Issue 9 Cover I had occasion to meet an artist working as an intern at Timberlake Christian Church on the Eastside of Lake Washington near Seattle. He brought a large package with paintings and sketches he had done and talked briefly about a variety of things. I then turned on the tape recorder and we continued, hitting on a few of the things we had already discussed and venturing forward.

Fred: For the last year or so, I haven't done any art at all because I've given God 100% of my effort and time. I talk to Alex Seidel alot, and he has me excited about artwork again. It's one of those things that, in college, I'd spend five days in a row painting in the art room and I'd just come out to eat, or practice for crew or rugby, and I'd stay up all night. I've got all these ideas now that I can put onto canvas or paper. I play the sax, though I've had to give that up too because that was another obsession. Artists tend to be obsessive, and I want to think about one thing all the time, all day, and not think about anything else.

ACM: You studied art for two years at Seattle Pacific Universtiy, and that was something that you really enjoyed. After two years there, did you move on to a job?

Fred: No, I basically ran out of money. A bad thing happened to me, and I got gypped out of some money that was promised to me. So I couldn't go the last quarter and had to leave. I went home to Salem, and Rick Snodgrass from Timberlake Christian called me... I was on his heart, he said he just had to give me a try.

ACM: As the youth intern at Timberlake Church ?

Fred: Yeah. And for six weeks I prayed about going there or staying home move into the ministry, was that my call. For me, someone who wants to go full- everything, to be patient and wait for six weeks...

ACM: So, you've been a youth intern for how long?

Fred: About ten months.

ACM: And you work full-time at Redmond Office Supply?

Fred: Thirty hours a week. And I'm paid for 18 hours as youth intern, but we all know that it's not eighteen hours...

ACM: Do you feel limited at all by the church, in your artwork? Or do you even share that with the people there?

Fred: They don't know. Well, the kids in high school know about my artwork because two of them are very good artists.

ACM: What do their parents think about you encouraging them to be a struggling artist?

Fred: Well, the two kids...I haven't talked too much to one parent, but the other one is real supportive. They know that's his talent.

ACM: That's something to work into. It's not something where you can just quit and do art to make a living.

Fred: He wants to be a graphic artist, though. And, his parents know that graphic artists don't do that bad.

ACM: Where do you want to go with your work? You have some paintings you did in college. You've some things in your head you want to put on canvas or paper now. Where do you want go from here?

Fred: I know it's always going to be with guidelines set, but I plan to go as far as possible. But, it can't ever take the place of what I'm doing now. If it takes away from me, then I need to draw the line. That's a frustrating line.

ACM: It's secondary to your work with kids, or work with other people...

Fred: That's hard to say because, again, I tend to go 100% to the artworld.

ACM: How do you see art fitting into the church,'s church? Historically, it's been in the church. Do you see your work, or works from other Christian artists, having a place in church other than collecting dust in the frame?

Fred: Art is in the church. It's those pictures of Jesus. Beautiful art! But, I don't think they would allow anything like I do... or like people that I admire do. I don't think there is yet... besides some of the high school / college age people ...there's no acceptance. I come from a Free Methodist background, Foursquare Gospel background. There was no push for art. It's like two different worlds. I don't know about other churches though. Of everyone who has seen my work, a few have accused me of being possessed. Sometimes my Mom introduced me as "my possessed son" as a joke. She just can't understand how somebody can paint what I paint. I told her you have to go through what I went through.

ACM: Why do you paint what you paint? What's your inspiration? How do you arrive at the subject, style, colors?

Fred: That's a journey. The ideas come from (this might sound weird) dreams ...dreams of artwork. I put my artwork in my sketchbook. I wake up, sketch it, and then later try to piece it together like a time bomb. But, in my dreams, I walk into art galleries and see painitings. And I'm afraid that I've seen this painting somewhere else and my mind is playing it back. Or is it actually my original painting from my brain. I hope I don't paint something someday and have someone say "that's my painting."

ACM: So, it's something that you visualize and then put down. We were looking at some of your pieces, and some of them you mentioned liking more than others. Some mean more to you...

