While most people look at the world, Joyce DeFord sees it.
What may seem like a heap of rusted farm equipment, DeFord begins to dissect, seeing a beautiful tapestry of shapes, patterns and colors.
“Everything has a moment of beauty,” she says. “All we have to do is look for the moment of beauty.”
DeFord, a watercolor artist from Filer, first learned that maxim while in college at Idaho State University. One day she watched an old board with a nail stuck in it, checking back every hour, all day long. Nothing caught her eye until late in the evening when the setting sun cast a stunning light, making colors come alive in the peeling paint and rusted nail.
“Everybody sees [the moments of beauty], but if you just take a glance at it, all you see is a rusty old thing falling to pieces. But if you sit down and study it, then you begin to see the colors in it. What I’m after is to capture a moment of beauty and I want the viewer to feel that.”
Although she says her artwork has many roots, DeFord knew from the age of 2 that she wanted to be an artist. Coming from a family of school teachers, her father didn’t believe becoming an artist was a worthy goal. He once told her that she would never make a dollar with her art. Years later when she sold her first painting in college, DeFord framed a dollar bill and hung it on the wall.
“What keeps you painting is there’s a drive that won’t die,” she says. “And if you want to paint and you can’t, then you find the creativity taking different forms – I’ve done every craft under the sun. But I was never satisfied until I got to paint, and then I never wanted to do anything else.”
DeFord painted off-and-on for many years, including teaching art classes. She has been a member of the Idaho Watercolor Society for over 15 years. Now, behind the encouragement of her husband Carl Pulsifer, DeFord is at a point in her life where she can fully focus on her work, which has rejuvenated her spirits.
“When you can’t wait to get up in the morning, then life is really worth living,” she says. “This kind of excitement effects what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis; it carries over into all other areas of your life.”
Despite having won numerous awards on the local, state and national levels (most recently she earned fourth place at the annual IWS Juried Exhibition), DeFord is her own worst critic.
“Every painting reaches a point where I want to throw it out,” she laughs.
One painting that found the garbage can was a sunset scene at Stanley Lake. Frustrated that the reflection in the water didn’t look right, DeFord tossed the piece. Her cousin, who was visiting from Oregon, dug the painting out of the garbage, took it home and framed it. Five years later, DeFord visited her cousin’s home, saw the painting and said, “Wow, that’s a nice painting! Who did that?”
DeFord says every painting is a new experience. To expand her talents, she sets herself a challenge and then looks for a subject that fills that challenge.
“The test is to see if I really can do it and produce a work I am proud to show,” she says. “If I can show a different world to someone else with my art, then I share with them a new experience. Seeing with another’s eyes can open a new world, either with my own work or with observing another’s work.”
With family scattered across the western United States, Joyce and Carl often travel the back roads, which leads to new adventures and opens a new world of subject matter for DeFord’s paintings. Carl has learned photography to keep him occupied while Joyce paints.
Now that she’s focused full time on her career as a professional artist, DeFord has won a plethora of awards, has been featured in handfuls of galleries and shows across the West, and has sold enough paintings to cover the wall with framed dollar bills. But what drives her is the same motivation she’s had since her first portrait of her mother at 2 years old: to share the everyday moments of beauty.
“Every piece of art is a portrait of the artist. I strive to make people aware of the beauty that’s around them. There is beauty in everyday things all around us. All we have to do is be aware to look.”
To view more of Joyce’s work, visit: www.joycedeford.com