You might say that Deby Dearman’s art was born the day her music died. While she had a career in Christian music as a singer/songwriter, Deby encountered vocal problems that silenced her. No longer able to sing – and barely able to speak – one of her most profound means of expression was lost.
She was devastated.
In the middle of the dark night of her soul, a friend suggested that she consider trying to find healing by learning to paint. Having never painted, Deby had no idea she would find a new voice through paint, palette knife and canvas. But over a year of art lessons and working through the heartbreak of loss, that’s exactly what happened.
Today, when you stand in front of a Deby Dearman painting, you see the world through the eyes of an artist who has traded ashes for beauty. You step into her happy place, painted in bright, optimistic colors. And you find stories of newfound hope expressed through her joyful sense of humor.
After years of struggling with her voice, Deby is thrilled to report that she is seeing improvement in her ability to speak.
And never one to miss an opportunity to encourage others, Deby loves to share the inspiring story of how her art was born the day her music died.
Aside from losing your voice, what changed in your thinking that let you make the move from musician to artist?
The music industry was thriving until music went digital and people began downloading singles rather than purchasing albums. In the good old days, fans would buy a CD for $20. That changed when fans could download their favorite song for 99 cents or just stream it for free. This turned the music industry upside down and threw most music makers into a downward financial spiral.
We would have compensated our sliding sales by going on the road more, but at about the same time, I suffered a debilitating vocal tremor which took my singing voice and concerts were no longer an option for us.
So we got hit with a double whammy!
As we were trying to navigate this storm, I kept running into Dan and Joanne Miller. It seemed that every time I entered a restaurant they were there. I even ran into Dan in the fruit aisle of the supermarket! I started reading his books and everything else I could get my hands on about starting over and recreating yourself.
When Joanne Miller saw that I was losing my voice, she invited me to take an art class as a way of dealing with the uncertainty I was facing. Little did either of us know that this art class would turn my life around and give me a future and a hope.
Did you feel fear as you started your business? Was fear a good or a bad thing?
Yes, I felt much fear—way too much. It’s both good and bad. It’s good in that it motivates you to take action, but bad in the sense that it causes anxiety. I recall nights when I could not sleep because my heart was racing.
Share with us how you were able to move past the fear.
The music industry was changing and most of our musician friends were sinking financially with no idea of how to turn their situations around. The only thing different in our story and theirs is that we were friends with Dan and Joanne Miller. We had seen how they turned their lives around after losing everything. It gave us hope. In some ways they took us under their wing by offering encouragement and resources. Dan and Joanne Miller could not solve our problem, but they did cheer us along the painful path of recreating ourselves.
In your opinion, does owning your own business allow you to affect more people for good than a more conventional career? Why, or why not?
In a conventional career, you are limited in what you can say and do within the corporate culture. With my own business I have the freedom to say and do as I choose. I have all the freedom I need to speak into the lives of my students and other struggling artists.
What habits have you created that help you succeed in business?
We turned off the TV, especially the news. We were in front of the TV one day and realized that while we were sitting there watching, the people we were watching were making a fortune, while we were going broke! There was no way that we could recreate ourselves while watching all the bad news. It was immobilizing. We made a choice to turn off the noise. We didn’t miss out on anything. The news will find you whether you watch it or not.
So instead of watching TV, we read books. We also started listening to motivational speakers like Les Brown, who is a motivational speaker deluxe! Also, Steve Farrar, a minister in Dallas. I starting attending conferences where I connected with like-minded individuals, joined a mastermind group and worked with a coach.
Did you borrow money to start your business?
No, but I did barter for classes and resources. I love bartering! I think everyone should try it. Bartering with fellow entrepreneurs makes great business sense, strengthens relationships and inspires new possibilities.
Ask yourself what gift you have to barter with. Then summon the courage to ask for a trade. I even attended conferences, by offering to photograph them. This worked out great for me.
What is your best advice regarding money management?
A musician’s life is often lived on a financial roller coaster. Our mainstay for many years was a royalty payment which came twice a year, with smaller payments in-between. We had to learn to stretch our money. I assume that this is a familiar situation with most who are starting a business. It’s either feast or famine. So learn to set aside something for famine times and don’t spend every penny you make.
