Mobile Photography & Art – ‘Intimate Interview’ with Deborah McMillion from Phoenix, Arizona, United States


We have decided to launch a new intimate style of interview into TheAppWhisperer – the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website. We feel it is important that our community feel close to each other, as it is this support that helps us to nurture one another, gain confidence and continue to grow.

This is our fifteenth interview, to read the others, please go here. Today, we are publishing this riotous reimagining, deeply visual, fluent and bursting with energy interview with talented mobile artist Deborah McMillion from Phoenix, Arizona, United States.

All images ©Deborah McMillion

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

I wanted to be, I thought, a fashion Designer. I designed, for hours on end, clothes for paper dolls … and the furniture, and the room, and the landscape, and … maybe I should have been a set designer?

First Recognition

When I was 6, the local TV show for children (Virginia’s WAVY) had a paint an Easter egg contest. It was blues and greens in wave shapes. I won 1st Prize/Grand prize: a blue ribbon with a wipe-off colouring book of … Trucks! My phone call response was: “thank you very much, but do I have to color this again?”

‘Mermaid Enlightenment’

First job?

Besides the usuals (babysitting), my first real “job” was in a fabric store. The manager did not want me. She put me on commission then took every sale away. The owner did not want to lose her manager, so I quit. I got a job in ASU’s business building on campus. I ran the Address-o-graph machine and mailed their magazine. I also illustrated the magazine with produce, housewives, cattle, cotton, and men with briefcases for three and a half years. So, technically, a graphics art gig.

Private or state school?

I went to what we call Public (government sponsored) School. 

University or Work?

Both. In university, I had a teaching major in Fine Art, with a minor in Medieval and 19th century literature. After graduating, I taught school formally about 3 months.


Who was or still is your mentor?

When I lived in Coolidge, the National endowment still had rural artist residency programs. Andrew Rush is a master printmaker in intaglio. Andy was generous with his vast knowledge of printmaking. He was also the rare artist that would freely share his own techniques with his students, knowing that any technique he came up with would look different if I used it—and I might take it one step further. I worked with Andy for four years.

Another significant collaboration was a fellow artist. We set ourselves the goal of each creating a portfolio of twenty good pieces to show to galleries—because that was the wisdom of the time. She finished three urns, took them to an interior design gallery in Tucson, and got in! “Three urns?” I asked, “Just three?” “What are you going to do if they want more?” “Make them!” she replied, confidently. “Instead of being mad, take your small framed etchings, make an appointment, and I’ll go with you.” She literally held my 26 year old hand in her 22 year old one walked me into the gallery. They took and sold all four. Thank you, Leigh. I had three solo shows that year, in the best little galleries, all because of you.

How physically fit are you?

Joe: “I still have a problem. I have a brain cloud.“

  — from “Joe and the Volcano”

This is what I tell people, except the few I must. I swim 15 laps a day and do 30 to 45 minutes stationary bicycle just to stay where I am. My “brain cloud” is no joke—it’s a real disease—but I don’t want that label to define me. Even when it’s meant with all sincerity and kindness, I can hear the pity in every “so, how are you doing?” I just want to create art: “brain cloud” 

‘Odyllic Force (Brain Cloud)’

Ambition or Talent: What matters more to success?

Neither. Both. You have to be able to do the work; but you have to be hungry enough to pursue it, and not give up.

How politically committed are you?

Off and on. I would do my due diligence, researching each the candidate on the ballet right down to the judges, propositions, etc. But I didn’t consider myself “politically active.” That all changed in 2015. Things could go very badly if one simply gives up.


What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

The tools that I use are beautiful. I take care of them and I cherish them. If I will no longer use them, I would prefer someone who will feel the same take them, buy them etc. I have what I want.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Getting the latest iPad and pencil. Not the biggest.

‘Part of the Scenery’

In what place are you happiest?

Home, around the table, having good food and good conversations with friends.

What ambitions do you still have?

To pour my art into as many containers as possible. To bring back “lost relatives.” I find everything I need from these blurred, tiny, photos in antique store bins.  “This is who I was” becomes “who am I this time”.

‘The Chester Effect’

What drives you on?

Time, tick tock, tick tock.

‘The Librarian’

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

The best friends that I’ve had for such a very long a time, and the newer ones I hope to keep.

What do you find most irritating in other people?

People who never forgive—who hold grudges—and turn away love so they can nurse that grudge. 

If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would she think?

“What’s with the bu….derrière?”

‘Canals Of Mars’

Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?

All my childhood books and drawings that I carefully stacked for our move out West, that my mother left behind “for lack of room.” 

What is the greatest challenge of our time?

Climate change. How many 100 year floods does it take for people to stop and say, “what the hell?” Oh, and stop getting your news from one source.

Do you believe in an afterlife?


‘Little Dead Girl Goes Walking’

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

I will say I tried living it like 10.

Contact Details for Deborah McMillion





‘The Dreamsicle Transformation’

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2 thoughts on “Mobile Photography & Art – ‘Intimate Interview’ with Deborah McMillion from Phoenix, Arizona, United States”

  1. Deborah, your Interview freaked me out a little. I at one time wanted to be a fashion designer, I won a colouring contest as a child, and I had a job at a fabric store as a young woman. It tickles me to have these things in common, and I know there are other parallels I have detected since you, thankfully, came to my attention.

    I loved your Leigh story—you both obviously had the guts that lead to glory.

    About the brain cloud—I cannot imagine anyone pitying you. You are too much of a vital force. Whenever I see your art, which I have to study with a capital S, my head is whipped back by the magnitude of energy you have poured into that particular container. Oh, and I pay great attention to your containers, as well, because you have such varied methods of presentation.

    Another thing I love and admire, related to the magnitude element, is the breadth of subject matter you tackle—not only in your body of work, but in each separate image!
    Oh, and as someone who is/was a professional librarian (who stops reading, recommending books, and researching unless forced to do so?), “The Librarian” gladdens my heart. At the risk of sound ageist, she is young and beautiful—and her finger is not wet from the latest “Shhhhh” she has showered over a library patron. Rather, she is engaged in an inquiry about time. My best library hours were spent with people who were excited about learning, about ideas, and willing to invest time finding relevant material to quench some of that thirst. I felt great satisfaction if I could offer at least one tall glass of refreshment.

    Your poor mother may have failed to recognize the treasure she left behind “for lack of room,” but I want to assure you that I am consistently bowled over by the quality of your artistic and intellectual output. I am grateful for the way it challenges me, and for the conversations we have had around my attempts to “get it.” Thank you, Deborah! Your vitality is breathtaking, as is your work!


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