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Portraiture an inspiration for Freeman

By: Aaron Brand - Texarkana Gazette

Through portraiture, Little Rock-based artist Jennifer Emile Freeman strives to capture someone’s emotional truth.

“There’s nothing like it, not in painting anyway,” says Freeman, an artist who has her first big one-woman show running at Texarkana’s Regional Arts Center now through May 2.

Freeman has shown her work here via the adult juried show organized by the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council and now has about 50 pieces lined up for her solo exhibition at the RAC. She started serious work on them last July and August and, in between, had a small show at a church in Little Rock.

For Freeman, portraiture is her main gig, but she’s expanding with still lifes, too. “I work a lot from life. I do still lifes. I do people from life,” she says. People are an inspiration. And she’s unafraid to challenge herself and explore.

“I feel that if I have to be good at anything I have to be good at everything,” Freeman said. About her still life work, she notes, “There’s an orchestration like music to it.”

Freeman got her art start with a 1960s matchbook cover that said, “If you can draw this, you could be an artist.” That inspired the 7-year-old artist in her. “When I was younger, I had a natural ability to draw,” she said.

She’s adept at hands and faces, areas where other artists may not be as comfortable. She’s not intimidated. “I don’t like to succumb to the fact I’m afraid of something,” she said. “I want it to represent the truth.”

Freeman explains that the paint-overs in her work are visible. She’s willing to work hard to represent the truth. If she doesn’t nail something in the first 15 minutes, she wipes it off and starts over.

It was only in her late 30s that she picked her talent back up to tap into it and explore. She was inspired by a book, “The Artist’s Way.”

From there, Freeman followed her inspiration to take workshops and lessons, making up for lost time. Retiring from full-time work freed up space so she could devote energy to her art. She started learning from Stephen Cefalo at the Arkansas Arts Center. She studied at the Studio Incammanati, too, and the Watts Atelier Boot Camp at Watts Atelier of the Arts.

In her artist statement, Freeman writes, “My creative journey has been fraught with lesson after lesson. Not only lessons about value, color and composition but lessons in fear and ego. The knowing you can and the fear of execution. Polar opposites exist in what we think we know. The extremes balance perception and instigate turmoil between creative energy and ego.”

Primarily, Freeman works with oil. But the show will represent her work in various mediums, including encaustics with heated wax, plein air and well-defined oil paintings. “It will be a nice mix,” she says.

She’s attracted to portrait painters like John Singer Sargent and, perhaps less well known, Nicholai Fechin, a Russian artist who settled in New Mexico and found artistic inspiration in the Native Americans who lived there. She strives to capture someone’s persona, she says.

“I really feel like if I can capture the sitter, the person that I’m painting, I’m on my way, I’m on my way to understanding the painting process,” Freeman said.

Freeman is excited to share this exhibition, admitting she’s worked herself into a “frenzy” over it. “For the most part, I want it to be as professionally representative as possible,” she said.

(Admission is free. The Regional Arts Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, at 321 W. 4th St. For more information, call 903-792-8681 or visit

Published: 03/13/2015

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