A Personal Update & 2 Paintings for Sale

Freeman Art Studio

I don’t talk a ton about my personal life here or use this blog much to sell my art, but today will be an exception. I’ll try to keep it interesting for you.

Seventeen(ish) years ago my wife and I moved our 5 kids to Loveland, Colorado to pursue our dream of making a living as fine artists. It has been like a screaming roller coaster ride in an intermittent hailstorm. I gave it a good 15 years, full time, with mixed results due to a less-than-great economy. Finally, a couple of years ago, due to some hospital bills and other debt and some significant deaths in our families, I had to put the brakes on the art career and start working full time. Sorta.

Well, my sorta full time gig went away last December, so I am now back in the saddle as a full time artist, but with a couple of changes:

  • This time, I’ve promised my wife I’m only going to do this as long as it is working financially. We are enjoying the relief of being out of credit card debt and being on a cash-only basis. We are not going back.
  • My career emphasis will be different this time around. This time I will not be focusing on showing my work in art galleries, or competing in plein air painting events. (A big part of my debt accumulation had to do with constantly having to frame new work for my galleries, while sales were rarely guaranteed.)
    This time around my focus will be on public art, hopefully with an emphasis on community-building projects.
  • I am also trying to keep my children’s storybook business on the front burner, but people keep coming in and turning off the stove. I remain very excited about continuing to create storybooks designed to reinforce a biblical worldview in kids, it’s just going slower then I would like.

What is Public Art?
The public art arena entails competing against lots of artists and, hopefully, winning and being awarded art commissions for public spaces. I have a pretty good public art portfolio now, so I’m optimistic. But there is a lot of waiting involved.

While I wait I’ve almost accidentally had the opportunity to produce a few new paintings. Below are the first two. I’ll tell you the story behind them because I think it’s kind of amazing, and has been personally meaningful to me. I will cover this 35 year story in 2 paragraphs. (They might be long paragraphs. Names have been changed.)

The Story in Part
In 1982, my first job out of art school was as an uncertified elementary school teacher teaching 1st and 2nd grade in one small classroom, for $1000 a month, (summers off with no pay.) One of my students was a well-behaved little blue-eyed girl named Amanda. The school closed after 2 years, life happened, people moved away, and I completely lost touch with all of my students until decades later when I caught up with now-mother-of-three Amanda on Facebook. Shortly after we re-connected, Amanda tragically lost her youngest son to a prolonged illness. Her heartbroken 9 year old daughter, Zoe, wrote a story about her little brother’s life and his faith in God. Amanda and her husband commissioned me to illustrate Zoe’s book in the hope that it might encourage other kids who have experienced loss. But I never actually got meet Zoe.

Ten more years went by. Several months ago I was horrified to learn that Zoe, then 18 years old, had been struck with a related illness, during which time she lost a lot of her physical and mental capability. Eventually doctors were able to figure out a way to manage Zoe’s condition, and she has been in recovery for the past several months and is mostly back to her former sweet self. Amanda called me and Mollie to see if we would tutor Zoe for a couple of weeks of art lessons in our studio in Colorado, as Zoe had been focused mostly on dance throughout her life and it was looking unlikely that she would be able to return to dance in earnest.

Of course we agreed. So I finally got to meet Zoe, now a beautiful young woman who has walked through more than her share of tragedy. Mollie and I got to know her for a couple of lovely weeks, making art and listening to music, and hanging out.

The Paintings…
These 2 paintings came out of those 2 weeks. When I teach I usually work on a painting from the same still life as the students, mostly to keep me from bugging the students too much. Zoe chose the colors and set up the still life, and did a great job on her first two oil paintings, which went home with her.

Scott Freeman, painter

“Still Life with Three Pears,” 8×10″, oil on panel.

I think these would make a nice set, but I’m happy to sell them separately as well. When I left off of exhibiting in art galleries, my framed 8×10 paintings, (generally the smallest size oils paintings I would sell,) started at $700 – $800. These are unframed, and since I’m currently not in a gallery I can knock off the gallery commission. If someone wants to give me $300 per painting, I would include shipping with that if shipped within the continental US. If you’re local I can deliver.

Scott Freeman, fine artist

“Still Life with Three Apples,” 8×10″, oil on panel.

Please call or email me if you’d like to respond at 970.685.2144, or scottnmollie@yahoo.com.

I do have some copies of Zoe’s hardcover storybook on which I collaborated years ago. Perhaps you know of someone for whom such a book might be helpful. The book is entitled, “Grant and His Great God.” I will send you one for $15, shipping included.

For my thoughts on still life painting, here’s a LINK to an article I posted on here a few years ago. There are lots of new folks here that may not have seen it. Thanks for signing up!

Thank you for your support!

Scott Freeman

The Kingdom of God Excites Me Every Day

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“The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat,” oil painting by Scott Freeman

When I was a college student, I heard a teaching series at my church on the kingdom of God that changed my life. Somehow, even though I had grown up in a Bible-believing church and considered myself a lifelong student of the Bible, the topic had mostly escaped my notice. Even though Jesus spoke on this topic more than any other. Decades have passed since then and I would say that the topic of the kingdom of God continues to consume my attention and define my life, informing everything I do.

But it’s not quite accurate to say the “topic” consumes me, because the kingdom of God is much more than a mere topic of discussion. I would say it’s a reality in which we as Spirit-born believers live. In a nutshell, one could say the kingdom of God refers to the “reign of God” on earth. In practice, God has designed His kingdom so that citizens live in voluntary, relational unity with Him, living life led by His Spirit.

