|Interview with Maine Painter Philip Frey|
|Editor: Brenda Bonneville|
|Friday, 12 June 2009|
Philip Frey was born in Maine and raised by a creative and very supportive family. Frey paints a sophisticated, yet joyful portrayal of Maine coastal life and says of his work, “my primary interest in painting is color, light and shape as well as the process of painting itself.” He received a BFA degree in painting from Syracuse University, has studied with Alan Bray, and now works full time as an artist and teaches painting and drawing as well. Philip is represented by Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth, The Firehouse Gallery in Damariscotta and Maine Art Gallery in Kennebunk.
(Image: "Lemon and Blue Fish Beach" by Philip Frey)
When did you first realize that you were going to be an artist and when did you first start making art?
I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid. It wasn't until high school that I realized the possibility of being an artist and making a career out of it.
Who or what inspires you?
Color and the relationship between light and the form. Specifically, early morning or late evening light have a particular appeal. At those times, the color, light and forms appear more intense and varied.
Is (was) anyone else in your family in the arts?
Yes, my mother is a watercolor painter and my father used to make artisan birdhouses from old painted wood. My brother is graphic artist who makes cartoons and other designs. At one point, the whole family, including my sister Kristin (an engineer), all made birdhouses together. It was quite fun.
Are you self-trained or did you go to art school?
I studied art at Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio and obtained my BFA in painting from Syracuse University, in Syracuse, New York.
Is the process of creating your art long or short?
It depends on the size and complexity of the piece as well as how the piece flows. When I'm "in the groove", the painting process flows effortlessly and it seems to take no time at all. At other times, when there is less synchronicity and more of a struggle, it can take days or weeks to resolve a piece. Of course, I aim for the effortless because it's more fun. It takes the discipline of letting go of expectations to make a good painting.
(Image: "Turquoise Glow Stonington" by Philip Frey)
Tell us something about your work.
As can be expected, my work has changed many times over the years. But, the one thing that is consistent throughout is my love of color and light. The literal subjects tend to be the patchwork patterns of working harbors, interesting curvy roads, and islands. These locales are the ideal setting to experiment with color, light and form, especially when early morning light or evening light is shining. Equally important and enjoyable is the process of painting itself: the dynamic balance between creating and watching these elements naturally unfold on the canvas.
Do you have a subject matter that defines you as an artist?
I think vivid color usage and interest in the relationship between light and form as well as a commitment to painting Maine.
What makes you stay with a particular subject matter? Why are you drawn to it?
Sometimes the subject matter is somewhat dictated by the theme of a particular exhibit that I am painting for. Ultimately though, I am drawn to a subject because it's interesting, fun, and is a suitable spring board from which I can experiment with color, light and form.
How do you stay motivated?
There is great enjoyment in watching the creative process unfold. When I can participate in the process, yet step back from it - a bit like watching a good movie - there is joy there. That's what keeps me motivated. Also, teaching is motivating. It helps keep things grounded and me thinking '"how can I can benefit others through teaching painting and drawing?".
What have you been working on lately? Are you experimenting with anything new?
This fall, winter and spring's labor is a group of 18 pieces (for my upcoming show) that focus on Maine's working harbors. There are a few interior scenes, and paintings of crows included in that grouping. Also, I have been experimenting with smaller format pieces in a new acrylic paint (Golden OPEN acrylics) which I post on my blog now and again. The paint is more like oil in that it has a longer "open" time in which you can work the paint.
Has your medium changed from when you first started out?
Yes, in college I did a fair amount of oil painting, photography and printmaking. When I started showing galleries in 1994, I focused on watercolor. Now, I mostly paint in acrylics.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Get a really good foundation in the basics: drawing, figure study, color theory and practice, two and three dimensional design, painting in various mediums, study the masters, and get art business training. After that, being flexible, developing a "Can do" positive attitude, and being clear and decent to galleries, clients, artists, the press, etc. will take you in a good and successful direction.
What kind of comment do you despise the most when overheard at one of your openings?
I don't want to go there. It's most helpful to let go of them, for my own benefit and the one making the comment.
What kind of comment pleases you the most when overheard at one of your openings?
It's nice when others simply enjoy my work and express that.
How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
I have studied several books on the subject, paid attention to how my successful artist and business peers do business, and subscribe to a couple art business magazines. I read, years ago, in one art marketing book, "if you want to be successful as an artist, take the time you spend making art and cut that in half. That's how much time you need to spend marketing your work". That was a wake up call. I took the advice.
Do you have any outside interests other than art?
Growing vegetables and flowers as well as hiking in Acadia National Park.
Are you disciplined about your creative process (in other words, do you treat the process like a job, where you keep particular hours in the studio), or are you more spontaneous?
I try to keep a regular hours. I'm usually in the studio, out painting, taking photographs, delivering/picking up work, running errands, etc. from 9am to 4pm or so.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art?
Good question. Now, that's something to think about and prepare for, isn't it? I would have to go with it - I would have to let go. That would be the sensible approach.
What's the best part of being a full time, working artist?
Making my own hours and doing what I love to do. I'm very fortunate to be able to do so.
What's the worst part of being a full time, working artist?
Not having a regular paycheck... not knowing when I will sell work. That can be a little stressful. So, budgeting becomes very important!
Where can we find your work?
You can find my work at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth, The Firehouse Gallery in Damariscotta and at the Maine Art Gallery in Kennebunk
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Yes, from June 14 - July 14 I have a solo exhibit, "Philip Frey: Maine Harbors" at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth. There will be an artist's reception on Sunday, June 14th, 1:00 - 3:00 pm.
For more information or to view more images, please visit Philip Frey's website.
- Brenda Bonneville, editor
Copyright © 2009 MAINE ART SCENE - Maine Arts & Culture Online Magazine.
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