Anthony Deon Brown: Creator of WorldsMar 01, 2022 11:39AM ● By Tara Spencer
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Strong elements of fantasy flow through much of Anthony Deon Brown’s artwork, yet the subjects maintain a level of realness that draws the viewer in, like a good opening line in a book.
Speaking with Brown has similarities. He is inquisitive, asking questions that seem to come from left field, but with the goal for better understanding of the other person.
“I really love meeting people,” he said. “I love observing the attitudes and structures of people—even when they’re mad at me, I’m still watching.”
While he loves contemplating people and their actions, his art rarely focuses on the human form. In fact, a look at his Instagram page reveals he prefers drawing animals, specifically birds.
“My whole idea for a while—and it still is—the whole idea was to take Renaissance images and translate [them] and switch every character for a bird,” Brown said. That idea has taken a turn, developing a life and a story of its own.
Many of his recent paintings still feature birds, often with colorful pieces of fruit and/or flowers. This new direction represents a story Brown has in his head, reflected in his Instagram handle, Anthony “Rage the Typhoon” Deon.
The story is called “Angels with Filthy Souls,” and Rage the Typhoon is the main character, based on Brown. He woke up in a pod on a desolate, future Earth with a strong desire to make green things grow again and, in doing so, creating “The Garden of Dia,” which is essentially heaven on Earth. “So when you see my paintings and it’s fruits and birds, that’s the garden,” he said. Of course, there is an antagonist who tries to stop that growth in its tracks, but Brown is still working out parts of the tale. “I’m very excited to show people what that world looks like and feels like to me,” Brown added. “But it’s gonna take a while.”
No doubt the wait will be worth it. Fellow artist Shane Bainbridge has worked with Brown on gallery shows and apparel and product design. He has also collected some of Brown’s art for his personal collection. “Anthony seems to be infinitely curious as an artist,” he wrote in an email. “He’s driven as hell. Prolific. He also is humble and approachable and always willing to go deep into the topic of creativity and art.”
Brown’s personal story largely takes place in Fremont. His family moved there from Oklahoma in the early 1990s. “Yes, coming to Fremont, Nebraska, where me and my little sister had to be close because we were the only Black kids…Sure. That sucked. But it would have been way worse in Oklahoma,” he said. Brown explained, “Sometimes your family members…they want to stay stuck in a zone, and they’re perfectly fine with being there. There’s no higher thinking, there’s no striving for anything better.” For Brown, thinking and striving for something better is a necessity in life and his work. Fremont may be a quiet town, but the move itself helped him become the artist he is.
Brown said his interest in art took off in high school, thanks to a teacher who pushed him and a friend who, unintentionally, embarrassed him. “This was like, one of those moments in a TV show,” he said. “She stopped the whole class and said, like yelled at me, ‘Anthony, you know, you’re so much better than all of us?
If you actually took this seriously…This could be your career. This could be what you do.’”
Brown said the whole class was quiet after that, and he sat through it in shame. After thinking about it, he realized she wasn’t trying to embarrass him. “I realized, oh, she cares about me. She really sees potential. And then I was like, alright, I’ll do my best to take it seriously. And here I am.”
Interest from another admirer resulted in Brown receiving commission requests from across the country. Instagram user spaghettitoesdad, also known as Martin Bruckner, is an Omaha illustrator with more than 20,000 followers. Bruckner shared a piece he’d commissioned from Brown on his account, and Brown said his commission work got “crazy” after that.
Brown said now he can say no to projects he doesn’t want to do, and he can price them at what they should be valued.
“I still remember what it was being on the other side, and then recognizing that people don’t understand…what it is to really create something from scratch: take nothing, make it something, and then try to present it to the world and sell it,” he said. “They think, ‘I used to use crayons. And you know, that was cool. If that’s basically what you’re doing, then it’s gotta be easy.’”
A look at Brown’s work should be clear evidence that it is not easy, despite the fact that he may make it look that way.
As Bainbridge noted, “I admire his ability to execute painting with such vibrance, imagination, and detail at such a remarkably prolific rate,” adding that Brown appears to have no difficulty jumping from genre to genre, style to style, and technique to technique, “even within a single work.”
It appears that’s how Brown functions best—always questioning, never settling, ever hopeful and moving forward. It may not make sense to all, but the results
Visit @anthonydeonbrown on Instagram for more information.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.