Deann Hebert traded in her corporate high heels for paintbrushes and boots, and for the past decade, she has had an open, working art studio called Fine Art by Deann located inside the historic Factory at Franklin, where you can watch her create on a day-to-day basis. Her signature style of artwork celebrates the Southern landscape found here in Williamson County. Deann’s work has gained popularity in the art world all over the nation, including features from HGTV, Design*Sponge, Art Galleries & Artists of the South, and recently on the cover of Where Women Create magazine. She has built her business from the ground up, and is the darling of the local art scene. As we learn more about her process, we also learn that there is much more to her layering technique than the palette knife and paint, and that with each application she shares a bit of herself and her heritage. We are proud to call her one of our own! Welcome Deann Hebert as today’s FACE of Williamson County.
Have you always called Williamson County home?
I grew up in a small town in Alabama, were I graduated from Auburn University and where I met my husband, and he grew up here, so after we were married, I knew I wanted to call Williamson County home.
Tell us what made you decide to trade in your corporate heels for paintbrushes?
When I was 8 years old, I went door-to-door selling earrings that I made with hot glue and rhinestones. I remember the thrill of selling something that I had made with my own hands. From that day forward, an entrepreneur seed was ingrained in me. I have always loved creating, making things and always have been a creative soul. Upon graduation, I took the “safe” route with the job … the paycheck and, along with it, the confining hours and working for someone else. So slowly, I started creating my paintings on the side and doing art festivals and shows on the weekends.
All of a sudden the day came when I was making more money selling my paintings than I was at my corporate job! That was all the assurance I needed. It was about this same time that a gentleman by the name of Calvin Lehew was looking for creative individuals and makers to fill his factory with working artist studios. I took that as a sign and made the leap. Now I celebrate 11 years of creating out of the beautiful Factory at Franklin!
Do you have any formal training?
Yes, I received my BFA from Auburn and studied fine art at The Chelsea School of Art & Design and Central St. Martins School of Art & Design in London, England. Although I do have “formal” training, I believe that you can only break the rules after you know what they are!
What inspires you on a daily basis?
For me, painting is more than a day job. I see it as both an emotional and necessary one. My paintings pay homage to the rustic, the old and the rich history and heritage of the South. To me, the heart and soul of the South is found in its people and places; my work reflects the warm hearts and weathered faces of its folk, the sweetness and elegance of its landscape. I want to inspire the viewer to listen to our ancestors’ voices, to not just see, but cherish these old places and the lives they have influenced. Having grown up on a farm in rural Alabama, I feel right at home inside my studio in an old abandoned stove factory’s rustic, historic setting. Small town factories and farms were the mainstays of American life outside large cities, sustaining families for generations. But as life evolved, these rural relics that I love to paint were abandoned to decay. They dot the landscape, reminding us of the ways of our ancestors. Perhaps it is the reminder that we all share in a colorful, collective past.
How would you describe your style?
Over the past decade, I’ve honed in on a particular style that makes my art unique. I utilize a form of impasto, and primarily work with a palette knife across acrylic and water-based paints to create rustic compositions.
Can you tell us about a recent custom piece?
Recently, I was commissioned by HGTV producers to create a custom piece of art for the media room of the HGTV SmartHome that was being built in Nashville. What do you say when an HGTV producer walks into your studio and asks you if you can have it completed in six hours? Well, as the old saying goes, “opportunity is missed by a lot of people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work!” I said “yes.” A couple of weeks later, a phone call confirmed that HGTV would like to feature me painting as part of the television special for the creation of the SmartHome. What a fun day in the studio when the entire crew came to film me! That was probably my most exciting custom piece to date, but I have created many, many special pieces of artwork to represent things such as a particular barn on a family’s property, to a church a couple was married in.
How has the landscape of the business evolved since you started Fine Art by Deann?
The business landscape is changing with technology and moving forward at an incredible speed, bringing many advantages. Just as important as it is to grow creatively, it is important to embrace technology instead of shunning it.
What advice would you give a young, aspiring artist?
Realize your strengths, and maximize them. Take responsibility for your mistakes, and learn from your rejections. There is a sign that is mounted to the wall inside The Factory that I see every day walking in the door, and it says, “Missing the mark is one of the ways we learn to hit the target, failure is a vital part of achieving success.” Also, do not follow what everyone else is doing; try and think outside the box and be creative with your business. I wish someone would have told me this, but you can only get better at your work by actually DOING the work … over and over and over again. Eventually, things will start to happen for you! I promise!
Tell me about your live event paintings.
As my schedule permits, every year I am able to do a handful of live event paintings. This is where I will go to an event, such as a wedding reception, and actually paint the party as it is unfolding before me. For the past two years, I have been asked to paint The Heritage Ball, the main fundraiser for the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. At the end of the evening, the painting is auctioned off for charity.
What books are currently found on your nightstand or e-reader?
I listen to a lot of books in my earbuds while I am painting. My most recent one to finish was Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky.
Are there any local events you are looking forward to attending in the next few months?
In June, I am teaming up with West Elm for a pop-up show featuring my works, which I am so excited about. You can stay in the know on this and other shows coming up by signing up on my mailing list at deanndesigns.com and also following me on Instagram.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends!
My iPhone, my art studio and coffee!
Thanks to Deann Hebert for sharing her passion with our readers. Stop by Fine Art by Deann at The Factory at Franklin, 230 Franklin Road, Ste. 12-S, Franklin, or call (615) 293-3035.
Photos: Heather Sisemore