Drawing Daria

My drawing of Daria is a tribute to friend and to the wonderful artist James Edward Deeds.

James Edward Deeds In Paris 1
Miss Elvira, the first original Deed’s drawing I saw 😍

I saw this piece irl at an outsider arts exhibition in Paris (on my birthday!) earlier this year – right at the time I was brainstorming about a gift idea for Daria’s birthday. My first impression was that Miss Elvira had a bird on her head… That little kernel of an idea was the trigger that instantly inspired the present.

My drawing of Daria is obviously my take on a Deeds piece. While it is very clearly in his style, I intentionally didn’t look at any of Deeds’ work between the time of the inspiration and completing the drawing. I wanted to make a Deeds-like portrait, but to be honest, it ended up more similar than I had expected. My focus while drawing was on the wide eyes and graphic shapes, then to add a number to the top right, her name at the bottom, and a frame around the whole image. Once I finished I realized that Deeds’ style is actually firmly embedded in my subconscious. I am happy that it doesn’t look like Deeds drew it, but possibly a bit too similar to his works.

I have appreciated Deeds’ work ever since acquiring the book “The Electric Pencil: Drawings from Inside State Hospital No. 3”. He was a special human and I love the way he looked at, and recorded, the world. His work was nearly lost forever when it was thrown away in 1970, but luckily, it was rescued from the trash by a kid. More than thirty year later, Deeds’ portfolio of 283 drawings made it to the hands of Harris Diamant who researched, documented, and sold the drawings – securing Deeds’ legacy as a prolific and remarkable outsider artist.

Electric Pencil 1

The following is the abstract from a Master’s thesis about Deeds by Brynnan K. Light-Lewis. It concisely summarizes Deeds’ life and significance in the art world. If this sounds interesting, his entire thesis is available online &/or I can also recommend the Electric Pencil book.

James Edward Deeds, Jr., a newly discovered artist, created a collection of drawings during the mid-twentieth century, while institutionalized in the Nevada State Hospital, No. 3 of Missouri. Deeds’ album is one of the most significant outsider art discoveries in recent years, contributing to the works of American β€œoutsiders,” like Henry Darger, James Castle, and Bill Traylor. Deeds’ work addresses a variety of issues concerning the asylum in which he was incarcerated along with the treatments used there. Known only as β€œThe Electric Pencil” until his true identity was confirmed in July of 2011, Deeds produced his work at a time when American asylums were changing radically and adopting treatments that included electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and later, psychotropic drugs. Previous literature on Deeds indicates the importance of the effects of these changes, particularly ECT, on his art.

Brynnan K. Light-Lewis (via: his thesis)

You can view all of Deeds’ drawing, and learn lots more about him, online at The Electric Pencil Drawings.