“They say everything we ever paint is a self-portrait…”
The first time we saw Dean’s work, it was a promo card we received at the gallery. (See? those cards do get noticed…) It was a real keeper and from then on we tried to show Dean’s work whenever possible, he was a welcome addition to the Eclectix “Dementions” show. His impeccable pieces always arrived in obviously thought-out, designed frames of complementing perfection. Dean’s beautiful art has a calming iconic feel, a cross between steampunk, art deco machine age and surreal folk tales.
Can you tell us where you were born and a little history about your childhood?
I was born in the little town of Aberdeen on the Pacific coast of Washington state. The town itself is really bleak, but I had a great childhood. My dad liked the outdoors so I got to run around in some of the last of the old growth rain forests in the northwest and on some very remote, unspoiled beaches.
Is there an event or experience that really moved or impacted you?
All through my grade school and high school years I played in garage bands. I wasn’t interested in visual art and never took any art classes until I started college. In my early 20′s I bought an airbrush and I can remember painting a sphere. It was the first time I had ever painted anything and I was fascinated by the “perfect” gradations. I was hooked!
Your rendering style has a very smooth, almost digital, machined-like quality … how did this manifest itself?
I started my illustration career with an airbrush, and fortunately, it was easy to switch over to the computer since my airbrush work was so slick that people assumed it was digital.
What was first piece of art that you remember creating?
Not only do I remember it but I still have it! My mom saved a whole portfolio of my “early work” (when I was around 6 years old) including a self portrait! It looks like I’m sitting at an easel, either painting or making an obscene hand gesture. Most of these drawings are signed and show how dyslexic I was. But the first thing I remember doing is a view of Gray’s Harbor and a Japanese freighter being towed by a little tug boat. (below)
What generally inspires you to create a piece?
I usually just have a vague idea or image as my starting point. For example, when I was young, my best friend was a Quinalt Indian. He would tell me stories he heard from his relatives. One was about the “stick man” who had lots of twigs and branches growing out of his skin and was hiding out in the woods. These stories were my introduction to mythology. When I did a painting I called “Revelations” (below) I incorporated the ideas of a tree and a human being into a strange totem pole. A couple of elements are even in the graphic style of N.W. Indian art.
If there was an artist, dead or alive, that you could spend 24 hours with; who would it be and what would you do?
Hieronymus Bosch. I would love to hear him explain some of his amazing imagery. He made sinning seem so interesting and hell look like such a strange and beautiful place… kind of a kinky theme park for adults!
What materials, specific brand of paint/glue/pencil do you prefer to use? A favorite? And why?
I like to experiment with materials, so over the years I have worked in oils, acrylics, watercolors and digitally, both 2D and 3D. I also like to sculpt and and design and build my own frames. In order to get the level of finish and detail I want in my surrealist paintings, I usually work on panels that I make myself. They are gessoed masonite. Other than that, I’m pretty much open to anything!
Is there a technique, procedure or tip that you have discovered, you could pass onto other artists? A specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise?
I learned a lot of things in art school (Art Center in Pasadena) from my teachers and from other artists. For me, it always comes down to the fundamentals, light and dark shapes, values and composition. And mileage… meaning lots of practice and experience. I don’t think there are any shortcuts.
What is your favorite word?
I knew this drummer who used to say, “If you don’t know a word for something, make one up!” This guy was a real ignoranus! (That’s someone who is both ignorant and an asshole!)
Last song you chose to listen to?
I’m currently studying classical guitar so I’ve been listening to myself play a lot of songs by Bach.
Do you have some learning experience, good or bad, you could share involving dealing with a gallery? Advice you could pass on to other artists that might be relevant?
I’ve learned to ALWAYS trust my instincts… (and then get something in writing!)
If you could pick one piece of art to own, out of the world’s museums, personal collections and galleries, what would it be?
Soft construction with boiled beans, Civil War Premonition by Salvador Dali, 1936. It’s such an intense image of struggle and pain and power, while also being funny and weird and a little shocking.
Of all your works, what is your own personal favorite? What was the thought or vision behind the work?
I like “Shore Leave.”(below) It was inspired by old B&W photographs of cities. There’s something about B&W photography that just seems inherently “artistic” and the urban environment adds a little grit. When I started sketching the streets and buildings, etc., from my imagination, I couldn’t help but make it personal. The finished painting evokes so many memories of my home town all mushed together that I get nostalgic when I look at it! They say everything we ever paint is a self-portrait.
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(This entry was originally posted on 4/30/10 )artist interview, dean fleming, dean fleming art, dean fleming interview, eclectix interview, iconic art, mythology art, surrealism
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