Deanna Fligg is a local Coquitlam artist of many forms. She expresses her ideas creating paintings, illustrations, photographs and jewelry.
Deanna graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University where she studied fine art and photography. She also has a Management Certificate in Interior Design from BCIT and floral design certificates from the Maureen Sullivan Floral Design School.
Having grown up surrounded by a beautiful garden, the majority of her inspirations are derived from the living organisms that have a daily impact on us. Bees are the current subject matter for Deanna.
Deanna is strictly a pollinator artist. She advocates and promotes the importance of all pollinators and is best known for her acrylic stylized bee paintings. Recently she decided to rekindle her love of drawing and explore the world of illustration. A new character, “Jovie the Bee”, was accidentally born in October 2018 from doodling. Jovie’s goals in life are to spread joy, individuality, love, kindness, appreciation and encouragement while dressing up in costumes throughout her adventures.
Deanna not only cares about the bees but also has a love for photographing insects and creatures. She feels that every living thing has a story and she strives to share their tale as well as their beauty through her artwork.
Her latest exhibition Garden Buzz (on display at placedesarts.ca May 1) will feature some of her favourite pollinators in her signature style. Find out more about how she got started, her inspirations, challenges and love of all things nature!
When did you get started as an artist?
I have always been drawn to a creative lifestyle but it wasn’t until 2012 when I made the challenging decision to sell professionally. It definitely was not an easy road and there was a 6-year gap where I left my drawing and painting skills behind but hey, life isn’t easy. The difficult moments are what make up our stories and make us who we are.
What drew you to your art form?
It may sound cliché for an artist but pain, trauma and joy simultaneously drove me back into the art world and to where I am now. I mentioned, there was a 6-year hiatus between 2006 (when I completed my fine arts schooling) and 2012. I got incredibly “stuck” like a lot of people do in life. Back in 2005/2006 while I was studying photography, I used bugs as my models. That is when I fell in love with multiple subject matters in nature. In early 2011, I wound up in the hospital after contracting a horrible gastrointestinal infection. The rest of the year was a write-off with multiple medical tests that lead to a dark depression. I went looking for something to bring joy back into my life, and I chose to go back to drawing and painting. I selected the very first bee photograph I ever took back in 2006 to paint and the rest is history. My art form was made because of these events and even though it was the darkest moment in my life, happiness came out of it.
Do you feel like your work represents something about you?
I believe my work represents many aspects of me. First of all, I advocate for this planet in many ways but my work focuses on pollinators which humans need to survive or else the food chain will suffer. Second, my works are colourful and I am a very colourful person either in physical features like clothing or my personality. Thirdly, there is a deep emotional attachment that I share with bees; to me, it is like bees “saved me.”
How do you make your work? Do you have any special techniques or tricks?
I am an artist of many forms and each medium I use has many different techniques. Garden Buzz is strictly paintings and my techniques have changed over the years. Inspiration for painting has always originated from my photographs; I use my time in nature to capture the subject’s beauty through a lens. From there, I take bits and pieces from the image and create a composition either of realistic pieces or made-up ideas. When I started this series of bee paintings, I would roughly sketch in the drawing with paint right onto the surface. Over time, I realized I ended up wasting paint to cover up markings or colours I did not enjoy. Now I do all my sketching and colour theory in a sketchbook, draw out my drawing on newsprint and transfer it via carbon paper onto the painting surface. Waste is an important topic with me on a personal level, so this way I can see the details I want to portray and not waste materials.
People have always been fascinated with the level of detail I create in the realistic bees, especially the bee wings. It isn’t really a trick but the fuzz involves multiple layers and very tiny paintbrushes. The wings are the last detail I work on and I create the transparency with airbrush medium and paint. Airbrush medium allows me to work with acrylic paint in an extremely liquid thin form while keeping the binder in the paint together. Unlike water which will break up the paint binder. Using large amounts of water could cause the paint to flake off of the surface in the future.
Has your work changed over time?
It definitely has which I believe is a good thing. Being an artist, we should be experimenting with different ways to create. If you look at my work from 2012 to now, there has been a major jump in style, details, techniques, mediums and ideas. The subject matter has stayed the same but eventually, I would like to branch out to portraying ALL pollinators, not just bees.
If someone told me I would be using decorative papers and raised textures in my artwork, I would have laughed. I was closed-minded in what I wanted to use in the past. I had absolutely no idea I would end up saying “mixed media” for a piece but now, the joy of experimenting is a wonderful feeling.
Who inspires you?
The main thing that inspires me is Mother Nature and the natural elements that we live among. The beauty found within her is poetic. She has been guiding me through my art journey and I strive to share the stories she creates. I am blessed to live in beautiful British Columbia and I am definitely a true west coaster. The rain fills my soul, just like how it keeps the ground fresh, green and growing.
Who are other artists that are doing great work today?
There are two local BC artists I admire. Both of them focus on the natural world around us.
Tamara Phillips creates in watercolour, exploring the raw beauty of our planet. She even uses natural pigments from the land to make her own paint. You will find land, air and water animals as well as botanical and spiritual elements within her work.
Jasna Guy is a mixed media artist and a fellow bee lover. For the past few years, she has been exploring the floral resources that pollinators need to survive. Like Tamara, Jansa has also used natural elements to create her artwork like Pollen.
What advice would you give a young person who wants to make a career as an artist?
1. Do it for the love of it, not for the money. You have to have a passion that is deep in your soul. If you do not have that drive, that focus on what you are creating, it will show. People buy artwork not only because they take pleasure in the art itself, but because they enjoy the artist and their journey.
2. Be patient, nothing happens overnight. An artist’s journey is long but incredibly rewarding.
3. You will NEVER please everyone so have a good backbone. Being an artist is incredibly difficult with multiple highs and major lows. As long as you are true to yourself, you will go far.
What is something that makes you laugh?
I have two things that always make me laugh:
1. Goofy family members dancing. We are an odd bunch but being odd is normal. This includes my 3-year-old niece who brings laughter into this world with her dance moves.
2. My family and I associate multiple events in our lives with the lines from the TV show Friends. We are all constantly talking like how the actors said their lines. For example:
Thursday is not Thursday, it is the third day because Joey’s line is “Monday, one-day, Tuesday, two-day, Wednesday, when? huh? what day? Thursday! The third day, okay?”
I laugh every time and usually something from Friends pops up every day.
We are so excited to have her as an exhibiting and Artisan Shop artist.
Take a look at her exhibition on May 1 and find out more about her process in our Behind the Artwork section.