By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Waseca artist has the ability to bring the outdoors inside — in a way few can.

Dean Dykema has been drawing and sketching his whole life, but years ago he started painting more. And not just any kind of painting.

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In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us the inspiring way Dykema highlights our state’s wildlife.

“I might start in daylight and end in the darkness. Once I get started I just don’t stop,” Dykema said.

Dykema has always dabbled in painting. But a few years ago he literally stumbled upon something new. During a walk with his dog, he picked up a feather.

“I started running my fingers over it and I thought, I wonder if I could paint on this? Just to do something unusual,” Dykema said.

It took him hours and the result was a goose painted on a goose feather. As it turned out, Dykema was just spreading his wings. Word got out and pretty soon people wanted all sorts of things painted on feathers.

“I get that all the time. ‘How do you do it?’ And I tell them with little paintbrushes and a lot of patience,” Dykema said.

Related: Painted Feathers By Dean – Contact Us Page

And his canvas has gone from goose to turkey because their feathers are bigger. People give him an idea or sketch of what they want and he takes it from there, using dabs instead of strokes. And when you’re working with plumage there’s little room for error.

“My sketching is with the paintbrush on the feathers because I can’t just draw. The only way to draw it out is to paint it on the feather,” Dykema said.

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It’s meticulous and detail-driven, but the results are eye-opening. Minnesota wildlife is immortalized on feathers. Examples include a moose, an eagle, birds of all different kinds, and a wolf that took him six hours to finish.

There’s also art depicting farm life, and as a retired Marine, one of Dykema’s personal favorites is a Marine Corps emblem.

“It’s outstanding. I’ve just never seen anything like that before,” Tim Dann said.

Dann’s mother-in-law was from Germany and a symbol of good luck in that country is to show an elephant with its trunk in the air. So, Dann asked Dykema to paint one for his family.

“It was just unbelievable and my wife had tears over it. It’s our favorite elephant. We probably have 250 elephant statues. Cement ones in our front yard, all over our house. That’s the favorite one,” Dann said.

Dykema says he loves seeing the expression on his clients’ faces when they receive their feather painting.

“To be able to give them what they ask for? Come on. You can’t beat that!” Dykema said.

That is why Dykema has no plans to stop. As an avid outdoorsman when he can’t be in the woods he’s happy to explore inside. And he’s more than willing to take others with on his adventures.

“I love the fact that I can give them something that they truly enjoy that they’ve never seen before and it just makes me happy,” Dykema said.

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One of Dean’s pieces took him 100 hours to complete, but on average he can finish a smaller piece in about 6 to 10 hours.

John Lauritsen