New Art Kid on The Block

Story by Jeannie Stone

From the hills of Dover, Arkansas, to a monastery in Florence, Italy, DANIEL FREEMAN, whose current home is an art studio overlooking downtown Russellville, is the author of his life. Unlike traditional pen and paper, however, he chooses to tell his stories through his art. Freeman, sketch artist, painter and creator of personality-scapes,is itching to capture these stories on canvas or paper. One of them might even be yours. 

A graduate of Dover High School in 2003, Freeman, son of Bonnie Freeman and sister to Brandi Foshee, had a memorable relationship with art during his childhood. He was first encouraged by his grandparents Bob and Marilou Freeman who posted his art work on their refrigerator next to his older cousin’s.

“Josh Vaughan was an excellent artist. His art was always 10 times better than mine, and it always dominated my grandparents’ refrigerator, but whenever my grandmother would put one of my art pieces up it made me feel so good.”

In all fairness, Vaughan encouraged me to improve my art Freeman said. “He was always giving me tips,” he said, “but he was always getting prime space on my grandparents’ refrigerator. He was the competition.”

To further his frustrations, Freeman was diagnosed with Fatal Heart Arrhythmia and was forced to quit sports.

“One day, I just threw my books down in high school art class because I found out the army wouldn’t even take me,” he said. That’s when his art teacher Tehya May painted him a path into the unknown. “She told me that I had more potential than anyone else in the class, and if I channeled my energies my art would take me places,” he said. “She started talking to me about art scholarships and encouraged me to start submitting my artwork in competitions. I got psyched. I started staying late after school and not leaving until the janitor left.”

Freeman’s hard work paid off, and he won Best of Show in the Pope County Fair and won the River Valley Arts Center competition both his junior and senior year.

“The first time I won money, I thought it was pretty cool. I couldn’t believe I’d get paid for doing something I loved.”

His artwork continued to receive awards and was pictured several times in the local newspaper.

“That made me feel so good to see my art featured,” he said.

True to May’s prediction, Freeman was awarded an art scholarship to Memphis College of Art where he earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and fine art in 2007. He also expresses himself through photography, enjoys bookmaking and is experimenting with video production.

It was while studying in a monastery in Italy for three months that Freeman developed his art philosophy.

“That really got me into the narrative,” he said. “Everything was so different there from the vendors and little merchants to normal activities, such as a boy kissing a girl under a street lamp. It is so compact there, and there was kind of a poetry to everything.”

It wasn’t only the language and the food that were different, however.

“The whole environment around me made me feel as if I were in never-never land,” Freeman said.

The constantly changing landscape of his Italian journey piqued his interest in storytelling as he found himself intrigued with the random scenes playing out in front of him.

Putting his personal stamp on art drove him to try new methods.

“I had this sketch in my head. I formed an abstract cityscape using pen, gouache and ink. I created a shape, and then let my imagination bleed from that shape, and I integrated negative shapes coming up with this woodsy mechanical cityscape. I call it Exploration of the Mind. My blank shapes became the positive space. What I really like are these pieces of underdeveloped ideas and things growing into it. The piece is in the process of becoming fulfilled.”

Freeman’s professors and the Memphis art critics loved his work, even calling his vision apocalyptic. The work became his signature piece that catapulted him into the Duration Series, a growing collection of personality- scapes which employ the negative and positive space in much the same way as Exploration of the Mind.

Subjects for Freeman’s personality- scapes fill out an intense survey he said.

“The answers paint me a picture of their lives,” he said. “It’s their stories, and a lot of it is bad stuff.”

Pointing to a work entitled Anna, he continues: “Overall, she’s beautiful, and all the stuff in her life has made her who she is today. Notice there are blank spaces because her story is not complete. She has a lot of life to live.”

Upon graduating from college Freeman was awarded a project with Chevrolet and then designed billboards for Honda. He also designed the logo for MTV’s Mud Island Rap Festival. He grew bored with graphic design and returned to fine art and his burgeoning desire to tell stories.

He decided to carry his art home and somehow influence the art community.

“I would love to teach someday,” he said, “but it’s time for me to create now.”

Although he is available for commission work, recently agreeing to paint three large murals in a Fayetteville home, he is working towards a gallery show, and he has just completed a set of window murals to cover the windows in his upstairs studio (his apartment is above Sew Sassy at the corner of Denver and Main Streets, Russellville.)

Freeman looks out of his window down on the business of mid-day traffic.

“All people skim through their lives not noticing things that make them who they are,” he said. “I don’t think things like that need to be overlooked. Sometimes, the world appears it’s falling apart, but there’s so much beauty in the world. We’re just programmed to look at all things negatively.”

For the artist who has, at times, painted with brooms and used coffee as a medium, art is life, and life is a story to live.

“We as individuals need to appreciate the life that we create.”

Of his accomplishments, he is most proud of the status he has gained in his grandparents’ home.

“I have graduated from the refrigerator to the wall,” he said.

 

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