Jennifer Emile Freeman's earliest connection to art was a matchbook cover in the 1960s that advertised, "If you draw this, you could be an artist!" At seven years old Jennifer was drawing as many matchbook covers as she could find in her early efforts to become an artist. While her early desires to learn to draw set a foundation for what was to come, it wasn't until later in life that Jennifer began to seriously delve into becoming an artist. At thirty-eight years old, she found the book The Artist's Way and finally found herself on the path towards becoming an artist.
Jennifer has studied with a varied and impressive group of artists, including Stephan Cefalo, Stephen Early, Darren Kingsley, and Jeffrey Watts. Her artwork has been gaining a wider audience, with her work being exhibited by two galleries in Little Rock and exhibited in various juried and group shows. The artist has recently had her first solo exhibition at the St. James Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and received a purchase award for her work in the Batesville Art Center juried exhibition in 2014.
Dirty on the Rocks, Oil on Linen Panel, 9" x 12"
What do you find to be the hardest aspect to being an artist?
I am a home body by nature. I like nothing better than to start my day with coffee and a walk with my husband and puppies. Yoga, some yard work and spend most of the day painting. Being a successful artist requires interaction outside my safe place. I was a hairdresser/ salon owner for 30 years and had all the social activity a life might require. It was truly like hosting a party in my home, while I worked my butt off, every day of the week we were open. I now prefer solitude.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Painting from a life model on a stage in front of an audience and have someone want to take it home before I am even finished painting it! Maybe a live demonstration video as well.
Any ambitious or exciting projects on the horizon for you? What’s new in your career that you’re excited about and looking forward to?
Actually I am teaching a workshop in Little Rock at LifeQuest this coming July. I am very excited about it. A little scared because I have never done it before but I believe I can translate information I have acquired in a little easier fashion than I was able to derive it in my pursuit of an art education. Learning to plan a painting and executing the plan successfully even if parts of it or all of it changes in the process.
Did you ever have that “aha!” life-changing moment with a piece of art in your formative years? What was it and how did it affect you?
Yes I did! I was in the first grade and we were given a slab of clay to make something. I made a rabbit running! I was so impressed with myself I couldn't stand it! I remember how great were the ears and using a pencil to hollow out the eyes. 30 years later I found it in my dad's office being used as a paper weight. I was still pretty impressed!
I remember in a graphic design class being told that after the class, I would notice graphic design everywhere, and it would change the way I see the world. For me, that held true. Do you think art has that power for most people? Does it for you?
It does for me. I can't help but see temperature changes in faces from certain light. The planes on the face that turn the cheek or chin....noticing the straight lines now that make a curve. Where I would place the crisp sharp edge if I were painting you...Oh I'm sorry what was the question?
If you had the ability to take a class or workshop with any artist, who would it be?
Daniel Gerhartz or Richard Schmid definitely! I worked with Daniel this last March for one week and I will do it again when I can! I admire his honesty and his talent. He tells it like it really is and stays real.
There is the common idea of the starving artist, and this idea keeps finding traction in society today. Do you think there is any truth to it, or do you think it is mostly a myth that keeps being perpetuated by people?
I know many an artist, but very few make a living from producing art work. Incomes are built with seminars, endorsements, teaching or they actually work in the industry as an illustrator etc. To me you can't do this for the money because there is very little of it floating around. For every painting sold there are stacks of them lined up somewhere else unsold. I don't care, I will paint and paint and then paint over top of older work if I have too. I just love to paint.
Who do you consider to be big influences on you and your work? It doesn’t have to be another visual artist. I know for myself several of my influences come from practitioners of different art forms.
Again Daniel Gerhartz. He gets it! He paints still life's with people in them. He paints from life and nails the light and the emotion. I admire his appreciation for his gift and his thankfulness to be able make a good living off his artwork. His honesty is incredible. He actually told me that when he graduated from art school he started studying with Richard Schmid and by the end of his first week was told he had no idea what values were in his work! He does now.
How big of an impact is music on your creative process? Many of the artists I know have to listen to music while they create. If it’s a big part of your process, what do you listen to?
A must. I set a mood to a painting with music. I've always needed a soundtrack to the painting process. I come in the house and can hear the thud of the base through the walls from my studio even though to me it isn't that loud. I love dance music. Disco, Adele, Seal, Sting, Dino, Eva Cassidy to name a handful.
Black and white, or full color? What floats your boat?
Full color with lots of grays and neutrals. I have learned so much about color just this last year. Great color in a painting needs neutrals and grays as a sounding board to work in the artists favor. The viewer can get worn out with too much overpowering chroma. The eyes need a resting place from the excitement and if they can't find that break in your painting they will all too quickly find it somewhere else.
Thank you Jennifer! Wonderful insights into what makes you tick as an artist!