Our newest Featured Artist is Photographer Art Ferrier! Learn a little bit more about him!
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from? Where did you study? How long have you been an artist?
A: I was born in Lowell, and spent my first 35 years in and around the city. I’ve always been interested in art, and took drawing lessons at the Whistler House when I was small. Photography had a special fascination for me, but it wasn’t until 1974 that I could afford a real camera. A friend showed me what an f-stop was and how to develop and print black & white, and that’s all the instruction I’ve ever received. From that point on it was sort of an obsession, and I taught myself everything from more advanced shooting techniques and theory to color printing.
In the early 80’s I was involved with Art Alive, an artists’ cooperative in Lowell, and showed my work everywhere in the area that I could. In 1985 I had a solo exhibition at the Whistler House, and soon after left the area to live in northern New Hampshire, where photography, both shooting and custom printing, became a major part of my livelihood.
Q: What do you love most about your art?
A: Seeing. I am an intensely visual person, and am constantly scanning the visual environment for details. Most of my influences are painters, largely abstract painters, and my great joy is finding combinations of forms, colors, textures and light around me and creating my images from them. Some of my most successful images have come from junkyards, random walls and shadows, and the side of a dump truck.
I believe that we are constantly surrounded by beauty, if we take the time to look closely for it. The highest compliment and satisfaction that I receive is when folks have told me that after looking at my work they are seeing things that they have walked by for years without noticing. My other great love has always been printing, in the darkroom for years and now digitally. Making the final decisions about resolution of angles, tonal relationships and so many other things are very exciting. I use Photoshop sparingly, not doing things with software that I could not have done in the darkroom.
Q: What is your biggest obstacle with your art?
A: Probably time, although being at Western Avenue has helped a lot with that. Aside from that it’s the limitations of subject matter. Because I do not generally set things up, but extract all of my images from the environment, I can get frustrated by random things: If a building were just a bit more to the right, if a sign had not been repainted, or if I could just stop in the middle of the highway at rush hour, life would be so much nicer. There have been times when I have come back to a specific building hoping for better light and found that in the interim it had been built next to, had scaffolding put up on it, or torn down.
Q: Describe a typical art creativity session. What is it like? For example, do you work in silence, or do you work to music? Do you prefer to be alone, or do you need people around?
A: When shooting I generally like to work alone, often with music to focus my attention. Most of my work is urban, and I wander cities for hours scanning for potential images. If I see a building or scene that interests me I might walk around it for awhile, or maybe just sit and think, looking through the camera occasionally. As I walk I am looking up, down, into alleys and sometimes windows, mentally editing my field of vision and imaging more contrast or saturation. Because I was pre-digital I still shoot pretty much the same as I always have, not hitting the shutter till I’m pretty sure, and not shooting more than I need to.
When printing there is always music, usually some type of thoughtful jazz. I get lost in printing for hours at a time.
Q: What advice do you have for someone just starting out as an artist?
A: In my other life I’m a high school Social Studies teacher, and spend a lot of time talking to teenagers about creating art. I tell them that if they have any inclination toward art then they should be creating. Expose themselves to different media, different styles, and different approaches to the creative process, but all through it be creating. It builds the human soul. Young artists should not be in a hurry to exhibit, or to define their own styles. Always be open to new ideas, and experiment a lot. My advice to young artists headed for art school is to be sure they pick up some practical skills that they can earn money from, along with developing their creativity and technique. As saxophonist Dewey Redman said long ago, the starving artist is a nice romantic notion, but it’s hard to create when you’re hungry.
Q: Tell us about some of your goals for the next 6-12 months.
A: I retire from teaching next June, so plans and goals abound! I’ve just purchased a 44″ wide-format printer and plan to spend a good deal of time getting to know it. A big priority is building the business side of what I do. Part of that is photographing artwork and printing for my fellow artists, and another is doing more promotion for commercial shooting. Artistically, I have a solo show coming up in February at the Lawrence Library in Pepperell that I’m excited about. They have a wonderful gallery space that I hung 61 photos in four years ago. That show was very successful, and they invited me to do an encore. I’m hoping to have between 40 and 50 recent pieces, including some large prints. Aside from that I look forward to more time to visit new places and explore new environments. I’m also thinking seriously about translating my love of form and color into other media, probably pastels and paints. Western Avenue does inspire things like that.
*You can meet Art in his Studio 503 on First Saturday Open Studios. Stop by and say Hello!!