The Hebrew prophets spoke of this coming eternal kingdom with anticipation, but when the Messiah arrived, his implementation of the kingdom perplexed everyone. It was not until after His resurrection from death, and a great deal of patient explanation, that His followers understood how the kingdom had entered the world. The new covenant scriptures repeatedly refer to the mysteries of the kingdom as things that were formerly “hidden” but have now been made known to us.

We who are alive today have the remarkable opportunity to live out God’s plan for us in a way that old covenant prophets and kings longed for but could only dream about. Aspects of living life in the kingdom of God, right now, include: a new covenant with our Creator; new birth with a new access to God through Jesus; a new indwelling of the Spirit of God for everyone in the kingdom; a new relationship as sons and daughters as co-heirs with Jesus; a new relationship with Jesus as friends rather than slaves; a new life in the Spirit that fulfills and transcends a written code; and a new hope of resurrection and the ultimate fulfillment and completion of all that God has imagined for His creation.

Aspects of of life in the kingdom of God in the future include the ultimate uniting of all things, in heaven and earth, under the authority of Jesus (Eph 1:9,10.)

Several years ago I painted the above painting for my church’s foyer as an expression of the kingdom. I like the image of the sower because it is an image that Jesus chose to describe Himself in this particular kingdom parable. It says a great deal about how the kingdom has come, and how it continues to expand over the earth. Below is my description from the plaque that accompanies the painting. I hope it excites you as it does me! :

mysteries of the kingdom of GodThe kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” The servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned; but gather the wheat into my barn.’    Matthew 13:24-30

During the time of Jesus, Israel’s expectation was that the long-awaited kingdom of God would come as an unmistakable, apocalyptic event. God’s promised messiah would appear, judging and doing away with every source of evil and suffering, and ushering in an eternal kingdom of peace.

Upon His arrival, however, the Messiah inaugurated a different kind of kingdom – a kingdom unlike the kingdoms of this world, but also different from what the Jewish people were expecting.

In the parable of the weeds among the wheat, Jesus identified the sower as Himself. At the establishment of His kingdom the Messiah came not as a warrior, but like one planting seed. His is first and foremost a revolution of love, light, Spirit, and grace rather than one of military might.

In explaining the parable, Jesus identified the good seed as “the sons of the kingdom.” The good seed is sown in the midst this present, corrupt age, growing up right alongside “the sons of the evil one” – bearing fruit over time for the King. Contrary to the expectations of His time, the King Himself withholds judgment until the end of this age, rather than bringing all things to completion at His first appearing (v 36-40.)

But the harvest time is coming. At that time “all causes of sin and all evildoers” will be destroyed, but “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (v 41-43.)

We, the Church, are the good seed – God’s manifestation of His kingdom in this present, evil age – in the world, but not of it. Though in many corners of the world His followers suffer greatly, still the good news of His kingdom goes out. The revolution continues…”And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14.)

 

My children’s storybook, The True Story of Christmas, presents a basic telling of the biblical narrative that kids can understand.

New Painting: The Wall Remaining

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The Wall Remaining – Detail

This week I want to feature what may be my favorite painting from the Zeitgeist art exhibit, a show of recent work by Mollie and me. If you haven’t seen the show, there’s still time! It runs until Feb 23, 2014.

The painting I’m featuring is titled The Wall Remaining. It’s a triptych approximately 4 by 6 feet, painted in oils on panel. Below I’ve reprinted the text that accompanies the painting in the show:

THE WALL REMAINING

The history of relations between the Church and the Synagogue is one of the world’s tragic stories. The first followers of Jesus (Yeshua in, Hebrew,) were all Jewish, and his “church” began as a sect of first century Judaism. As these early Jewish disciples spread the message of Jesus, a series of events, described in Acts chapter 15, led to an astounding decision on the part of his disciples: the Jewish church in Jerusalem made the decision to fully welcome gentile (non-Jewish) believers, as brothers and sisters, into their company without requiring them to become Jewish. The gentiles’ status as joint heirs would be based on their being “partakers of the new covenant” of Yeshua. The ancient Mosaic covenant sign of circumcision, as well as Torah observance, would not be required of them.

As a result of this inclusivity, large numbers of gentiles came into the church, eventually outnumbering the Jewish members. As the church became more gentilized over time, and as Jewish members increasingly found themselves out of favor with traditional Jews, the church took on a distinctly Greco-Roman character. By the time of the first Ecumenical Council under the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, there was not a single Jewish bishop in attendance, though some 1800 invitations were sent out across the empire. Increasingly, anti-Jewish laws were passed under subsequent Christian emperors and kings so that the Church eventually became an openly anti-Jewish institution, generally consigning Jews to an inferior status, and at times actively persecuting them.

Throughout Europe, it is still possible to see vestiges of the historic, divisive relationship between the Church and the Synagogue displayed in the artistic embellishments of its cathedrals. Many cathedrals feature two figures: Ecclesia (the Church,) and Synagoga (the Synagogue.) Triumphant Ecclesia wears a crown, and usually holds a staff and a Eucharistic chalice. Synagoga is always blindfolded, and carries a broken staff and a representation of the Torah. Though I had previously read about these two allegorical figures in my books, I saw them for the first time in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The sight of them deeply saddened me.