Fred: The ones that mean most to me are the ones that I did out of emotion ...out of fear, hatred, nervousness ...emotions. I used to feel a lot more than I do now, at least I used to hate a lot more, I used to get frustrated ...angry. I used to escape a lot and try to find bliss through drugs ...whatever ...and I found it a few times. I have to admit the artwork I did that means the most to me, I did at a time when I was feeling. It all comes from one night walking home from my friends and this girlfriend's house at night and the sky was all red. And I was thinking that Christ had come ...and the fires ...and I was going to be consumed and left. I went home, staying up all night putting that together until nine in the morning... constantly out of fear. That reminds me of the opposite, how I don't have any fear anymore. That painting doesn't scare me. It really symbolizes a step in my life when I've made some changes. That night I re-committed my life to Christ. Still, I still mess up alot. And then, sometimes I'll like a painting more just because of the color ...I'll see a color that will motivate me and be the center of my painting and then I'll work from there. That's just a visual, it's supposed to be aesthetically pleasing to me. I'll just want to do something that I can look at and say, "that's cool; I like that." I'll like the way it looks, ...sometimes that's my motivation. And sometimes I'll do one that I don't like at all and it comes out like that ...and I go, "yuck. Maybe I should trash this one ."

ACM: Are they any obstacles that you see that limit what you paint or who you show it to?

Fred: As I said, I won't and don't usually show my art to other people, because I'm afraid of rejection. Maybe someone saying something wrong. I'm not really open to being critiqued, because I don't do it for that reason. You can't see it eyes are seeing that completely differently than your eyes see it. And, what I get out of it is completely different than you. I'm afraid that someone will misjudge the painting. It frustrates me, ...I'll be drawing and someone will say, "Why do you put that color there?" And you don't understand have no comprehension of why I want blue in this place that moment, there's a reason for why I'm using blue in that place ...and you have no idea. That really frustrates me! I know why I'm doing it, and to me that's why it's important.

ACM: Do you think it's fair for art to be explained? To appreciate art, it requires an explanation sometimes...

Fred: That's true.

ACM: When you look at other people's art, do you find yourself wondering what's behind it?

Fred: If it's like mine. If you look at Francis Bacon's paintings, you'll see these bodies meshed into one and turning inside out. It's really weird, and you think to yourself, "what's behind this?" I mean, it's good painting, but it's so weird... There are a lot of things out there that are just for aesthetics in my book. They're brilliant, because they came up with an idea that no one came up with before and it looks cool. That's what is enjoyable sometimes, but where's the emotion in it, whats' behind it? Did you ever see the movie New York Stories with Nick Nolte as an artist? That's, first of all, my dream studio. But if you watch his life, and how he gets ferociously mad, and he'd turn the music up and throw the paints against the canvas, tossing paint across the room. That's painting ...that means something. My dream ...15 by 30 feet of canvas.

ACM: Do you like any other artists, say ...those who do impressionism?

Fred: I admire those artists a lot more than I'll put them in my house. Andrew Wyeth, is very ...well, not abstract ...he does real life ...a lot of black people in his paintings. But the colors he uses are just incredible. If I can ever get a hold of one his paintings...

ACM: Do they influence you, or is it just an appreciation?

Fred: He influences me. There's a guy named Orlando A. B. ...those two influence my art. Because I admire everything they put out so's almost as if you want to be what they are. They might just create that goal in my life.

ACM: Do you see any opportunities for young Christian artists?

Fred: I don't know, besides producing pictures to be mass distributed among churches ...the nice, calm pictures.

ACM: Now, you're a Christian. How would you say that influences your paintings? Musicians get this asked all the time, "where's your faith in the music you do..."

Fred: It's art. God's involved in my life. So, whatever I do, God's a part of it. A lot of my art directly relates to God's a journey. That's what a lot of musicians say, (we all laugh) "its a spiritual journey." That's what it was for a while. Now I've come to the place where I'm secure ...more like a rock ...not painful anymore. My painting ...the ones that are more violent and abstract, with anger ...that was a fight with God. It's almost a cleansing thing. When I'm done with that painting, I can't stop and come back to that painting, I have to finish it then. When I'm done, it's like I've been through this whole long process from hatred to "I'm sorry."

ACM: Almost a diary, except visual.

Fred: It's that way with my sax too. That ties into God alot more than my art. The praise and worship. I can keep playing and thinking about it.

ACM: Maybe it's cultural. Would you ever consider showing these in a showing? Do you think you'll ever be to the point where you're comfortable with it? Selling some even?

Fred: I've come to the point where I could probably sell some ...maybe. I've only given one painting away a best friend. The biggest act of love I've probably ever done for someone, because it was the hardest thing to give away then is my favorite painting too. I won't show what I have in front of you, because it isn't me now. I feel financially bound and great paintings cost s lot. The colors are spendy. Unless someone's helping or supporting you, you can't do what you want. That's why a lot of my paintings are small.

Tom D. Stephenson