Interview for Urban Milwaukee Website
November 4, 2019
Interview questions for Fred Bell from Catherine Jozwik
1. I read on your website that, as a young man, you joined an artists' colony in Massachusetts and studied art on the East Coast. What brought you back to your hometown of Milwaukee?
"Joining an art colony" sounds like I joined a cult. :) I just went to Provincetown, Massachusetts, a small town on the tip of Cape Cod, with a long art history. It was a great time and place for me. I ended up there by accident and when I got there all of my stars lined up and I was home. I knew I was where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do.
I studied with Henry Hensche, who was an influential teacher on the East Coast. I studied with him for six of his summer sessions.
When the summer ended I eventually moved, with other students, to places in the east. Albany, Boston, Gainsville, Florida and finally New York City where I lived for 15 years.
While in New York I got married and then we moved to a farm in Northern Virginia where I was a photo journalist for two years. After that job ended we moved to Milwaukee because there wasn't much employment in that area. Also, it was great to be around my family again.
2. Who are some of your artistic influences? Which artist/a had the biggest impact on you, growing up?
While at Henry Hensche's Cape School we all loved Monet. Ever since then it has changed regularly. I haven't attached my wagon to just one genre or artist. I love Edouard Vuillard, Fairfield Porter, Edward Hopper, Robert Frank, Richard Diebenkorn, The Bay Area Painters and many living contemporary artists. The internet provides the ability to see more work than ever before. I look for inspiration on the web everyday.
3. You work primarily in oils, correct? Do you have favorite subjects you like to focus on?
I've gone through a lot of subject matter too. I like doing still lifes and people right now. I have a show at UW Sheboygan that is all still life and the different ways I have approached it through the years. No matter how often a subject matter has been done through out history there are still new ways to approach it and see it.
4. How do you feel about the Milwaukee art scene in general?
The art scene in Milwaukee is vibrant. There are lots of great artists and galleries. Being an artist is a struggle any place and it is in Milwaukee too.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Yes. Get a marketing degree. Artists must be entreprenuers. There are two jobs to being an artist. The first job is doing the work, the second job is exposing it to an audience and selling it. Artists are usually not business minded and that is the part that is difficult. The fantasy is that you will be discovered by a well connected art dealer and all you will have to do is the work. This is almost never the case. You cannot let someone else handle it all for you. You must keep husling no matter what.
6. Will you be hosting any exhibits or events in the near future?
I am showing right now at UW Sheboygan and right after that at Lakeshore Art Supplies, also in Sheboygan. From Sheboygan, I feeling the love. I have shows scheduled for 2021and looking for opportunities for 2020. It is surprising how far in advance gallery venues schedule shows.
I have been concentrating on selling online in recent years. fredbellpaintings.com I've experienced some good results from that. Videos are a new interest. I post them regularly on Facebook and Instagram. They are about painting and the experiences I am having with it. I also do a newsletter that I send out once a week. It has information about both living and historic artists. There is a sign up form on my website, fredbellpaintings.com.