It is noteworthy that the New Testament scriptures do not support this division. The Jewish apostle Paul writes:

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision (Jews,)…were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise…But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:11-16)

Here I have painted Ecclesia and Synagoga as ossified and broken statues warming in the light of these scriptures. Ecclesia is not triumphant; instead her head is bowed down. Synagoga has become indignant and distanced; understandably so. The wall remaining, though invisible, is as formidable and as obstinate as the Berlin wall ever was. The figure in the center panel reaches for the hands of the two ladies, awaiting the healing and the unity-in-diversity that I believe we will see in our lifetimes; a unity that has not existed since the dawn of the early Church. (end quote)

One New Man-synagoga-ecclesia

For hours and information about the Zeitgeist painting exhibit, call the Loveland Museum-Gallery at 970.962.2410, or visit www.lovelandmuseumgallery.org.

You can purchase note cards and other artsy gifty items featuring our art & design work at our online Zazzle store (click here.) Thank you for your support!

 Top related posts:
–          What Easter has to do with Separating Christians and Jews
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Zeitgeist – Recent Paintings by Scott & Mollie Freeman

Mollie and I opened our art exhibit at the Loveland Museum-Gallery last weekend. In this post I will share my opening comments for those of you who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it. Many thanks to those of you who did come – you certainly made it a special evening for us! Art is, after all, a communal undertaking.

Of course I can’t help but do a little embellishing along the way, but here’s the gist of what I said:

First I want to say that Mollie and I are inexperienced travelers, and we claim no expertise in things German. What follows are simply our observations and contemplations around our wonderful visit to Germany.

Mollie and I chose to title our exhibit, Zeitgeist, which means “spirit of the times.” Why Zeitgeist?
Well, it strikes us that the spirit of our times has to do with unity, community, and communion. This is what we’re all seeking, to some degree. We’re all now familiar with the idea of the world getting smaller, and the reality that international communication has become ridiculously easy and cheap. For me, it’s like a miracle that I regularly sit at my dining room table and communicate with people around the world. The fact that this art exhibit grew out of an unexpected international friendship initially set the tone for our show. Our trip was only made possible by the generosity of friends here at home, and especially by the generosity of the Taube family in Germany.

When we arrived in Germany, we saw the human urge to create community, to varying degrees, visibly expressed everywhere. It seemed that everywhere we went, we were surrounded by the smoldering reminders of someone’s attempt to create a better, unified world. I happen to be fascinated with utopian idealists and their visions. I say this without a hint of sarcasm. It seems obvious to me that the world is broken and that there is something terribly wrong with the human condition. I believe we’re all seeking unity between Man and God, between Man and Man, and between Man and Nature. I would guess that all of us are giving our energies to one or more of these pursuits. I give utopian visionaries props for at least trying to make the world a better place.

But there is a maddening paradox.

Part of what fascinates me about studying utopian human movements, ideologies, and isms is how they seem to always go horribly wrong. Despite the best intentions of men & women, our plans to make the world a better place often create a situation worse than what existed before. The worst examples of this are seen in political revolutions carried out “for the good of the people” that have often resulted in the bald slaughter of the people they claimed to liberate. It’s astonishing how good intentions can go so wrong.

Germany’s tumultuous, world-shaping history is extraordinary, profoundly contributing to the world both for better and for worse. This tension is reflected in the paintings here, to varying degrees:

With Nazism and World War 2, much of Germany was destroyed, and the entire country has been tirelessly rebuilding ever since; reconstructing its old historic structures, as well as creating new ones, often blending the very old with the very new. Several of Mollie’s watercolors feature the reconstructed St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lubeck, which was extensively bombed on the night of Palm Sunday in 1942. It’s important to note that Germany’s massive reconstruction campaign is not designed to cover over and forget the unspeakable horror of Nazism.  Often the ruins of the war have been left as a monument, or documented with public placards, so that future generations will never forget what occurred.

Other structures are reminders of the remarkable positive contributions that Germany has given the world. My painting, Coexistence of Centuries #2 shows St. Michael’s Church in the town of Luneburg, rising up behind the harmonious modern architecture in the foreground. Johann Sebastian Bach sang soprano as a choirboy in this church from 1700 to 1703. St. Michael’s, which opened in 1409, has stood through the invention of the printing press and the Renaissance, the Reformation, two world wars, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and German re-unification.

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Coexistence of Centuries – oil, 24×36 in, Scott Freeman

After the Second World War, Germany was split in two by Communism. The city of Berlin suffered a bizarre fate, becoming engulfed behind the iron curtain, making West Berlin an isolated island of freedom well inside of East Germany. Stories abound. Though the Berlin Wall is now gone, city planners have marked and memorialized where it once stood, so that it is impossible to go through the city without seeing the remains of the utopian Communist experiment gone wrong in the midst of a now re-unified Germany. Two of my paintings resulted from a midnight walk in Berlin where I watched gentle people enjoying the night hours on Alexanderplatz, the site of the largest anti-government demonstration in GDR history, just days before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I’ve posted thoughts on these paintings HERE and HERE.

Our German hosts also took us to visit the site of a much smaller utopian experiment. In the town of Worpswede, an artist from Bremen named Heinrich Vogeler joined an artist community in 1894. The next year he bought a cottage there and named it Barkenhoff, (which means birch tree cottage.)

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Barkenhoff

I took this quote from the museum exhibit:
“Upon returning to Worpswede, disillusioned by his experiences in the first World War and highly politicized, Heinrich Vogeler tried to create a “new world” at his Barkenhoff. Here a commune was supposed to realize his social utopia of a self-governing society without class structures and private property – an ambitious experiment that was to fail after a few short years.”