We also became really resourceful. We humbled ourselves, and did whatever we had to do to keep going. We actually sold things on Amazon to pay the mortgage, shared a car and my hubby used those anointed piano fingers to hammer nails and paint walls for a season.
How important are strong relationships to your success?
Relationships are everything! Every open door, every opportunity, and every bit of help and advice came from friends. I wouldn’t be here without them. One friend in particular is on this same path and has been a wealth of help all the way through. We bounce ideas off of each other and his feedback is indispensable. He’s also a writer and helps us with our blog and communication. In return, I barter with my photography. Win – win!
How do you recommend others handle those critical of their dream of owning a business?
I think it’s important to listen to criticism. Keep the helpful parts and toss the rest into the wind. If you feel the need to validate your critics – especially if they are close friends or family – listen, tell them you’ll think about what they said, and then I suggest writing them a reply that goes something like this:
“Thanks for sharing your concerns with me about my new career path. I appreciate the fact that you took time to talk with me about your concerns. As you know now, I am on a new path and while I may fail, at least I’ll know that I tried and gave my dreams my best shot!”
This way you’ll have no regrets. Back up your answers with research and then let it go. Agree to disagree.
Where should aspiring entrepreneurs look to find others who will champion their dream?
Look online, connect with online resources and groups like Dan Miller and 48 days, and join the forum at 48days.net. There, you can connect with like-minded individuals who are trying to step out of their routines and create the life of their dreams.
I connected with some inside the 48 days circle such as Kent Julian and Kevin Miller and then stepped outside the circle for other perspectives offered by online winners such as Carrie Wilkerson and Joel Boggess.
Help is out there. You just have to go and look for it.
I am interested in how you cope with uncertainty. Share a story about a decision you had to make “in the dark.” How did you proceed? Ultimately, did it require faith to make that decision?
One of the biggest steps I took was accepting an invitation to do an art show in Fairhope, AL – all by myself!
Although I said ‘yes’ immediately, afterwards I panicked. “What was I doing?” I asked myself. “I had only been painting for one year!”
I was a beginner and felt that my work was not good enough. But I summoned the courage to go through with the art show. By the end of my first art show I had sold 30 paintings! No one was more surprised than me! I even received commissions!
Do you believe faith in God is relevant to running your business?
Absolutely! It’s a miracle that I can even speak, having lost my voice to a vocal tremor four years ago. It was so bad at first that people found it difficult to understand me due to my voice shaking so much. I thought I was going to have to learn sign language to communicate! Since the early days, the improvement is unexplainable, so I simply refer to it as “my miracle”.
I also believe that my painting career is miraculous. I had never painted, or really even thought about painting, until I lost my voice. Now I’m teaching classes, have my art in stores and galleries and I’m hosting conferences.
In order to honor the miracle, I start each class or each speech by lighting a candle and thanking God for the miracle.
When did you most want to give up on your business, and how did you persist through that time?
I had so many doubts about my ability to do anything. My voice is still unpredictable, so there is always anxiety when I stand up to teach or speak. Each day is by faith for me. But I’ve learned that if I show up, God does the rest. So, I just show up!
And when I was first asked to teach, I said “NO”! I had only been painting for a few years and didn’t think I was qualified. But with the encouragement of friends, I decided to try it. I thought that I might have 1 or 2 students show up, but my first class had 15 students!
I’m so glad I persisted!
Is there ever a time it is good to quit?
Yes, I believe that there are occasions when it is right to quit a certain path. Usually it doesn’t mean to quit completely, but to simply recalibrate and go a slightly different direction. If what you are doing isn’t working and you see no blessing on your endeavors, stop and think about it. Listen to your heart and consider other options.
Sometimes the slightest course correction makes a huge difference. But I would also seek counsel before making major changes. I love this scripture:
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
— Proverbs 11:14
What is one mistake most new business owners make, and how can we avoid it?
I see many waiting till everything is perfect before they launch. Perfection is elusive.
Release your product, let the world kick it around. Then revise. Your grain of sand might turn into a pearl.
What book have you read that will best help a prospective business owner, and why?
It’s difficult to name just one book because I read so many during that time. The ones that stand out to me are the materials from 48 Days by Dan Miller, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and the classic, Who Moved My Cheese. One of my favorite books from that time was Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. I love this quote from that book:
Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.
— Mark Batterson