Douglas Fryer Interview

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What is it that attracts us to a particular artist’s work and not that of another?
Indeed, not an easy question to answer. Some are comfortable with matter of factly saying, “I know what I like”. For others delving more deeply, they may consider the subject, colors and mood of an artists work as the most appealing factors.
Douglas Fryer
When I first discovered Douglas Fryers work in a small ad some months back, inAmerican Art Collector, I was not only attracted by the subject and the undeniable pensive mood of the work, but also by his wonderful ability to take the most complicated of scenes and distill it down to the absolute essentials…no more, no less. His paintings reflect a strong design sense, sometimes balancing on the edge of pure abstraction. Through a masterful use of contrasts…light/dark, hard/soft, blurred/detailed, warm/cool…he creates a poetic visual effect gently guiding the viewer to the heart of the painting.
Farm Near Hilltop – 12″x 28″ – Oil
There are many more things I could say about his work, but enough of me. Let Douglas explain in his own words what he does. You will enjoy his well considered, thoughtful comments. By the way, he lives in Spring City, UT and has a BFA and MFA from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT.
Morning Snow – 10″x 12″ – Oil
Morning-Shenandoah Valley Farm – 13.5″x 22″ – Oil
How would you define your role as an artist?
What I strive for in painting is what I suppose a poet strives for in the arrangement of words. My role is to arrange elements in ways that inspire contemplation and healing. I hope my work is a concrete statement about my sense of beauty and meaning. As I present to the viewer what I have done, my hope is that there is an unspoken dialogue. I say, “look over here. Consider this. Have you seen it this way too?” If the viewer sees as important those things that I have designated as having special value, they say, “Yes, I see. I feel what you feel. You’ve awakened an emotion in me. Your work helps me to consider other things as beautiful as well.”
What would be your definition of art?
Art is the process and result of organizing elements or materials for the purpose of stimulating the senses and emotions of both the creator and the viewer of the work. Although the intellect may be used in both creating and interpreting a work of art, the content and ultimate worth of the piece is dependent upon its aesthetic and emotional qualities, and judged, of course, by the inspiration one gains by looking at it.
After the Storm – 30″x 30″ – Oil
What is the major thing you look for when selecting a subject?
For the most part I enjoy painting the landscape of the valley I live in. The subject is only the point of departure, but it is a very important point. I get a very powerful initial emotion. Perhaps it is about the subject itself – my friend’s sheep herd, for example, or my neighbor’s farm, or a distant view of the mountains that rise up above my town. More often, however, my initial reaction comes from the forms themselves, the patterns of light and dark, the shapes that play off each other, warms and cools, all of which is the basis of abstract composition. This kind of inspiration can come from anything or anywhere I go. Of course once the subject is decided upon, everything that follows is abstraction and simplification.
Canyon Farm-February – 18″x 48″ – Oil
Forgotten Land – 20″x 50″ – Oil
Compositional sketch
What is your major consideration when composing a painting?
The proportions of the rectangle and the divisions of that rectangle: value patterns; the relative size and importance of planes and masses; the quality of the edges between planes; how each layer will affect the layers that follow.
American Farm – 24″x 20″ – Oil
How do you determine the color key for a painting, and how do you maintain it?
In a way, color doesn’t matter as much as value. If the values are right, you can do anything you want with color. I like thinking in terms of relative temperature rather than color. Nature has some pretty amazing neutrals. Those neutrals range from warm to cool. Of course the subject dictates the range in which you will key the painting. Harmony and balance and relative importance dictate to me how it will all be keyed. Sometimes I’ll make it more deliberate, though. I’ve keyed a painting’s color based upon the Golden Section before and have been pleased. Maintaining the key is difficult sometimes, and you have to be very careful about introducing color into the painting that wasn’t there to start with in the block-in stage. The new color can be intrusive, not part of the same family, and generally must be toned with other colors in order to fit.
(I understand the Golden Section as a compositional device, but I had never heard of it as applied to color. I asked Douglas to explain.)
The Golden Section delineated
Regarding the Golden Section and color, I simply planned colors relative to the size of the general plane or sum of planes they were applied to. For example the square from which the Golden Section is derived may represent a large use of a neutral – a large pale sky for example, or something like that. The next sized square would represent the relatively brighter chroma of another color or color area, and so on until the smallest square would represent the relative area of importance of an intense chroma, such as a spot of cadmium red in the composition.
Midsummer Green – 12″x 28″ – Oil
What colors are most often found on your palette?
Raw umber, burnt umber, raw sienna, burnt sienna, transparent red oxide, venetian red, cadmium red medium, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, azo yellow, indian yellow, cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, indigo, phthalo blue, diaxazine purple, quinacridone violet, quinacridone rose, titanium white, and ivory black.
Morning – 12″x 30″ – Oil
Last Light – 20″x 28″ – Oil
What part does photography play in your work?
Photography is vital to me. After 100,000 photographs you get pretty good at judging light and shape for the purposes of the paintings you like to do. However, some of my very favorite photographs to paint from were taken while driving down the highway, pointing the camera sideways out the window and clicking away. There are accidental things that happen with cropping and focus and movement that would not be there if I had deliberately composed the photograph. Think of Degas’ bizarre cropping: brilliant and unexpected.
What would you say is the prevailing mood of your body of work?
Contemplative. Pensive. Reflective. Nostalgic.
Fence Line on a Winter’s Field – 9″x 9″ – Oil
Any advice for the young artist/painter?
Be observant, and appreciate things that are frequently taken for granted. Learn to draw anything, with any tool. Know as much about art history as you know about contemporary art. Be willing to experiment and be willing to sacrifice a piece as you push the boundaries. Be willing to listen to what the painting has to tell you. Know what art you like to look at, but be willing to see the value in things that you don’t like at first. Be prolific in your production. Have a space set apart that is specifically your studio space and nothing else. Associate frequently with other artists. Teach someone else what you know. Read a lot. Let people, family and friends come before your work.
Any advice for the first-time collector?
Look around for a year in a number of galleries, museums, regions, and markets. Buy the best work you can within your budget. It may mean a smaller painting, but it will be a quality painting. By the best, I mean purchase a work that inspires you and will continue to inspire you 40 years from now.
When you become discouraged and feel the well is dry, so to speak, what do you do?
Thank you Douglas for your marvelous work and the great interview.
Link to Douglas Fryer’s work HERE
(Southwest Art magazine will feature Douglas in its upcoming May 2012 issue)
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