After the failure of the commune, apparently due to various human infidelities, Vogeler joined the Communist party, his art became propagandistic, he emigrated to Russia, and was eventually deported to Kazakhstan where he died, sick and destitute.

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Worpswede – Near the Artists Colony – oil, 20×24 inches, Scott Freeman

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Synagoga – part of a trytich entitled,
The Wall Remaining
– oil, 20×48 inches, Scott Freema

Mollie and I have also included our personal visions of unity, community, and communion in the exhibit. My triptych, The Wall Remaining, quotes tragic medieval iconography, and looks forward to what I believe will be a new unity emerging between the Synagogue and the Church. We shall see. I have posted on this painting in detail HERE.

One of my favorite pieces of Mollie’s is a large piece (4×5 ft) entitled, Jacob’s Ladder #8. She has painted several variations on this theme over the years. It refers to ideas of unity and communion in that the biblical theme of Jacob’s Ladder ultimately has to do with uniting heaven and earth. She has posted on this theme on her art blog, HERE.

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Jacob’s Ladder #8 – water media, 4×5 ft, Mollie Walker Freeman

 

“Zeitgeist – Paintings Inspired by Germany” will be open through Feb 23, 2014 at the Loveland Museum-Gallery in Loveland, Colorado – 503 N. Lincoln Ave – 970.962.2410 – http://www.LovelandMuseumGallery.org. Admission to the Foote Gallery is free.

Portraiture

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I find portraiture to be a strange genre in contemporary culture. It’s not really my business as to why someone wants a portrait; if someone wants to commission me for a portrait, I’m happy to paint one. Do most people want portraits of themselves in their homes? I doubt it. A couple of times I’ve had guys wanting me to paint their girlfriends, as a gift for their girlfriends. I’ve felt obligated to ask if they had reason to believe their girlfriends would want a portrait of themselves. Do you see what I mean? Portraiture can be a tricky genre. I once saw a home where, in the master bedroom, a large portrait of the wife’s mother hung over the couple’s bed; Hmmm…I think I would hang a portrait of my mom somewhere else.

I can tell you several reasons why people might want portraiture. I’ve had several parents commission portraits of their children. (But I generally only do older children for reasons that will become clear later.) I’ve also had parents commission portraits of themselves to leave to their grown children someday, and I think this makes sense also. Some collectors simply love the human face – the psychological impact, or the personality or stories that a face might suggest. The human face is a powerful carrier of emotion. Oddly, when I first moved to Loveland, which at that time was even less racially diverse than it is now, my gallery sold 2 or 3 portraits of beautiful black women I had painted. I’m not really sure what was going on there.

A few times I’ve had the sobering honor of painting infants or children who have died, for the parents who lost them. I consider this a weighty endeavor because these parents will only have the painting, photographs, and memories by which to remember these children.

Finally, a lot of artists seem to especially enjoy a beautifully painted portrait. Portraiture is an unforgiving subject matter. If one can balance the technical aspects of good drawing, composition, values, color, edges, and paint-handling without losing the grace and sensitivity that painting a human face requires, that is something to appreciate. Over the years I’ve sold off a few unframed portrait studies to artists and students for a couple hundred bucks each, because I know they can’t afford a full price portrait, nor do they care who the subject is. They’re just interested in the art of it.

I’ve been participating in plein air festivals for several years, and I usually paint a portrait during the Quick Draw event (click here for a fun Quick Draw story.) I do this because the public seems to enjoy watching portrait painting. Despite the fact that the Quick Draw models are usually dressed in cheesy period clothing, I usually sell these, and I’ve won several awards for them.

My Approach to Portraiture

I generally only paint from live sittings when doing portraiture in oils. There are plenty of other artists out there who will do a portrait from photographs, and this is certainly logistically easier. However, I find there is an authenticity and spontaneity that results from a live sitting that is very difficult to achieve from a photo. Also, coming to my studio for a sitting creates an experience to go with the painting.

At the Kansas City Art Institute I studied primarily under a painter named Wilbur Neiwald. While my studio work has now taken a departure from Wilbur’s approach, I find his approach to be unparalleled when it comes to portraiture. Wilbur taught a fascinating direct-study painting approach that by-passed traditional aspects of art instruction such as anatomy, perspective, and color theory. In fact he believed these things can sometimes hinder a painter from seeing clearly. Even today, because of what I learned under Wilbur, when I teach a class I tell students it’s a “seeing class” as much as it is a painting class.

Boiled down to its simplest description, Wilbur taught that all we really see are color relationships. That pretty much encompasses everything else, if you think about it. So when I paint an oil portrait, I’m simply seeking to paint one color in its proper relationship to another. If I basically get down the color relationships in the size and shape as they appear in front of me, a likeness appears. It’s almost that simple.3 Portraits

The frustrated-Hallmark-artist portraits 

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“Scott Brown”
Yes, this guy worked at Hallmark. He wore black every day and rode a Harley. It was always refreshing to see him; kind of like bumping into Thor in the lingerie section of a department store.

My previous post describes my 10 years as a Hallmark greeting card illustrator and designer. For me, one of the enriching aspects about working there was that were so many great painters there. A lot of these painters ultimately desired to be full time fine artists, but many us had families to support, so we worked at Hallmark instead; because it’s notoriously difficult to make a decent living as a fine art painter. But we found outlets, and made opportunities to pursue painting “off the Hallmark grid.” One of these opportunities, open to anyone, was a Wednesday lunch hour painting group. I thought of it as the “frustrated painter group,” (not because the group was frustrating, but because our dreams of being fine artists were frustrated by the realities of life.)

