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.