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Debbie Goodman's collage of an American white pelican.

Debbie Goodman has a knack for creating bright, colorful wildlife images out of carefully cut scraps of paper.

From scrapbook pages to banana leaf paper from Indonesia, the Bountiful artist uses all kinds of paper to craft and piece together lifelike animal images. She creates the wildlife pieces by cutting out various shapes with scissors. Then she places the shapes systematically layer upon layer until they become a bird, reptile, amphibian, insect or mammal.

"It's so relaxing, it's like meditating," she said. " . . . people will usually say, 'You must be patient, that looks so tedious,' but it's the opposite. I'm impatient with other things, and when I do this it's therapeutic."

But Goodman didn't start out as an artist. She worked as a chemical engineer for the oil industry for 11 years. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that she made a career change, becoming a wildlife advocate and artist.

"I was the best student in drafting class," Goodman said. "I'm sure I was destined for artwork, I just didn't realize it at the time."

Goodman started taking art classes at the University of Utah and bought a potter's wheel and kiln. When she moved to Bountiful in 2001, she started experimenting with paper, making collage artwork.

Her first subjects were the birds of the Great Salt Lake.

A couple years earlier Goodman started volunteering for the Division of Wildlife Resources on a watchable wildlife study group. In 2000, she got involved with a proposal to open up Antelope Island to deer hunting.

"I got really involved in that," she said. "I'm not anti-hunting, but I think there should be some areas that are just sanctuaries that aren't open to hunting."

That same year, Goodman started working as a policy advocate for the Utah Audubon Council.

"I got involved with Audubon, and I was going to their meetings and field trips, and I didn't know anything about birds," she said.

She began using collage artwork to help familiarize herself with different bird types.

"Partly, it was just learning the species, and partly, it was fun," she said.

During the past five years, Goodman's artwork has become more popular. Her pieces have been displayed at several local exhibits, including the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival Art Exhibition, the Hogle Zoo World of the Wild, the Zions Bank Eighth Annual Artists' Show, the Visitors Center at Antelope Island State Park and more.

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Reproductions of her prints are sold at the Wild Bird Center Store in the Layton Hills and Cottonwood malls, the Tracy Aviary Gift Shop in Salt Lake City and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge gift shop in Brigham City. Originals of her work can be purchased by contacting Goodman at goodmanslc@msn.com.

Goodman went on to lobby for Audubon for five legislative sessions. She also served a four-year term on the DWR Northern Regional Advisory Council. The last two years she has served on a board for the Great Salt Lake Nature Center at Farmington Bay.

But recently she said she has wanted to devote all of her time to her artwork, which she said is a different type of wildlife advocacy that gets a message out to a different group of people.

"I love it," she said. "I just want to hang out at Farmington Bay and do animal pictures."

E-mail: nclemens@desnews.com