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“Roxanne”
One of my favs that I will never sell. Roxanne had exotic features: amber eyes, reddish brown hair, and a lovely almond-shaped face above her willowy neck; so fun to paint! Something gelled for me in this painting.

Hallmark was a fairly cosmopolitan environment, full of interesting people. Every Wednesday we would ask someone from the company to come and sit for us for an hour. Artists could paint or draw in the medium of their choice. Every Wednesday. For a couple of years I organized the model list as a ploy to discipline myself to attend every week.

When I first joined the group, I could not paint fast enough to finish a painting in one hour. However, after regularly painting a portrait a week, over time I eventually was able to consistently get a result I was pretty happy with. For me, an hour is still too short of a time to really nail a portrait, so the time limit forced me to loosen up. There’s just no time to get picky in an hour. I came to enjoy the spontaneity that came across in these portraits.

3 more portraits

Left: ” Tracey” – I like the loose spontaneity of this one.
Middle: “Wale” – This guy was from Uganda. A writer, I think.
Right: “Cathy” – My lovely next-door-cubicle neighbor. I kinda wish I still had this one.

Loveland portraits

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“Redhead”
I lost the likeness on this one, but I like the painting.

I’ve continued to do portraits sporadically since leaving Hallmark to become a full time artist. A lot of my commissioned portraits are gone before I can have them photographed, but shown here is a sampling of portraits I’ve painted since moving to Loveland.

Come visit me and I’ll paint your portrait if you like!

I now tell people a sitting is two and a half hours long. (You get breaks, and I have good music.)

I charge extra for cosmetic improvements, though not as much as a plastic surgeon would.

I’m kidding. I don’t do cosmetic improvements. At least not on purpose.

You must be brave – sitting for a portrait is not for the faint of heart.

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“Bald Guy”
This was a demo piece done at the opening of Wild’s Art Center in Loveland

Unless otherwise noted, all portraits in this post are roughly 9 x 12 inches, and are painted in oils, from life, in a single session.

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“Self portrait” – 8 x 10 inches
This was painted from a photograph, (don’t tell anyone.) I thought a portrait in my plein air painting hat would say something about me. In this painting I wanted to try my ridiculously large brush and experiment with the paint handling.

New Painting: Street Band – Berlin

I don’t want to give too much away in advance of our show that opens in November, because I want you to come to it. But by way of a preliminary announcement, I’d like to share a couple of new pieces I just finished, and describe how the exhibit is developing.

Mollie and I are calling the show, Zeitgeist: Paintings Inspired by Germany. (Zeitgeist is a German word meaning spirit of the times.) The show will open at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 9 in the downstairs Foote Gallery, and will remain open until February 23, 2014. On the evening of January 10, Mollie and I will be doing a joint demonstration in separate media. She will demo re-purposed house paint, her primary medium. I will demo watercolor, my secondary medium, (because it is so fun to watch!) We’ll take turns talking and painting while the other’s work is drying. We really don’t know if this will be fun, or chaotic and dizzying for people, but we’d like for you to come and find out.

The Zeitgeist exhibit will present work representing both the external landscape of northern Germany and visions from our internal mindscapes. Some views were painted en plein air on location, other pieces were inspired by people, places, or art we experienced. My crazy wife is busily working on 3 large paintings that will not fit in our van (sigh.)

Following are two pieces I recently completed, both inspired by our visit to Berlin. I posted earlier about a midnight stroll I took in Berlin one night when I was too excited to sleep. These pieces came from that night as well.

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Street Band – Berlin
Scott Freeman, oil, 14×16 in.

I enjoy painting urban nocturnes because of the isolated, lively colors that one simply doesn’t get in the daylight. This scene of a street band is a small painting that reflects the spirit of Berlin that I saw that night. Just a group of guys playing music on Alexanderplatz, (plaza) the site where the largest anti-government protest in East Germany history occurred, just days before the fall of the Berlin wall in November of 1989.

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One of my favorite graffiti images from Berlin.

The second piece, below, is an appropriation – an assemblage of street art, none of which originated with me. I hope I didn’t commit any crimes in collecting these pieces of urban subculture. Certain areas of Berlin were covered in Graffiti and plastered with posters and announcements. I was kind of keeping my eyes open for a cool poster from off the street, but one that I could remove intact without being an inconsiderate jerk. Down an alley, I was happy to finally discover the pink elephant poster which had mostly peeled off the wall because of the rain. So I helped it off the rest of the way. I love the juxtaposition of the anti-capitalist blog leaflet ( the wolf) over the Club Maxxim image – a wonderfully ironic statement for pluralism and freedom.

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Animals of Berlin
Appropriation, Scott Freeman

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Did I Mention That My Wife is a Great Painter?

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“All About the Ladder”
36×36 inches, Mollie Walker Freeman

Living an unconventional life has little merit in and of itself; for example, choosing to measure your wealth by the number of cats in your house. But my wife is unconventional in all the right ways. She has the ability to look at the world and see options that are outside of the box. If such an option seems right to her she is willing and strong enough to run with it, even though it may go against cultural (or sub-cultural) expectations.

After moving from Iowa to Georgia as a teen, she tested out of high school 2 years early after dropping out, because she found conditions at her new school to be regressive, both in terms of academics and race relations. Then she enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute. She started out majoring in the ceramics department, but her instructors urged her to transfer to painting, since she kept making platters and painting on them. Eventually Mollie and I studied under the same painting instructor, Wilbur Niewald, who was a big influence on both of us. Of course, over the years our work has taken divergent directions, though we generally like the same artists, and in many ways share a similar artistic vision.

