Deborah’s barn on Church Hill Road. Photo contributed.

The workshops started on June 5 and are on six consecutive Saturdays. The first two were devoted to peonies with others concentrating on barns or other parts of the garden. One, which is designed to help students paint Lake Champlain, will be held off the property. Kehoe wants to limit the classes to six to eight people, but they are filling up quickly. They are all-day events (8:30 to 4:30) and include coffee and scones in the morning and a country picnic lunch for $135. Many of those who signed up are just taking one day of classes but others have signed up multiple days. “Some students are experienced painters,” she said. “Some have already taken a few classes and others are really beginners.” Kehoe noted that no men have signed up yet and she hopes that will change.

Kehoe’s decision to run the workshops was based in part on her property. “I’ve got this beautiful place out in the country,” she said. “It’s a natural space for people to paint.” Kehoe’s barn dates back to the 1800s, and in the event of rain, it has both natural and electric lighting. She will supply easels and folding chairs and there will be a large canopy out front. “If it’s raining,” she said “we’ll work with cut flowers in the barn.” Kehoe has put considerable effort into creating her heritage perennial gardens, in part because she thought they would make ideal painting subjects. “It’s a labor of love,” she said. “This has been a vision of mine for quite some time.”

The workshops will concentrate on teaching composition and color. “I want my students to be deliberative about picking their color palette,” Kehoe said. Recognizing that they will come from different levels of experience, she hopes that there will be an exchange of ideas. “Everyone will get something from the day,” she said. “With the choice of different mediums, I wanted to give people the breadth of choice.”

With 40 years of teaching on her resume, Kehoe is looking forward to the opportunity to share her knowledge at her own home. “I’ve taught so many people in my lifetime,” she said. “I know how to pull out the best in students. I think this will be a wonderful experience with great food and a beautiful country setting.”

You can sign up for the workshops here.