Debbie Bonello: ‘I’m happy meeting anyone with a good personality from all walks of life’

Maltese artist Debbie Bonello tells all in our Q&A

Debbie Bonello (photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Debbie Bonello (photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Maltese artist Debbie Bonello has always had an intimate relationship with art since she was a young girl. Bonello rediscovered the joy of painting with an expressive oeuvre of loose brushwork and a broad palette, and varied subjects: sweeping vistas, intense portraits, enchanting pets, and nudes, but even a hat takes centre-stage. Whatever her chosen subject, it is approached with the same steadfastness, whether it is a quick painting she is executing or a more laboured one

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Rush to the kitchen, switch kettle on to make coffee and let my puppy out in the garden.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

It can always be worse.

What do you never leave the house without?

My phone and keys.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Practical, efficient and creative.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Having a sell-out show with a collection based on imaginative pieces inspired by the pandemic and lack of social interaction.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Gin and tonic.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

To be humble and considerate always.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

A leather bag.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

I wish I knew how to handle babies since the first one I ever held was my first-born Noah. Scary to say the least.

Who’s your inspiration?

My list is long and depends on different moods. Inspiration comes in different forms and situations, but if I had to mention other artists, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Seville and many local artists too.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My kids always were and will be a constant challenge. We grow together and I hope I thought them as much as they thought me. Being disciplined is another one. Since I work from home I am easily distracted by many things that keep me from painting and producing. I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself and that can be a huge challenge because procrastinating is so easy.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?

Baking cakes or anything sweet.

Do you believe in God?

Yes, I do.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

I’d love to dine with Jordi Roca who is a genius at creating sweets with the hope of sampling one of his creations.

What’s your worst habit?


What are you like when you’re drunk?

Hmm, tricky question which I’m unsure how to answer.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Arrogance, superiority and the general feeling of entitlement. I strongly believe we are all equal no matter where our origins are or what one has achieved in life.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Never thought of this before but I’d leave it for others to decide.

What is your most treasured material possession?

My emerald jewellery set given to me by my husband as a wedding gift.

What is your earliest memory?

Possibly my brother’s funeral who passed away a few hours after he was born. I still recall a great feeling of sadness and sitting on my mother’s lap quietly not fully aware of the tragedy back then but the feeling I still remember clearly.

When did you last cry, and why?

Tears of joy after seeing an episode of myself being filmed whilst painting en plein air. Allura art produced episodes of chosen local artists doing their work and I feature in the first episode. It all felt unreal.

Who would you most like to meet?

Noone in particular. I’m happy meeting anyone with a good personality from all walks of life. I find ordinary people extraordinary.

What’s your favourite food?

Anything without meat in it and prepared with fresh ingredients ideally organic.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

I’m sure if I answer this my kids will make fun of me for not being up to date with the latest or the trendiest… so pass.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

To our late friend’s cottage in the Midlands for his traditional Sunday lunch with friends I haven’t seen in a while, sitting together at the same table, devouring food made with love and drinking till the evening. Happy days or to the 29th of April 1960.

What book are you reading right now?

In between books right now and deciding on the next one which might be Confessions of an Art addict by Peggy Guggenheim or The Binding by Bridget Collins.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?


What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Host a solo art exhibition abroad. Said the first thing that came to mind because this list is rather long.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Hooverphonic’s ‘Mad About You’.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

Swedish House Mafia for my workout warm-up or anything with a good, fast beat after that.