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Mollie is perhaps best known for her paintings of dancers in motion. Some of my favs:
Left – “Awake My Soul”, 24×36 inches; Middle – “Exult”, 36×48 inches; Right – “Joy Dance”, 24×36 inches

We’ve had five children together, which caused both of us to mostly shelve painting for a number of years. I pursued graphic design and illustration work in an attempt to bring in a regular income. Eventually I landed a decent job as an artist at Hallmark Cards. Mollie, in her usual outside-of-the-box way, home schooled our kids for several years, which we believe was a great investment in our children. However our inner city neighborhood seemed like a war zone at times, and we began praying and looking for an opportunity to relocate. Also, Independently of each other, we both eventually felt it was time to start painting again. During our last couple of years in Kansas City, several other interests crystallized for both of us as well, including a great interest in the Hebrew roots of our faith, dance as an art form, and a desire to incorporate the arts into worship. When Hallmark went through a restructuring, I was downsized, and we leapt at the chance to move to Colorado to attempt a living as full time artists.

We’ve been here some 12 years now, and it has been a wild roller coaster ride. In many ways, everything we had hoped to do when we moved here has come to pass, except that we didn’t intend to live in grinding poverty for so long. Many dear friends have helped us through the many low spots, for which we are very grateful. Mollie became quite adept at stretching money, squeezing water from a stone, and keeping several plates in the air without dropping any. Most recently, at nearly age 50, she went back to school and received certification as a holistic health coach from the Institute of Integrated Nutrition (IIN) based in Manhattan, New York. This coincides with another longstanding interest of hers, though she plans to continue her painting as well.

A few years ago, outside-of-the-box Mollie developed a process and technique using re-purposed house paint, and this is now her primary medium. She doesn’t like the stiffness of acrylic paint, and she likes the fact that she can get leftover house paint for free at the recycle center. So it’s actually a very green medium, (even when it’s red, yellow, or blue.) She works on a surface heavily textured with prior layers of paint. When our kids were smaller, at times she would have one of them painting next to her with the understanding that she would paint over their painting later. This was cuter than snot, and I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

People sometimes ask if we ever work on paintings together. Not really. Since we each approach painting quite differently now, that would probably be an exercise in frustration. We definitely critique each other’s work though, which makes us both better painters, and we are often in the studio together. She drives me crazy because she leaves her brushes standing in the paint water overnight, and she sings over the music; and I drive her crazy because I take over the whole studio so that there’s no place to even sit. She has this idea that she wants to paint enormous canvases, and I apparently have a practical bent that wants to know how we will transport them since they won’t fit in our van.

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Worship Painting: Left – “Tree of Life”, 36×36 inches; Right – “Storm”, 18×24 inches

A couple of weekends a month Mollie does something called “worship painting” at Rez Church, a local church known for its expressive worship. This means that she shows up with a blank canvas, (in her case a heavily textured one.) Then she executes a painting during the worship time. This is simply one more avenue by which worshipers may connect with God. Sometimes Mollie doesn’t know what she will paint before she arrives. Sometimes she prays for inspiration beforehand, and arrives with an image in mind, or perhaps a color feel. Often she is pleased to find that her painting speaks to someone in the congregation quite specifically.

Mollie is a lover of God above all else, and I love that about her. She has read the Bible completely through each year for the past 17 years or so. It has been sheer joy to have a life partner who is so in sync with me on so many levels, yet, like all good friends, she doesn’t tell me only what I want to hear. She is full of wisdom, insight, and character. She’s a disciplined, hard worker without being an unrelenting psycho.  It has not been easy for us to remain committed to work as fine artists in a prolonged economic downturn, but she has “learned the secrets of the Fire Swamp.” (Not that we prefer to live there.) We’ve often said things would’ve been easier had one of us been a doctor or a lawyer; except that neither of us wanted to be the doctor or lawyer. So my guess is we’ll keep doing this for as long as we can.

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Commissioned work by Molle Walker Freeman
Left – “Much Forgiven”, 16×20 inches; Right – “One Thing”, 16×20 inches

Mollie has a better grasp of the English language than I do. Sometimes when she unexpectedly does something I like, I’ll say, “Wow. You’re, like, a dream wife!” She will always smile and correct me, “No, I am a dream wife.” So she is.

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Left – Mollie’s painting of me: “My Painter”, 24×24 inches,oil
Right – My painting of Mollie: “Dread Head”, 12×16 inches, oil

You can read Mollie’s blogs, (which are less lengthy than mine,) at:
http://www.MollieSong.wordpress.com  (health)
http://www.repurposefulpainter.com (art)

The Perils of Peeving a Plein Air Painter

I ‘m not jealous of Jeff Legg. Really.

Sure, a Jeff Legg painting sells for about 12 times what a Scott Freeman painting of comparable size sells for, but I’m not jealous. It is true that Jeff bears the title of “Signature-Master-Royal-Highness-Whoop-tee-Doo-Painter,” (or something like that,) in the OPA, an organization that has never accepted any of my work in either its national or regional shows. But how could I be jealous of a guy who would do something like what I’m about to tell you?

For the past several years I’ve participated in an autumn plein air painting event in Estes Park, Colorado. Like me, Jeff is pretty much a local guy, when he’s not off winning top awards, or rolling around in the storehouse full of 100 dollar bills, which I assume he has somewhere. Jeff is not primarily a plein air painter. My guess is that he does the plein air event just for the fun of it, and to enjoy the camaraderie of little people, like myself. For a painting god, Jeff is a humble and down-to-earth guy.

