Deborah Camp: Painting Queens colorful, one window at a time

Spring Window Mural
Deborah Camp stands in front of her spring real estate window mural painted April, 2023
via Deborah Camp

Deborah Camp, 38, always knew she was destined to be an artist. The Woodhaven born freelance artist is well known for her grand, colorful, hand painted window signs that line businesses throughout the community. 

Growing up in a family full of artists, Camp recalled how from age 3, she gravitated towards art. She drew inspiration from her great grandfather “Nono,” who started painting landscapes in the latter half of his life.” I was watching him still working on his paintings into his hundreds. He started at age 70 painting, actually, he would paint scenes of Italy or of his homeland,” she said. 

Camp’s love for art followed her from elementary school to Bayside High School’s art program and beyond—including a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Queens College. 

As a teenager, Camp started doing digital art through the Sketch app on her old computer. By college, she fell in love with acrylic paint which later became her medium of choice. “I love color so much because I’m inspired by the 1960s, you know, a lot of surrealism and the trippy theme of the flower child era. So, for me, I keep gravitating back towards the whole rainbow spectrum,” she said. By 2009, after graduating college, she felt stifled working as a cashier in her Woodhaven neighborhood and a college aide at Queensborough Community College. 

However, her life changed when she was asked to step in to teach a weekend art class for a teacher on sabbatical. “There was a small class of 10 children about second grade, I believe, and that led me into a path of teaching art for quite a few years in different places and in daycares, and then in schools, and private schools,” she said. 

Camp feels every experience she faced led her down the path of becoming the successful freelance artist she is today. Her time working with students at the community college gave her the confidence to respond to a Craigslist ad in 2011, that snowballed into her over-a-decade long freelance career. “I saw that there was a call for a window artist to pay for a pet store and I love to paint animals, but I never painted a window before. But I said to myself, you know what, let me try it,” she said. 

                 “Summer Carnival Fun for Pets Window Mural” June 2012 via Deborah Camp

The owners loved her work and from there, she was recommended by word of mouth by other businesses across Queens. Typically, she will go to the business she plans to paint for and get a feel for the store before she drafts a sketch to show the owners. Once they approve, Camp gets to work on her masterpiece. “It develops like a butterfly in all different stages from egg to pupa, to caterpillar or to, you know, full blown finished butterfly window,” she said. 

Although times may change, Camp has two golden rules she lives by- no painting in the rain, and the temp has to be above freezing. “My paint will freeze, and I will freeze literally, below 32,” she laughed. 

Like the caterpillar she described, Camp is used to evolving. During the pandemic when the world shut down, she turned to graphic design and put various designs on RedBubble, a platform for artists to sell their art to consumers across the world. 

A&S Pork Store “Spring Italian Delicacies Window Mural” painted in March 2024. via Deborah Camp

She’s very proud of her most recent project, a large Easter mural for A&S Italian Pork Store in Ozone Park. Camp enjoys incorporating aspects of a given business into her artwork. For instance, the mural pulls elements from the butcher store along with the Easter Bunny and an Easter chick. 

Camp feels it’s rewarding knowing that local residents can enjoy the art in passing and spread joy to the neighborhood. “This is a great way to have art outside available for the public to see, to take pictures or to interact with to put a thought process in your head to interpret it. It’s out there for everybody to see, no matter what age or background you are, you could enjoy it,” she said. 

These days, she is pursuing even more artistic ventures. In November 2023, after years of writing poetry, and drawing illustrations, she self-published her first book ‘Musings Diner Open 24/7.’

Camp holds her book “Musings Diner Open 24/7” published November 2023 via Deborah Camp

Camp was inspired to take the leap of faith when she started to perform her unpublished work at open mic nights at the historic Neirs Tavern in Woodhaven. “I said you know what, instead of letting all my work collect dust on my hard drive, and just be forgotten about, let me put it out there. I think it can help somebody,” she said. 

Camp describes her book as an ode to teenagers, pulling from her own teenage experience facing severe bullying. She hopes younger readers will be inspired to stand up for themselves and believe in their own unique abilities.  

Camp is scheduled to read passages and share illustrations of her book at the Woodhaven Library at the end of this month. On March 28 at 5 p.m., residents can join her as she hosts a Q&A session about her book.  Some of her canvas art pieces will be on display at the library throughout the month of April. 

As for what’s in store for the future? Camp has set her sights on publishing a children’s book. “One of my short-term goals is to get that children’s book written and get it out there and published. So, I could inspire a whole new generation of children with my art in a storybook form,” she said.

For more information about Deborah Camp click here