Daniel Freeman started making art as soon as he could hold a pencil. A teacher at Dover High School helped him recognize his potential, encouraging him to consider art as a career. “I started staying after school and doing as much art as I could,” he recalls. “I started leaving with the janitors at night. I was so passionate about it.” After graduating from Dover High in 2003 he went to Memphis College of Art. “You don’t eat; you don’t sleep,” he recalled about his college experience. “You just do a lot of art,” he says, describing those intense years as something akin to a “brain training exercise.”
But by the time he graduated art school in 2007 Freeman says he was ready for a break from the field. “I was so tried of drawing and painting and making things that I didn’t want to be an artist anymore,” he recalls. So he went to work helping his stepfather as a boilermaker. The labor intensive work allowed him to travel around the region, and he wound up in the touristy town of Natchitoches, Louisiana for about a year where he took a side job in a local art gallery. It was there that he realized just how much he missed being in the art world and soon made his way back to the River Valley.
In recent years, his art and graphic design has received a great deal of acclaim. He’s done design work for Honda, Chevrolet and MTV. His commissioned work hangs in the Boys and Girls Club of Russellville. He uses his skills in book binding to make handmade art journals and offers commissioned work for homes around the region. In partnership with his girlfriend and fellow artist Korri Hodges, he is helping to bring art accessibility to downtown Russellville.
Freeman also teaches art classes, in partnership with Hodges, in the studio they call Kaleidoclasm. Freeman’s art work receives a great deal of support from the local community, and he says a large part of his success can be traced back to a partnership with Buster Smith, the owner of a Conversation Piece, a local store in downtown Russellville who supplied the space for the studio. Freeman’s first exhibit was called “The Box.” “I had art work all down the hallways,” Freeman explains. “People just loved it,” he recalls.
Freeman’s work includes everything from photography to portraits to city scenes, and he draws from everyday life for inspiration. “I like to walk everywhere,” he says. “You are not going to draw something unless you look at it constantly. I’m always observing things; taking everything in,” he adds. Recently he has begun to focus on a series of cityscapes, which have a more painterly look than some of his earlier work, he explains. These large canvas pieces are an outgrowth of time spent thumbing through early college sketchbooks and beginning to mesh some of his darker, gritty pieces with the lights and colors of a city. “A lot of my work,” he says, “is about hard truths, about life and situations and problems and moral values,” he explains. “So I wanted to change and get away from that.” These cityscapes, he says, have given him a space for moving away from that while also still tapping into something deeper. “ I hide my true self in these cities,” he explains. His cityscape pieces can be found hanging in Penny University Coffee Shop and Midtown Coffee in Russellville.
It’s rare for an artist to make a living doing art, especially in a small city. When asked how he manages to make it work he points to his tenacity. “Everyone can have an idea. It’s how hard you want to work,” he says. In many cases it’s a process of trial and error and enduring persistence. “Sometimes you may find yourself just walking and treading over the same footsteps over and over and over. Sometimes that’s what it takes. Eventually you’re going to find a different path and things will fall in place. But for a long time you’re just going to keep walking into the same footsteps,” he says. He acknowledges that it can be easy to look at his success and assume it all came easily. “A lot of people don’t see how hard I’ve worked for it and how hungry I was to get to where I am,” he adds. His hard work has taken the form of multiple sacrifices. “I don’t get a lot of free time with family and friends. I constantly draw and paint. But I’m cool with it because it’s fun and I love to do it.”
In addition to selling his pieces and operating a studio, Freeman also teaches classes alongside Hodges. She teaches Pre-K through age 13 classes, and he teaches 13 and up. They offer instruction in drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, missed media and art journaling. Classes can include ladies nights, group classes and parties. “I have been influenced by many different cultures,” Hodges explains. “My love for weaving and other textile art forms comes from seeing and experiencing the amazing artists on the streets and in the markets of Guatemala. I love teaching kids all different forms of art and seeing their thoughts and ideas come to life, whether it is through drawing, painting, or their awesome 3D sculptures,” she adds.
She tailors the classes based on the students interest and abilities, letting them move in a direction that feels most comfortable. “I always look forward to the looks of accomplishment I see on the faces of my students when they complete an awesome piece of artwork, and I love helping them achieve their goals.” This past summer she offered eight sessions of the KaleidoKids Summer Art Camp which culminated in the First Annual KaleidoKids Student Art Show. “We had so much fun, and I was so happy to see my students’ artwork up on the walls of the Gallery,” she explained. “The show included artwork from 12 students and awards were given for Best of Show, 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place and Honorable Mention.” Plans are in the works for another student art show this summer.
Freeman says his favorite part of teaching is watching another person learn something new about themselves. “I enjoy seeing how other people’s minds work when they are in a creative environment, when one thought sparks another thought and they begin to merge ideas together. Seeing the evolution of a thought process in my students is truly mind blowing to me.”
To learn more about Freeman and Hodge’s art work and their classes, you can follow them on Facebook at Kaleidoclasm and KaleidoKids. Freeman’s next show will be entitled “Into the Forest” and will take place October 16 beginning at 5 p.m. at the Kaleidoclasm gallery on West Second in Russellville. He will have limited numbers of the ABOUT magazine cover for purchase.