At these national plein air painting festivals there is an event that bears the embarrassing name of “The Quick Draw” event. (Get it? Like a cowboy? ‘Cause a lot of these festivals happen out West?) Except that we don’t draw. We paint. Some organizers have noticed this and called their events “The Quick Paint,” which is only slightly less embarrassing, because it’s still awkward but without the clever, cowboy double entendre. But now nothing can ever be done about this because Quick Draw events are big crowd pleasers and a lot of fun, and the plein air crowd is familiar with the term. I think they should call it “The Stress Out” event.

The way it works is, all of the participating artists gather together at one location and set up their easels. Usually there are a couple of models dressed up and posed, but artists are free to paint whatever they want to. The caveat is that we can’t work from photographs, and we must all start with a bare canvas.

We start when the gun goes off. (OK…the whistle, but this is theoretically the only time an actual gun could be used in the event. If they’re going to call it a Quick Draw, I think they should at least use a gun, so I’m going to say “gun.”) An hour and a half later, when the gun goes off again, we lay our brushes down, frame our completed paintings, and the work goes up for public auction. It’s all live plein air and alla prima; often impasto and sometimes contrapposto with chiaroscuro, but only rarely trompe l’ oeil. With Antipasto typically following. (This sentence exhausts my entire repertoire of pretentious French and Italian art terms.)

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Shots from a Quick Draw event in Estes Park, Colorado – from left to right:
1) Getting started 2) A view of the crowd & fellow artists 3) FOCUS! 4) This is the stage of the painting where I wonder if I should give up painting & be a greeter at Walmart 5) Nearing the end.
– photography by Carrie Eagan

Quick Draw events are actually quite fascinating if you are interested in art. Patrons can walk from artist to artist and see how different artists approach the craft of painting. Often little crowds will gather around artists as their paintings begin to take shape. It’s quite fun. It is not forbidden to feed or talk to the artists. Plein air painting is kind of my thing, and I’ve won several awards at Quick Draw events. Since I’ve done quite a bit of portrait painting, I usually paint a model because the public seems to enjoy watching a portrait take shape.

Jeff Legg, on the other hand, is known for his sumptuous still life painting. One year he brought his own blue vase and a cut cantaloupe to the Quick Draw event, and set up a small still life on a rock ledge. I thought this was a cop out, but I didn’t say anything. But one of the participating gallery owners did say something. The complaint was along the lines of, “That’s not fair because he might’ve painted that vase before.”

This was a ridiculous complaint, because all of the landscape painters had painted mountains and trees before and nobody was complaining. Apparently, Jeff quietly made a mental note of the complaint.

It didn’t help matters that Jeff’s painting won an award. Third place. I took second. Just sayin’. Yes, the OPA reject placed ahead of the awesome OPA Master painting god. But in all fairness I should probably mention that my starting bid was $400, and his was $2400. And he sold his. Not bad for an hour and half of work. Then he went over and tried to buy it back from the buyer because he could’ve gotten more for it in a gallery, which only further proves that Jeff Legg inhabits a different reality than do I.

After the Antipasto we all went home, Estes Park closed down, snow fell, spring came, summer went, and the next plein air event rolled around. The morning of the Quick Draw event arrived. The park in downtown Estes buzzed excitedly and filled up with art lovers. Jeff Legg arrived and set up his easel in front of a freaking bush. When the starting gun went off, Jeff stared into the bush and began to paint intently.

As the hour wore on, the hushed voices of onlookers expressed puzzlement that Jeff seemed to be painting not a bush, but a turquoise vase and cantaloupe on a ledge! They stared into the bush, but there was no cantaloupe. No vase. They walked around the bush. It was like some sort of smart-alecky miracle! For me it was one of the finest moments in the history of poorly named events. I don’t think Jeff won an award that year because everyone was so confused, but more importantly, he didn’t break any rules!

I spoke with Jeff a couple of years later, trying to express how that story has made my life better. He humbly justified his actions, saying, “Well…all painting is done from memory. I just remembered what I was painting for a longer period than everyone else.” Brilliant. How could I ever be jealous of Jeff Legg?

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Painting the model during a Quick Draw event in Sedona, AZ.
– photo by Tim Poly

I regret that I have no photos of Jeff, but you can view his work at http://www.jefflegg.com (There is no charge for viewing Jeff’s work online.)

Paintings: My 2013 Governor’s Art Show Entries & Their Stories

The 22nd annual Colorado Governor’s Invitational Art Show and Sale opens April 27th in Loveland, Colorado, at the Loveland Museum Gallery. Following are my four entries and their stories. For those who live nearby, in conjunction with the show I will also be performing a new Art Theatre (live painting) piece at the Bill Reed Middle School auditorium at 2pm on Saturday, the 27th. Admission is free for this event but you must have a ticket. For info, visit: http://www.governorsartshow.org.

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“Luneburg – Co-existence of Centuries”
oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, 2013 – Scott Freeman

 Luneburg – Co-existence of Centuries:

Luneburg is an historic town in Northern Germany, officially founded in 956. Luneburg’s salt trade made it an important and wealthy town during the Middle Ages. Unlike many German towns, it was left undamaged during World War 2, and its old town square has many well-preserved buildings, the oldest of which dates to around 1400. Pictured in the painting is St. Michael’s Church, which opened in 1409 and schooled Johann Sebastian Bach for a time. J. S. sang soprano in the boys choir at St. Michael’s.

