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Artist draws on history of industrial cities for his intricate creations

Posted: September 20, 2017

by Erica Peterson

 

Chris Deighan has drawn for as long as he can remember. 

 

At a recent visit to his childhood home on Brandywine Road, he pointed to the wall that used to hold a chalkboard. “When I was 6 years old, I was always drawing scenes on that wall,” he said. “Trains, ships, factories, bridges – they were always really detailed.”

 

That early practice served Deighan well. Today, the 29-year-old is well known around Northeast Ohio art shows for his distinctive, intricate ink and paper drawings of iconic buildings and structures around Cleveland.

 

Not only are prints and T-shirts of his works popular, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is among those who have commissioned him to create elaborate drawings for them.

 

From doodling to drawing

 

Deighan is self-taught. He recalls doodling during classes at St. Barnabas.

 

“Doodling helped me pay attention in school,” he said. “It’s always helped me retain information.”

 

While some teachers did not appreciate it, one of them recognized his talent. “My mom remembers a teacher telling her when I was 5 or 6 that I was really good at drawing,” Deighan said.

 

Thankfully, he added, parents D.J. and Tim Deighan supported that talent, through grade school and high school at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson. 

 

“My dad signed me up for art classes,” Deighan said. “I learned some things, but I didn’t really like it. I wanted to draw what I wanted to draw, not what they wanted me to draw.”

 

What he wanted to draw were incredibly detailed streetscapes, concentrating on structures and architectural details. Everything is drawn freehand with a felt-tip pen on paper, Deighan said.

 

Each piece can take 100 to 300 hours, and he likes to draw six to eight hours a day, preferably alone while listening to long instrumental music pieces. “These are really immersive drawings,” Deighan said. “It’s hard to start and stop.”

 

History of industry

 

Deighan studied sociology at Case Western Reserve University and became fascinated with industrial cities. It was while he was studying the history of Cleveland’s industrial development that he drew his first “real” streetscape, drawing structures from throughout the city’s existence and immersing himself in the architectural details he researched.

 

“Even though the buildings are real, it’s a fictional layout incorporating parts of the past and present,” he said.

 

His friends loved it, and soon people were clamoring for copies of it to hang in their dorm rooms. Then people wanted it on T-shirts.

 

His drawings were so well received, Deighan decided to exhibit at the Masters on Main Street art show in Kent in 2013. He brought seven drawings, six imaginary scenes and the Cleveland streetscape.

 

He sold several prints at that first show, he said, most of them the Cleveland drawing.

 

From then on, he was hooked.

 

Today, Deighan spends a lot of time at Premiere Screening, a screen-printing shop on the west side of Cleveland owned by his uncles. He works there a few days a week and in return has access to the equipment to screen his shirts and make his prints.

 

From April to December, he is at art shows he said, and from December to April, he researches and draws. 

 

Having both prints and T-shirts has enabled him to expand his reach, Deighan said. “I’m lucky to be able to exhibit at all types of events, from fine art shows to street fairs,” he said.

 

He is also very grateful for his best friend at WRA, Harry Weiss, who works at Premiere Screening and also helps with the art shows. That enables Deighan to exhibit at multiple shows on the same day.

 

Deighan has added Akron, Youngstown, Columbus and Pittsburgh streetscapes to his collection, and he plans on drawing Buffalo next. 

 

He’s currently working on the theaters on Broadway and on a drawing for a book about the industrial history of Cleveland.

 

Deighan said he works seven days a week, whether it is researching, printing, working a show or drawing. He would prefer to draw all the time, but he is not complaining. “I’m really lucky people like what I like to make,” he said.

 

For more information, visit Christopher Deighan Art on Facebook. 

 

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