If you entered Bedelyn Dabel’s head, here’s what you might find: bright pops of color, vivid illustrations, and persistent optimism. But you don’t need to be a mind reader to catch a glimpse — simply look at the 21-year-old’s Instagram account (@fle____; that’s @fle plus four underscores).
“I work towards getting [my art] on Instagram and having it displayed in a way that, if someone was to step into my head, I want them to see the exact image I had pictured,” Dabel says. The Massachusetts College of Art and Design student spoke with the Globe about inspiration, the creative process, and original characters.
Q. How did you get started as an artist?
A. I started as an artist when I immigrated to the United States, but I always had an interest in drawing cartoons and stuff like that when I was younger in Haiti, where I was born. But at a young age, my parents, my dad, we moved to the US, and we lived in Lynn. At that point I was drawing every day, and when I got to high school I found out that they provided schools and colleges where you could go and perfect your skills or go farther beyond that, which is why I was excited to attend MassArt in Boston.
Q. You’ve created hundreds of YouTube drawing tutorials in which you re-create popular cartoon characters and animated figures. Do you ever draw upon cartoon characters or animations for inspiration?
A. Yeah — my whole childhood basically, I would sit in front of the TV and draw the characters as they were moving, because at that time I didn’t have knowledge that I could grab a book or a comic book and be able to see the image all day long. So the animations — I was watching the TV shows, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon — basically that’s where I was drawing those characters.
Q. What else inspires you?
A. A lot of artists nowadays, and even common issues today, they inspire my work, like Black Lives Matter, things with the president. But right now I have other artists that I look up to — Kehinde Wiley, Takashi Murakami, KAWS, like those artists. And I follow a lot of Instagram artists, and every day I see their work I’m more inspired to make my own original pieces.
Q. Do you prefer to create most of your work through digital mediums like Photoshop, or with a pen and paper?
A. I was a big fan of traditional art, but I completely moved to digital. It’s so much easier, the whole Photoshop suite and the Adobe suite — they help push your work beyond. It got rid of the idea of markers, because I was a big fan of using markers for my videos, but they’re kind of expensive to restock them. With digital art, I don’t have to worry about markers at all, or the colors.
Q. A lot of your posts feature the same character, who you call Flé. Can you tell me about what inspired the character and name, and what Flé represents?
A. This character of Flé was inspired by a collaboration that me and my girlfriend wanted to do [called “Flé De Gasson”]. So my character is Flé, and this character is a persona of me and my identity and background. It’s an all-black figure with bright, shining eyes, because I’m always positive and just looking at the brighter side of things. And all the color schemes are just things that I really love. Flé is basically like me in just digital, cartoony form. The other side of the collaboration is De Gasson, which is my girlfriend's side, and she does her part with it.
“Flé” is a translation in Creole for flower, and “de gasson” [alternatively spelled “ti gason”] means boy, so together it’s “flower boy.” One day flé in Creole popped up in my head — it just resonated with me. A lot of people actually tell me they feel like this is probably the best thing I could have come up with, because they connect with it more.