The painting was created from a 9×12″ plein air study I did while in Germany last summer. When I set out, I had a particular view in mind that I wanted to paint; a view that I had noticed the day before while touring the city. But as is sometimes the case, when I arrived with my painting gear at the location, the view wasn’t as inspiring as I had remembered it. I took a walk and found the above view down an alley a few blocks away. Of all the cityscape compositions I’ve stumbled across in my painting career, this is my favorite so far. I could give my reasons for this if anyone is interested.

This painting was actually painted for an upcoming art exhibit that Mollie and I are preparing. The show will go up in November at the Loveland Museum-Gallery, in the Foote Gallery, and will be themed around our Germany trip.

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“Calm Before the Storm”
oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches, 2012 – Scott Freeman

 Calm Before the Storm:

A few years ago I illustrated a children’s book. I happened to be looking over some photos I had shot for that project, and realized there was some great reference there. This painting is a reworking of one of those photos. I think painting and music compliment each other in many ways. In addition, many musical instruments are beautifully shaped and crafted.

For years I was a purist, refusing to work from photos. While I still prefer working from life, I definitely no longer feel constrained to only paint from life, and I feel that my earlier practice was good foundation for whatever I want to do next.

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“Jammin'”
oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches, 2012 – Scott Freeman

Jammin’ :

One night I was enjoying a house concert in my neighborhood when I realized that the composition and lighting on the guitar player were extraordinary. I asked to borrow someone’s camera and shot a few photos. This painting is the result.

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“Monument Valley Roadscape”
oil on panel,11 x 14 inches, 2011 – Scott Freeman

Monument Valley Roadscape:
On the way home from a plein air festival in Sedona, Arizona, I drove through Monument Valley for the first time, and knew I wanted to paint the buttes in the valley. I secretly hope this painting doesn’t sell as it’s one of my favorite landscape paintings to date.

Art, Transcendence, and Community

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Why are we drawn to the arts? I believe a primary reason is that the arts speak the language of transcendence. The experiences we most look forward to in life are moments of transcendence. Here I define transcendence broadly to simply mean: that which is beyond our ordinary or everyday experience.

In other words, we all look forward to moments and experiences that are set apart from the “everydayness” and necessary routines of life. These transcendent experiences may be moments of intimacy, beauty, celebration, romance, peace, spiritual connection, culinary satisfaction, physical exertion, or aesthetic pleasure. But whatever we enjoy most in life, chances are it can be described as a crystallization of our heart’s desires; an uninterrupted experience set apart and concentrated around what we enjoy most.

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This kind of transcendence defines the arts.

Music is transcendent sound. Our everyday experience bombards us with sound. But a skillful musician can take a lifeless instrument and produce an intentional arrangement and flow of sound that excites our emotions and lifts our spirits.

Using only the human voice, a skillful vocalist can carry the listener to a place of reflection, joy, or tears, powerfully touching the heart.

Poetry is transcendent language; the careful orchestration of words that evokes imagery, thoughts, and feelings in a way that everyday speech does not.

Dance is transcendent, trained movement. A well-trained dancer can hold an audience captive through the movement of his/her body, creating an aesthetic experience that takes us to a completely different place than does watching a street full of commuters on their way to work.

Painting is the transcendent arrangement of color and material. A gifted painter begins with a blank canvas and composes the elements of raw color into a nuanced visual statement that may touch our emotions.

Installation Art is the transcendent arrangement of material –  this material may even be the “everyday stuff” around us. But by human creativity and ingenuity it is arranged in such a way that it transforms the material and space, often creating a spectacular experience for the viewer.

And so it goes with all art forms. By definition the arts operate in the realm of transcendent experience.

I once had the pleasure of being part of a large ballet production. Having previously only watched ballet from the seats, watching from the wings as dancers came on and off stage only a few feet away from me was a completely new perspective. It was intensely human and earthy. I knew what the audience was seeing – beautifully choreographed stage-lit dancers, “effortlessly” leaping and spinning through space. But I was close enough to them to feel the rush of air as they blew past me, and I could see the glint of sweat on their muscles. I could hear their breath and the thud of pointe shoes on the floor as they entered the wings, and I could see them focus and gather themselves back up as they prepared to enter the line of sight of the audience again.

For me it was like looking at the backside of a tapestry, or seeing a magician’s secrets. There really was no magic at all. Just human creativity, talent, and hard work, yet the end result was magical.

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This is how art is produced – by a combination of creative inspiration, talent, and hard work.  When we see artistic genius expressed, it may seem magical and astounding, perhaps because what we are seeing is something beyond our own known abilities. Because on some level we are all familiar with the ingredients of art – we’ve all plucked a string on an instrument, or attempted to paint a picture – when we experience deeply moving artistic expression, we innately know we’re sharing in the best of what human beings can bring. Our appreciation completes the process. We can embrace and enjoy the experience, and be enriched by another person’s transcendent expression.

So in speaking the language of transcendence, the arts are also communal and relational. Most art forms are experienced in a group setting. Even a solitary individual viewing an art museum exhibit is part of a larger group of patrons. Artistic expressions are experiences that we give to each other and receive from each other as part of the human community. Being on either the giving end, the receiving end, or both, is something that we can all have the joy of being a part of.

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“Calm Before the Storm”
oil painting by Scott Freeman, 24×30″

All photos under copyright by Scott Freeman, 2013