Janice Fried: Featured Artist at the Rontunda Gallery at Borough Hall

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Janice Fried is the featured artist currently on exhibit at the Rotunda Gallery at Borough Hall.  Her show, called "Modern Victorian", exhibits thirteen pieces of work that span a 10-12 year period of creativity.

 

Janice's illustrations are filled with color and beauty and provide an escape, a sanctuary.  On display though December 29th, you'll find a bit of peace during the hectic holiday season there.

 

I met with Janice at the Winter Solstice Holiday Bazaar reception.  We spoke about her work and her life as an artist.

Can you tell us about your background? 

 

I was born in the Bronx and raised in Spring Valley, NY.  I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for almost 25 years before moving to Metuchen.

 

I come from a family of artists especially on my mother's side. My maternal Grandfather made his living doing murals and wood graining and marbleizing for offices and apartments in NYC, My mother is a wonderful artist doing watercolors and collages.  My brother does the most beautiful detailed pencil drawings, my father can draw just about anything.  Most of my cousins do something artistic.  One of them is a very successful painter who just had an amazing show in Soho. Luckily, being creative was always encouraged and supported in my family.

 

What led you to become an artist and has your work evolved throughout your career?

 

It was what I always wanted to do with my life. I really didn't think about anything else.

I also never thought about the financial issues when I was making those early career choices! 

 

My early work was mostly black and white line with some limited touches of color but as my career went along, I found that although that style was well received, I didn't get enough work from it.  From there I moved into using more collage in my work and currently I am using a mix of media including watercolor and colored pencil along with the line work and collage.  My work still borders on fine art so it's sometimes a difficult fit in the commercial art world.


Your work seems to marry strength and femininity, beauty and magic mixed with everyday things.  Can you talk about those contrasts? 

 

It is so interesting that you see all that in my work!  In the work I do for myself it is more stream of consciousness or intuitive.  When we spoke at The Westerfhoff Gallery the other day, you said something that I hadn't even seen in my work but was quite true. The faces on my figures have mostly calm expressions.  Not dull, just thoughtful yet all around them are lines and shapes and swirls of colors.  I've always loved to draw women but maybe when I became a mother another aspect of femininity/feminism arose in my work; an attempt to keep an inner peace in public while the world around me is actually in chaos. I generally don't analyze my work but it's fascinating what other people see in it!

 

Where do you find your inspiration? 

 

Often just looking through magazines or at old photos inspires me. I keep clip files of images that I like and they might eventually find their way into a drawing.  Words also inspire me.  So anything from an entry from an encyclopedia to a poem to a song might also be the inspiration for a piece.

 

Your website refers to you as an 'illustrator.'  What specifically does that mean and what is it like to balance the business of art with your creativity and expression?

 

I graduated from Parson's School of Design in NYC in 1980 with a BFA in Illustration.  An Illustrator is an artist who creates artwork based on words or ideas whether it is a magazine article, a children's book, a greeting card or an ad campaign. 

 

I've been lucky that many of the art directors I've worked with over the years have given me so much artistic freedom.  I work better when I am given the text or a manuscript and told to come up with images as opposed to being heavily art directed. Like most freelance artists, I have had to be my own public relations person, Lawyer, business manager and accountant as well as an artist.  Obviously, I wish I could just focus on being creative but that's just the nature of freelancing. I do have an agent who represents me primarily in the children's education market.  She handles all the business for those kinds of clients.

 

Sadly, Illustration has a negative connotation in the fine arts world where it is viewed derisively as "Commercial Art".  I have always been bothered by that distinction since so many illustrators cross the line into fine art.

 

Your work has been seen in many very impressive publications.  How does an artist make in-roads in publishing? 

 

To be honest, the publishing world isn't what it used to be. I did my first job for free just to have a printed sample of work for my portfolio. Magazines and newspapers, which used to be a great place for an illustrator to find work, have folded due to the internet explosion.  Publishing companies have merged into mega companies.  I think the most important thing now is to have some kind of presence on the web.

 

A website has become essential. Social networks are good. The best advice I can give a young artist interested in publishing is to put together a website with your best work, link to as many places as you can and research publishing companies who seem to have a similar aesthetic.  It takes quite awhile to develop a client base.  Once you have a list of about 20 names you need to find out what their submission policies are (most publishing companies have that information on their websites) and then follow through with samples of your work or whatever requirements the individual companies want. Most of this business is about timing, perseverance and luck.

 

Have computer graphics changed the landscape of your business?

 

I went to art school at a time before the computer became so dominant and I never learned computer graphics programs.  There was no way of knowing how important having basic computer graphic skills would become. In the last five years my business has changed enormously.  The computer has changed my business in how I find and deal with clients.  Previously, you'd call up the art director and make an appointment to meet with them and show them a portfolio or discuss a job.

 

Now I direct prospective clients to my website instead. I get layouts and specs for the jobs via email. I scan and upload images.  It's all very different and impersonal. I am finding that a lot more is expected of an illustrator these days.  They are expected to have some design skills and knowledge of graphics software.  I am seeing that the more versatile an illustrator is the better chance they have of getting a job over someone with fewer skills. 

 

Are involved at all in local art commissions or activities?  Any advice for new artists on how to become connected to the local art community?

 

After living here for 8 1/2 years, I've only recently started to meet other local artists.  The Junebug Festival was instrumental in exposing my work to the community and connecting me to other artists.  I exhibited work there since it started two years ago.  I also had a small show at The Raconteur Bookstore in 2007 where I continue to sell sets of greeting cards.


Where can people come to see your work?

 

Along with the Rotunda Gallery Show which runs through the end of December, I currently have some pieces at The Westerhoff School of Art and Music for their Winter Solstice Holiday Bazaar (through December 19th).  There are cards, prints and originals available for sale there. They can also go to my website to see many examples of my work.

 

If anyone is interested in purchasing one of the pieces, they should contact me through my website.

2 Comments

I think we're lucky to have such amazing artists in our tiny little town and lucky to have activist artists who made a place for the public to enjoy their art!

Thanks so much, Teri & Janice for giving all of us such thoughtful insight into your work and your artistic life. I agree with Teri, Janice, that your work is "magical"...we are so lucky to have the presence of artists like you in our midst, and a forum like this on which to share ideas.

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