Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Hi everyone.  Thanks for coming to my blog to read the interview I did with Fred Kaplan.   It has gotten a good response from my readers and thanks to all who followed part one last week.  If you have not yet read part one, just scroll down the page to the end of this post and you will see the banner for it.  Also, don't forget to take a peek at Fred's work on his very cool website.  It is full of info and material advice for artists.

Last week I talked with Fred about his childhood and when he developed an interest in art.  We also talked about his college education and his career as an illustrator in the advertising world.  Fred gave some pretty interesting responses to my questions and I hope you are learning some about him as a person, artist and educator.  Part two is as interesting as part one. so stay checked in...

Let's get started

on teaching...
I know you teach at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine arts as well as at Fleisher Art Memorial.  
Fleisher has the only free tuition art classes in the country.  It’s an awesome place to learn, create, and have some fun and to feel a sense of community.  I must say myself that I have had some times in my years at Fleisher, when I was out of sorts, the Fleisher classes kept me in the loop and helped me from being isolated. I often wonder how many people it has helped in a deep, deep meaningful way? Fleisher offers workshops for kids and adults and has just won a national award for excellence.

* What is your experience like teaching at Fleisher?

Fleisher’s is a terrific school and an affordable alternative to an art college. There is hardly a decent artist in Philadelphia who has not taken classes at Fleisher’s.

One of the things that drew me to teach there is the fact that a majority of students are quite serious about making art. For an instructor, that is important.

* How long have you been there and why?

I began teaching at Fleisher’s in 2008.

* You take your teaching very seriously and I have seen it in every class I’ve taken with you.  Some times teachers don’t invest a lot of themselves in each student and you do.  Why and how do you make this happen?

When a person is ravenous enough to drag him or herself to a class after an exhausting workday, I owe it to that student to provide a wholesome and delicious banquet, including dessert. So I cook up a meal that satisfies students’ hunger to learn, and supply knives, forks, and spoons so students can eventually feed themselves.

* You mentioned in class last cycle, that women artists are only recently being taken seriously and being respected in the art community.  What advice would you give to women artists that want to pursue a career in painting or the fine arts?

It is a different world today than it was not all that long ago. In the recent past white males dominated most everything. Now women, blacks, gays, and others are able to hold their own, in society in general as well as in the arts. There is still a ways to go – there are still inequities and unfairness – but we are well along the road.

The advice I would give to a female artist is the same as I would give to anyone pursuing any profession. Learn your craft well, work diligently and persevere, put into what you do all that you are, and let no one discourage you. You should also learn the business aspects of your profession. Make yourself aware of what other artists are doing and what they have done in the past so that you can find your own place in the contemporary art world. Get to know people in the professional community: other artists, dealers, collectors, curators, and so on.

* How does a student painter know that they have crossed the threshold and are ready to pursue painting as a profession?

Professionalism is an attitude or way of thinking more than anything else. Once you acquire a professional mind-set you will know it.

* I’ve noticed that in most classes you teach, there are mostly women students. Do you have any thoughts about that?

I’m not sure of the reason for this. You see the same thing at art colleges, as well. Another thing I’ve noticed is that there are few African-American students. This seems odd in a city like Philly with its large Black population. Again, I have no explanation.

* Where else do you teach and how does teaching crossover or help you with your own work?

Besides Fleisher’s, I teach at the Pennsylvania Academy and at Cumberland County College. I also occasionally run classes in my studio and workshops for other institutions. You can find information about open enrollment sessions at the Classes & Workshop page of my web site.

Teaching at Fleisher’s or anywhere is a gratifying experience. It means a lot to me when I see a student achieve something or have an “ah-ha” moment. I also learn from my students. They have interesting concepts, try things I haven’t thought of, and discover ways of making pictures that haven’t occurred to me. I have to admit that I am not above “borrowing” from my students. After all, one of the 20th century’s greatest artists, Pablo Picasso, was also one of its greatest thieves.

FKAPLAN      Electron Exchange                                    2010        Oil On Canvas            18x48

Save Fred’s studio…

* Some months back, you launched a campaign (an advertising phrase) to save your studio, and you did.  It was a good idea and it worked.  Do you think you used some of that old fashioned advertising creative thinking to make that happen?  What was the whole experience like for you and how long will it keep you going?    Do you have any thing else in your “bag of tricks”?

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and I had a necessity. As you say, it worked and I was able to keep my studio, and any experience that helps me keep making pictures is a good experience. My goal, the goal of most artists is to make enough money to allow them to make art. So, whatever it takes to achieve that I will do – within legal boundaries, of course.

