The Electric Pencil: Drawings from Inside State Hospital No. 3

By James Edward Deeds Jr, Richard Goodman, and Harris Diamant

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Deeds's subtle, meticulous, and wildly imaginative pencil and crayon drawings portray an unusual cast of characters: nineteenth-century dandies, Civil War soldiers, antique cars, fantastic boats and trains, country landscapes dotted with roaming animals, and fanciful architecture. None of these existed in the actual mid-twentieth-century landscape of Deeds's own life, but rather were representations of his inner world--an artist's poignant tribute to a faded past.

Deeds lovingly bound his artwork in a cardboard and leather portfolio, a present for his mother. After being accidentally discarded in 1970, the album was rescued from the trash by a young boy and, thirty-six years later, came into the hands of artist and collector Harris Diamant, who provides the book's foreword. The Electric Pencil features all 283 of Deeds's arresting drawings--now avidly collected--done on ledger sheets from State Hospital No. 3 in Nevada, Missouri, and reproduced in the sequence of the original album. The Electric Pencil introduces readers to an astonishing record of one man's unwavering artistic vision in the face of the most inhospitable conditions.

Product Details

Price: $29.95
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
Published Date: March 29, 2016
Pages: 272
Dimensions: 7.4 X 0.9 X 9.4 inches | 1.8 pounds
ISBN: 9781616894542
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

James Edward Deeds (1908-1987) was raised on a farm near Ozark, Missouri. From age 25, he spent the remainder of his life institutionalized. Deeds created his remarkable drawings while a resident of State Hospital Number 3 in Nevada, Missouri. Richard Goodman is the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France, The Soul of Creative Writing, A New York Memoir and The Bicycle Diaries: One New Yorker's Journey Through 9/11. He has written for The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, Harvard Review, River Teeth, Chautauqua, Vanity Fair, Ascent, French Review and Michigan Quarterly Review. He is an assistant professor of creative nonfiction writing at the University of New Orleans. His website is


"This book reproduces all of his lovingly drafted, gorgeously colored drawings in the original order, giving you a sense of what it was like to flip through the original portfolio." - St. Louis Magazine
"An excellent entry point to art in an unconventional form. Those interested in the outsider art movement will want to put this at the top of their to-read list." - Library Journal
"Combine elements of forgotten family secrets, an unknown artist, and a little bit of luck, and the tale of "The Electric Pencil" reads like a page ripped from Faulkner's notebook." - Garden & Gun
"The Electric Pencil is the ultimate therapeutic "coloring book." Deeds' work admits readers into the life, real and imagined, of a unique Missouri artist." - Inside Columbia