An artist in our midst: Meet Debbie Florentino-Dlugolecki

Debbie Florentino-Dlugolecki's "Friends," a pastel drawing, is one of the works on display at the Liverpool Art Center.

Debbie Florentino-Dlugolecki's "Friends," a pastel drawing, is one of the works on display at the Liverpool Art Center.

— For the past 30 years, Debbie Florentino-Dlugolecki has worked as a senior court reporter, in Syracuse covering both Onondaga County Court and Supreme Court. Her job, each and every day, requires her to record every word uttered verbatim at court proceedings, every last word, every utterance. She listens, records phonetically, archives and, she says, she learns. Often the ideas that emerge during the course of a trial strike her as new, something to think about, something to ponder or to study a bit later. But, in the course of her work life, as she puts it, she “has no voice.” She is solely the recorder of information.

Only two and a half years ago, Florentino-Dlugolecki began to speak in vibrant color and sharp images. She began her journey as a landscape artist, working in pastels.

On a road trip with a friend to New England, she was encouraged to buy pastels and to begin a new craft. She purchased an inexpensive set of beginner pastels and began to render the world before her. Mirroring her life as a court reporter, Florentino-Dlugolecki first let the world speak to her. She looked for inspiration in the beauty she recorded. She took to her camera and began photographing scenes in her world that struck her, that made her pause. She was on a hunt for the beautiful moments in nature. But she notes (and here she is not still or any more the court reporter) she is not a camera. She does not have to paint only as the camera captures. She has license to transform, to add mystery or commentary. She can transform that tree, drop a limb if the composition requires.

For three weeks after the purchase of that first set of pastels, Florentino-Dlugolecki engaged in self-teaching: she read art books, she practiced, she wanted only to learn a craft. As she explains it, her work as an artist is always first a learning experience. Very much like the curious woman who transcribes the words of others, she studies nature. And then with her fingers, she speaks. And she discovered she was good. She had talent.

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