Getting to know Phoebe Dean: Delightful barely begins to describe my recent experience of spending time talking with 21-year-old self-taught artist Phoebe Dean. In addition to being very accomplished in the art of drawing, Dean is also a barista at downtown Damariscotta coffee bar and co-working space Buzz Maine. She is the one responsible for making the cool-looking new signage tacked onto the front counter at Buzz.
Dean’s work – like Dean herself – is striking and unique, and possesses an enchanting, introspective depth. Her prolific output – she has been drawing for hours a day since she was a child – often features birds, cats, hearts, bees, owls, and lovely long-haired young women that seem both innocent and worldly at the same time.
“My style is typically created by layering many layers of different materials – graphite, pen and ink, colored pencils, gouache, acrylic, and watercolors – usually all in the same piece,” Dean told me. Combining materials, for instance, resulted in the appealingly smooth quality of one of her pieces, the cool-toned “Space Cat,” to which she applied a wash of watercolor paint over the cat in the colored pencil drawing.
“I started drawing when I was 4 years old. I spent most of my childhood drawing. I took it seriously at a young age,” she said, adding that her long daily stints of art-making were often accompanied by Frank Sinatra music.
These days, Dean is accompanied by her cat, Suki, who sits on her lap while she draws, sometimes for six hours at a stretch. “She’s a great artist companion,” Dean said of Suki.
Dean, who lives in Warren, said that “the quietness of Warren, the lack of busy-ness there” gives her the uninterrupted time and inspiration to make art.
“I keep my art supplies all around me,” she said. “I’ll have paper in front of me and not know what I’m about to draw. I don’t plan sketches first. I’ll charge right in with pen a lot of the time.
“A lot of my inspiration does come from personal pain that I’ve integrated, and I make something beautiful out of it.”
Dean counts Indiana contemporary pop-surrealist artist Mab Graves and the late, legendary Frida Kahlo as two of her main artistic influences.
“At 21, I try to take my artwork very seriously and maintain my goals of becoming a successful artist that grows throughout my process,” Dean said. “I try to make sure that all of my work has a lot of soul in it. If I start a piece and I’m not ‘in’ it, I’ll set it aside.”
Dean, who has been creating tattoo designs for clients since she was 14, aspires to become a tattoo artist – applying her own designs to people’s skin herself. She also wants to be a “book maker” – a maker of books – and develop a line of merchandise, such as T-shirts, mugs, and posters, with her designs on them.
Dean has shown her artwork at St. George River Cafe in Warren and in two shows on Mount Desert Island, where she lived before moving to Warren two years ago. She hopes to show her work locally and in the Portland area at some point.
Dean said that part of the aim of her artistic work is “to bring a really full feeling from my heart” to those who see her work and to those with whom she hopes to work with as a facilitator of the artistic process. She said she plans to work with teenage girls in the future “to help strengthen them emotionally through artistic processes.” She is currently developing a curriculum.
Delve into Dean’s fantastic art on her Facebook page, Art by Phoebe Dean. Buzz Maine is located at 133 Main St., Damariscotta.
Congratulations in order: I recently read in the Portland Press Herald that the Monhegan Museum of Art & History received a $1 million “challenge grant” from Monhegan painter Jamie Wyeth and his wife, Phyllis Wyeth, via the Wyeth Foundation, toward the museum’s $4 million fundraising campaign. The museum has three years to match the grant.
Jamie Wyeth, as staff writer Bob Keyes pointed out, “is the son of the late Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s foremost representational painters, who made Maine the subject of many of his most famous paintings, and the grandson of illustrator N.C. Wyeth.”
“I’ve watched the museum over the many years that I have lived on Monhegan, and it’s gone from a little museum about the island and its history to a major art museum that has become a destination and the reason that many people come to Monhegan to visit,” Jamie Wyeth was quoted as saying.
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