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debi lee mandel

Debi Lee Mandel was born in Brighton Beach Brooklyn New York. Her father Albert Mandel was a fresh-faced ad man who got a business opportunity and moved his family, wife Bette and their two children to a new life in Chicago when she was very young. She took on the sobriquet "debi lee", after leaving school found herself fulfilling her expressed desire from a young age to become an artist. She learned music and poetry and participated in a group of young rock musicians in the Chicago area. Debi has traveled widely living in and visiting Scotland, England, Italy, Morocco, and a kibbutz in Israel.

Debi left Chicago and moved to Oakland and Berkeley, California looking to expand her horizons and experience. The "Santa Cruz Sentinel" from 1984 reports that the Kuumbwa Jazz Center held a poetry reading event that featured Debi along with her sister Cassandra performing with other local favorites and another paper from 1986 noted their performance at The Galley Room in Oakland. In Oakland, Debi lead a group of artists in mural painting, installation art and window decoration.

Debi continued her art education behind the easel while in front of it, finding a career as an artist model and later managing models. She mastered painting techniques and began to create her series of psychological portraits. The advent of the computer morphed her skills into graphic design as she started working on one of the earliest Macintosh computers. Self-taught since she left school, Debi ultimately taught herself web and interface design for computer systems at American Multimedia Group, Freestyle Interactive and her own freelance business, Catsprite Studios.

She partnered with programmer Jesse Shanks and her brother, Robert Mandel, to create the innovative DVD review web site, "digitallyOBSESSED!com" in 1999, where she both wrote reviews and was the chief editor. Later, Debi founded her own online business as "Tiendaholics.com" in 2005 and extended her Moroccan clothes online reach to create "Zarabesque.com" in 2013.

Her fascination with Japonisme art, "specifically Ukiyo-e masters of The Floating World", resulted in her combining her skills as a designer, painter and artist with her love of cats, and find her sweet spot as the creator of a series of "cat tales", a digital art series featuring felines with Japanese symbols, clothing, and more. Her piece "A Bird in Hand" was chosen among over 11,000 entries and hung in the DeYoung Museum as part of "The de Young Open" in 2020. Her artwork is now available in high quality canvas prints from iCanvas.com and metal prints on Etsy.

As a jewelry designer Debi has created her line of Earth Mosaics to apply her style and sensibility to create wearable pieces of art. In addition Debi is an accomplished gardener and enjoys her time away from the computer getting her hands dirty in the backyard. She continues to live and work in Oakland with her husband the aforementioned programmer and two cats, Rocco and Rousseau her "sumo wrestlers." Her latest piece celebrated the Chinese Calendar's "Year of the Tiger" with a charming and insightful feline portrayal of perseverance and optimism.

Where Cat Tales Began

"Intrigo, my beloved tuxedo kitty, died just before turning 21. He was my longest relationship. It was crushing for me but he truly lived his best life. Still dealing with the impossible grief of losing my father, I was looking to work through these debilitating losses and one image emerged in which my study of Ukiyo-e was key but indirect. I began looking through reproductions of other Ukiyo-e prints I'd collected over the years and the next thing I knew I was populating these masterworks with cats. I couldn't be further from where I began my artist's journey -- I used to paint life-size figurative subjects, mostly nudes -- but I also could not be happier. I'm finally having fun! I see these as Intrigo's final gift to me, and I hope others enjoy them as much as I do."