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Fred Easker, Iowa Artist

posted on July 8, 2008 at 5:36 PM

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Fred Easker is a Cedar Rapids artist who, like Grant Wood once did, finds inspiration in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa.

Fred Easker: A great day for me is getting up early in the morning, getting in my truck, usually if I can't find anything good on public radio I often have CDs along like Dvorak or something like that and I just drive through the countryside, the sun on my face, often driving into the sun. That is a great day for me. I love that. And even I can drive 300 miles and not stop anywhere but it's still a great day for me. And then I just take lots and lots of photographs of that site and then come home and see if I have anything that I feel like working on, working with.

Fred Easker: What I find interesting about the Iowa landscape is the sort of gently rolling terrain but also because it's sort of gently rolling it also seems to have this kind of energy that I pick up on and at certain times of the day like in autumn when the fields are glowing and it's just sometimes phenomenal and I have written about this. It's kind of like I think the character of the Iowa people is so much of that too. It's kind of understated and you have to kind of discover it a little bit and that's kind of what I think is a metaphor for the land and the people who live here.

Fred Easker: What I'm going to be doing is I'm going to start just painting the edges and that's basically how I present my paintings. And the history behind that is I sold a painting many years ago to an architectural firm and they asked if it not be framed, if I would just paint the edges and so I decided I would just kind of wrap the painting around the edges.

Fred Easker: My father was a postman and I had done a painting of him in his postal uniform, life size and I was very timid about bringing this work. It was well received and then I learned that there was an exhibit at the Des Moines Art Museum and so I entered this painting in that. As it turned out my name was announced and I won first prize in painting. And at that point I decided I should maybe think about this a little more seriously.

Fred Easker: This is a portrait of my son when he was thirteen and he had this wonderful head of hair that he kept trying to grow long and because it's somewhat curly and thick instead of growing, kids were wearing it down, his just sort of became a bush. But I was really interested, just artistically I was really interested in just the light on the face and getting those kind of subtle colors that it's very hard to sometimes get in shadow on faces. And at some point I made the decision that I really was going to paint what I wanted to paint and all of that sort of whatever success would come my way was because I was just working on what I wanted to do as opposed to following a particular trend.

Fred Easker: I actually spent a great deal of time on composition, in terms of balance, and sometimes I do things that you're not supposed to do as well like put a road down the center of it or have the center of interest in the middle or that it's a symmetrical thing because I thought you're not supposed to do that -- I've done a number of works that the roads are down the center just because I wanted to see if I could make them interesting, it's a challenge.

Fred Easker: This is actually a piece that I did for the folks in Ottumwa. I had a commission to do a large painting for them. For a large painting I had to be really excited about it otherwise it would be a problem. And so I really was interested in something with lots of contrast, again that graphic quality, because there was a hope that would make it hold the wall and still allow me to deal with some of those more meditative things, the things that are sort of subtle and more interesting to look at.

Fred Easker: I think that they really are kind of like touchstones for people and that sort of takes them to a different place that may be a real place that they've experienced or just another psychological place.

Bill Taylor: On Christmas morning we all came downstairs to open our packages and I noticed that there was something, some sort of odd shaped package sitting there and I thought, well maybe it's like a suit that's folded or something. I opened it up and wept, just the emotion, the feeling that I had from this painting took me back to just an exact moment in my childhood when I was riding down the road in my parents' car looking out the window in the springtime and seeing the corn or whatever planted and maybe being six inches or eight inches high and a farmhouse in the distance and just the serenity and the feeling of being close to the Earth. This painting just pulled me right into that moment of my life and it's still emotional for me to talk about it. But it was such a strong feeling and I looked at this and I thought, how could somebody do something like this? And how could they do it in a way that pulled me in like that?

Fred Easker: One of the interesting things that happens is that people tell me that they see a Fred Easker when they're driving out in the countryside. And I actually hear that a lot. But that's a really nice thing to hear from people because it means that people are looking and they're connecting that with me and that I'm having an impact which is I think what being an artist is about, communicating with people.

Tags: art artists Cedar Rapids Iowa painters

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