Patrick Dean has been drawing for as long as he can remember. He even goes as far as to say drawing has never been “just a hobby” for him as he took time to draw almost every day from his school-age days through adulthood.
After Dean was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in June 2018, he felt an urgency to make the most of his time and create art surrounding current political and social issues.
“Social injustice and crooked politicians failing to help their country are subjects that I want to attack because I am angry that I am dying and the world feels like it’s spinning out of control,” Dean said in an email.
Dean, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 1998, has also created drawings surrounding how UGA has handled the pandemic. He said he’s proud of his time at the school, so he finds it frustrating to see how it has dropped the ball in protecting staff and students.
Right now, Dean is able to draw political and social commentary work because he still has mobility in his right hand, he said. However, he is preparing for the day that he can no longer hold a pen at all, he said.
More recently, on his Instagram, Dean has showcased drawings he created with eyegaze technology. He said there’s been lots of trial and error with learning how to use the device, as well as many times his wife has been on tech support trying to figure out problems that have made them “want to chuck this thing into a lake,” he said.
Dean said the transition to eyegaze technology means he’ll no longer be able to draw political work because of the clarity it requires so adversaries don’t hijack it. The art made with eyegaze technology is “rough and almost primitive, bordering on the abstract,” he said. If he can’t deliver clarity, he either has to find another purpose or adapt.
In December 2019, the Georgia Museum of Art had an exhibition featuring Dean. He said it was his first exhibition, and he enjoyed revisiting his old work, even if he did cringe at a few pieces he rushed through.
Hillary Brown, director of communications at GMOA and long time fan of Dean, put the exhibition together. Dean said Brown did a good job arranging the exhibition as a celebration of his work and not as an early eulogy.
Brown discovered Dean’s work in the comics section of Flagpole Magazine when she was a student at UGA. She loved his work and now associates it very closely with how she feels about her “adopted hometown.”
Brown said she enjoyed putting Dean’s exhibition together and found his humor entertaining.
“When I was working on putting the show together, I was hanging out in the paper storage room at the museum flipping through things… but also just like, cackling away at how funny these sketchbooks are,” Brown said.
Brown also said she likes his work because of how much thought goes into his art, no matter how he’s feeling. He always has a smart, interesting and thoughtful perspective behind his work, she said. She also said it’s been interesting to see how Dean’s art has developed and how he has reinvented different ways to draw, like with his eyegaze technology, and how it drives him.
“I would prefer the freedom to draw with my hands as long as possible,” Dean said. “But [I] will settle for this technology if faced with not drawing at all.”