Interview: Rose Freymuth-Frazier

Mastery is not an accident. When I first met Rose Freymuth-Frazier she was painting still lifes in her studio and in Central Park. She busted her ass practicing her craft and tool another big step - she sought out mentors. Between her talent, intelligence, discipline and selection of mentors it's not an accident she's as good as she is.

How would you describe what is it that you do? 

I am an oil painter. I basically spend all of my daylight hours pushing around pigment with animal hair tied to the end of a stick. When I’m done I call the resulting paintings “figurative realism”.

Have you always done this for a living or did you transition from something else? What triggered your decision to make a change? 

Since I was eight years old, growing up in Northern California, I wanted to be an actor. Now that I am older I realize there is a similar draw between painting and acting. Both are story telling in a visual medium and a chance to explore different aspects of what it is to be human.

I went to school for theatre, that’s what brought me all the way across the country from California to New York City when I was eighteen years old. Shortly after, while living in Los Angeles, I did some TV work and it was during that time that I began to paint. I loved the feeling of coming home and getting cozy with my paints. I wasn’t very good and hadn’t thought about learning a real technique but I loved the experience of painting. It was everything acting wasn’t. It was self-contained, quiet and intimate. I didn’t have to wait for someone else’s permission to work or relay on anyone else.

The isolation and self-reliance are some of the things that actually make painting hard when you do it full time, but back then there was a nice balance.

After I was done with the TV show, I returned to New York City, this time for good, and began what became four years of full time training in classical oil painting and drawing technique.

You have a distinctive style, how did this develop? 

I Always wanted to paint portraits and the figure. I don’t care much for painting landscapes or still life. Again, I suppose it goes back to acting, film and theatre. I want to see faces and tell stories about people.

I studied under Steven Assael in New York City and Odd Nerdrum in Norway, two men who might be considered living masters in the field of figurative realism. I learned what I could from their technique and then I went in my own direction.

How would you describe the themes you are currently exploring in your work? 

Girl, Girls, Girls and a couple of beasts thrown in.

What is the most challenging thing about practicing your craft? How do you deal with that challenge? 

Painting is not easy. I will repeat that again for anyone thinking it’s some kind of romantic vocation. Painting is not easy! The technical, concentrated work can be hard, the hours alone can be hard, then there’s the stuff you don’t think about such as photographing finished paintings, stretching canvases, framing, and shipping which are all challenging things a painter must deal with on a regular basis.

I have these huge swings of work, like six months, where all I do is paint. Then I freak out and need to go far away for a little while, swearing I’ll never do it again! Then slowly I crawl back to the easel. I think there’s a compulsive element in work like this.

Do you still practice? If so, what do your practice sessions look like? 

I don’t do studies. I use all of my time to complete finished paintings for exhibition.

Where do you find inspiration? 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the greatest asset for an artist living in New York. I can’t imagine painting without it.

Where are you when you have the most a-ha moments?

I know it’s cliché but I really do think best in the shower.

What do you do to maintain a creative flow? 

I work until I never want to work again. I finish what I’m doing and then stop for a little while. Eventually I start up and do it all over again. It’s not much of a flow, more like some kind of combustion chamber but that’s how I do it. 

How much do you rely on feedback from others to help shape your ideas?

I bounce ideas off of my boyfriend. He’s pretty helpful. Nobody else gets any input. It really is a very personal thing between the painting and me.

What is the greatest obstacle to creativity?

Creativity is a combination of work and intuition. You have to be after something much bigger than the romantic notion of “being creative”.

In my work the obstacles lay not so much in the conception but in the execution. It takes so much longer to complete a painting than it does to conceive one and the follow through is where ones motivation can dry up.

When you complete a project, how often does it resemble your initial concept or conceived idea? How important is this for you?

Paintings that are conceived and then executed exactly as the initial concept can be the most boring to paint. They can turn out well but the process was just work. Having the idea sometimes is gratifying enough but bringing it to fruition can be tedious if there’s no exploration along the way.

The best painting experience for me is when a piece is started with a pretty strong idea but not totally set. And then, as it develops, elements are added that really bring the painting together, both visually and conceptually.

How do you know when you’re done?

It’s done when it’s right and it’s right when there’s nothing wrong with it anymore.

How do you resolve creative differences with clients or creative partners?

One of the benefits of working entirely alone is that there are no such problems.

What keeps you motivated even if you don’t connect personally with the project?

I hate leaving paintings unfinished and I almost never do. Sometimes I know a piece just isn’t going to be as good as another. I’ll bang away at it until it’s acceptable. This can often be more fun since there’s less to lose and occasionally the results are more interesting because it’s been worked over, lived in.

The luxury of oil paint is you can pretty much change things as much as you want.

What do you do when you are stuck and have some sort of deadline or other pressure?

I don’t usually run into that problem.

How do you achieve your creative vision with a limited budget?

Painting materials are expensive but not prohibitively so. It’s a pretty simple operation.

What are the top 3 tools in your creative tool kit? ie. software, pencil, paper, journal etc.

Paints, canvas, brushes.

What are the top 3 creative habits that have proven to be the most useful for you in your career?

I am very orderly with my materials. I always wash my brushes and clean my palette at the end of the day. I look at a lot of good, old paintings. I set high expectations for my work and myself.

If you could offer a single piece of advice to a budding professional, what would it be?

Go for it, whatever it is that motivates and excites you but don’t think it’s going to be easy and don’t think things are going to happen on your timeframe. It might take a lot longer than you realize to get to where you want to be professionally. With patience, focus and a lot of hard work you will probably do exactly what you set out to do, just be clear with yourself what it is that you want to achieve and then don’t give up on it.

View more of Rose's paintings