Portland-based artist Adam Friedman‘s breathtaking landscape paintings seem to defy the rules of perspective, space and time. In a world where barren woodsy forests grow from tumultuous seas and tower towards clouds of snow-capped glaciers, almost anything seems possible. Drawing his influence from a childhood in Lake Tahoe, and a strong interest in nature, Friedman distorts these themes with an almost mathematical ambiance – juxtaposing symbols of geometry with ethereal subject matter. We’re inspired by Friedman’s dreamy landscapes, and caught up with him for a look inside his own dreamy world. Read our Q&A with Friedman below and check out more of his work here.
CULT: Tell us about yourself – when and how did you learn to paint?
Adam: I’ve been painting and making art since I was a little kid, but didn’t really get serious about it until I was about 18 years old. I spent my college years focusing primarily on printmaking, but painting worked its way back into my process in graduate school. I’ve never taken a painting class where I felt like I was being taught technique. They were mostly concept driven, so I sort of had to teach myself how to actually move paint around. I’m definitely still learning how to paint.
The longer I practice, the more I learn. Sometimes I learn how to develop techniques and other times I learn how to more clearly communicate ideas.
CULT: Do you remember the first piece you ever sold?
Adam: I don’t remember exactly…but I do remember the first piece that I sold in a gallery show. I don’t think I even have a picture of the piece anymore… but I’m always extremely thankful for and humbled by people’s support!
CULT: What is your process like — from conception to completion?
Adam: I think the most crucial thing I took out of grad school was the importance of research. I get a lot of inspiration from authors that address similar concepts, ideas, and themes. So I read a LOT and my paintings are often titled after direct quotes from my readings. The work is concept driven, so once I have the idea for a piece, I start sketching. The final paintings rarely look like the initial sketches, but the sketchbook is an important part of my process and a good place for me to start.
Painting is a sort of active struggle. I just keep working and wrestling with it until it gets to a point where I can stand to look at it and not want to keep pushing.
CULT: Epic landscapes and dramatic scenery appear to be a large influence in your work – what draws you to this subject matter?
Adam: I’m originally from North Lake Tahoe, and grew up surrounded by the Sierra Nevadas. We eventually moved down to Encinitas (North County San Diego), where I lived for most of my youth. I spent every single day in the ocean… surfing, swimming, fishing, etc. I’ve always spent a lot of time outdoors and love camping, backpacking, hiking, etc. Nature never ceases to amaze me and it has always been the driving force behind my work.
CULT: What inspires a particular piece – is it a place you’ve been, a place you’d like to be, or a completely imaginary place?
Adam: While I’m always inspired by the places I visit, the pieces are definitely imaginary. I’m heavily influenced by physics, the cosmos, infinity, and our capacity for knowledge (or what we assume we understand). I’m really interested in what we don’t know. I try to present unconventional spaces that don’t necessarily follow the rules of how we understand space and time. At the same time, the work is very much about painting and process.
CULT: Next stamp on your passport will be from…
Adam: Well, my wife and I are heading up to Canada this summer for a little road trip. But there are so many places I’d LOVE to go if I had the time and resources. Iceland is definitely high on my list.
CULT: The one artist’s tool you can’t live without?
Adam: My hands.
CULT: What would you be doing if you weren’t painting?
Adam: Oh man! I really have NO idea. I do know that I’d be pretty miserable. Painting is my meditation. It centers me. When I get out of practice, I don’t feel like myself. But I have an old vintage motorcycle that I’ve been working on the past couple years and it has sparked a love for mechanics. If I had the time, I’d love to learn more about fabrication and actually build custom bikes. I would love to design concept motorcycles and be able to test drive them. That wouldn’t be a fair trade of careers.
CULT: Three things that few people know about you:
- I’m a very light sleeper. Active mind, I guess.
- I love anything that gets me going really fast (motorcycles, cliff jumping, skate/surf/snowboarding, etc).
- I lost a best friend in high school and still think about him every day
CULT: Words to live by:
Adam: I’m probably not the best person to give advice… So I’ll let one of my heroes do the talking:
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds…” -Edward Abbey