* I wanted to mention this because it has opened in my thoughts.  I think it is often to bad that artists have so many struggles just to create. It is not looked upon as a necessary part of our culture, even though it is absorbed and desired by everyone to enlighten and enrich lives.  Art and artists are not valued in our country. In some European countries, art and artists are valued and respected as an integral part of their society and they are helped and subsidized, so they can work as artists.  One country I think of is Holland.  There, art and design is not looked upon as a hobby or pastime, or that one is “lazy” but as a genuine and legitimate career choice. Beautiful art and design are desired by the people who live in Holland and there country puts there money where there mouth is!  Just a thought….  What are your thoughts about the differences in other countries?

I’m not sure that I agree with you about attitudes toward art. When I tell people my profession, they don’t leap up and accuse me of being a loafer. Usually they are curious and in some cases they are delighted to meet a “real artist.”

Although some other countries provide more financial support for their artists than the U.S. does, private organizations and governments at all levels – national, state, local – provide quite a few grants and subsidies to individual artist. Still, it is a difficult struggle for many.

Now most important, let’s talk about your work…

* Let’s talk about the recent work you have been creating?  What’s going on in the studio now and what do you want to share with the readers?  I would like to talk some about your work and the thought process about it?

For the past few years I have been making pictures related to physics. But I am getting an itch to explore a new direction, which happens from time to time. My daughter was considering a career in genetics for a while. That got me interested in the subject and that is likely to be the new direction in which I head.

Whatever kind of work I happen to be doing, there is almost always a fair amount of research involved. For instance, to develop a painting that addressed genocide, I read extensively about the issue in order to make a meaningful image. Right now I am starting to learn about the science of genetics.

* Recently, I saw your work exhibited at the Cerulean Art Gallery.  How was the experience in that gallery? 

Cerulean has been developing a fine reputation over the past few years, and I am proud to have been invited to participate in one of its exhibits. I like the owner, and admire him for the risk he took in opening the gallery and for his inventive ideas for making his gallery more relevant. 
FKAPLAN             Ion Storm              2010                                    Oil On Canvas   20x72

* Is their any inside scoop about what you are working on currently?

* I have always wondered about this question…I’ve heard that some artists do this…Do you feel protective over a body of work before it is completed.  I mean do you hold back some from presenting your work before the entire collection is finished?

In some cases, yes, and in others, no. If it is a group of works in which every piece is an integral part of the whole, then I really don’t want the series seen until everything is complete. Otherwise, I am not particularly secretive about what I am doing.

* Why are you taking the specific path creatively that you are going down now?

I am not quite sure what you mean here. If you are talking about the kinds of pictures I make, then I think I’ve already addressed that.

* Where can the readers see some more of your work?

Tyme Gallery in Havertown has some of my work. People can also see images on the Gallery page of my web site, or subscribe to the site in order to receive exhibit announcements. Sometime during the next year I will be having a one-person show at a venue in New Jersey; the dates haven’t been set yet.

In closing….

* Are you doing what you want to be doing now and are you where you want to be?

Sounds like another job interview questions.

* Besides the visual arts what other creative arts influence you?

Literature and music mainly. Some of my ideas come from musical works.

     * Favorite artist/painter
     * Favorite music (do you have any of your daughters musical ability?)
     * Favorite author (that’s if you have the time to read)

As you well know, since I have talk about her in my classes, my daughter is a fine musician. She is first chair cello and first chair French horn at her high school, as well as being a member of an elite group of 16 vocalists. She has done a few semi-professional gigs so, if any of your readers has a wedding or other event coming up, her string ensemble is available.

As to artists, musicians, and authors, I really don’t have a single favorite in any category, although there are a few that I especially like.

Artists would be Caravaggio, William Bailey, Mark Rothko, Wayne Thiebaud, Casper David Friedreich, and Frederic Edwin Church, plus a few others. Neil Diamond is high on my list of popular musicians; along with Peter, Paul, and Mary; Elton John; and Simon and Garfunkel. In the classical sphere it’s Wagner, Rimsky Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, and of course Beethoven. There are a great many authors that I admire. Dostoevsky, Hugo, and Poe are a few.

* If you could live the life of any artist in history, with all their hang-ups, neurosis and shortcomings, what artist would you want to be and why?

Frederic C. Kaplan. I have my own problems, why would I want somebody else’s?

* And lastly, if you could own one piece of art ever created, irrespective of the money it may have sold for or generated, what piece would you want to own and why?

This is a tough one, but I think it would have to be Moorish Chief by Eduard Charlemont in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I wouldn’t turn my nose up, though, at most anything by Dali, Vermeer, or Rothko.

Well, that wraps up a great question and answer interview with Fred. Thank you Fred for your generous time letting my readers know more about you and your art.  Please check out Fred's website to see his work and for questions you might have about art materials and advice.  It's well worth the time to experience Fred's paintings.

Keep checking in on my blog to read more about my experience on art and painting.  Feel free to leave a comment.  Again, thank you everyone.


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