An Artist Attracts Fans With Whimsical Depictions of Desert Wildlife
A Singapore-born artist attracts fans with whimsical depictions of desert dwellers.
By Wynter Holden | Photography by Steve Craft
In just four years, Bree Deverill went from doodling animals in a sketchbook to having her playful, mixed-media art displayed at the Phoenix Zoo. It’s a meteoric rise that this fledgling artist didn’t see coming, at least not so quickly. “I never thought the review board would pick me. I figured I’d need a few more years to build credibility first,” she says of the exhibition, which ran from September to January inside the zoo’s Savanna Grill.
Deverill says her passion for art surfaced before she even learned to write. “Then adulthood hits you, and you have to decide how you’re going to pay the bills,” she quips. Raised in Singapore, Deverill was encouraged by her traditional Chinese father to pursue practical career options. As a compromise to appease her family, she followed a year of fine arts coursework with instruction in interior design and architecture.
By the mid-2000s, Deverill had outgrown her small hometown. She immigrated to the U.S. and put her creative endeavors on hold while working long hours in hospitality. “Because I traveled and left home and did different jobs, it forced me to learn business, to stop being quiet and to speak up,” she says. “It was necessary, even though I had to put what I love doing behind me for a long time.”
The creative spark was reignited when she moved to Phoenix in 2017. A lifelong animal lover and mom to three pups, Deverill was inspired to draw the critters—such as coyotes, quail, and bunnies—she encountered in her new surroundings.
“The shapes and palette that I choose to work with are in alignment with where I live. I’m always looking at the animals we share the desert with,” she says. Meeting the artist in person, it’s hard to believe that she was ever shy. Bubbly and talkative, she easily connects to collectors such as Kristine Laws, who purchased Deverill’s piece, “Desert Gang,” during an exhibition at Phoenix’s Portland on the Park complex. “Bree’s work reflects her personality, which is friendly, happy and joyful,” she says. Laws planned to add one of Deverill’s zoo pieces to her collection, but another buyer unexpectedly snagged it first.
Deverill’s early success was no surprise to fellow artist Dyana Hesson, who was on the selection committee for the Phoenix Zoo exhibit. “Bree is so enthusiastic,” she says. “Her work is really intriguing and special in terms of mark-making and symbolism.” The show, titled “A Closer Look” and also featuring artists Eirini Pajak and Todd McGrain, was part of the zoo’s Art on the Wild Side program spotlighting emerging and established Arizona artists.
Deverill uses recycled or scrap lumber and leftover construction compound to craft her wooden critters, making them an ideal fit for the exhibit’s natural conservation theme. “As creative as I am, I always want to be conscious about the materials I use,” she says.
The natural materials and organic aesthetic of Deverill’s work also appealed to Highform Inc. founder Tim Parker, who commissioned a piece highlighting Roosevelt Row for the lobby of his downtown Phoenix marketing agency. “Stumbling on Bree’s work felt like a match made in heaven,” Parker says. “Her creativity perfectly embodies every element of the style we were hoping to find.”
“Bree is so enthusiastic. Her work is really intriguing and special in terms of mark-making and symbolism.”
—Dyana Hesson, artist
Deverill believes that she was given the gift of creativity for a reason. She never doubts her work, even on days where the creative muse is elusive. To her, art is more about personal growth and expansion than money or fame, though being a full-time artist is still the dream.
“I’m not trying to get 100,000 Instagram followers overnight,” Deverill says. “I’m more interested in the longevity of my work and learning how to sustain it, because I want to keep making art even when I’m 90 years old.”
See Bree Deverill’s mixed-media work in her upcoming show at Freedom Brothers Rescue and Recovery, 12631 N. 48th St., Phoenix, freedombrothersrescueandrecovery.com.
Artist: Bree Deverill, thegoodcoyote.com.