The Chatham Arts Council is investing in artists through our Meet This Artist series, introducing you to 12 Chatham County artists each year in a big way.
The fine folks at Hobbs Architects in downtown Pittsboro are powering our Meet This Artist series this year. Architecture is art, and the Hobbs crew values art in our community.
Take a look. Meet your very inspiring neighbors. Meet This Artist.
It isn’t every day that you meet a ten-year-old who paints (and has already sold one of his paintings), takes pottery classes, plays the drums, and has apprenticed for a Chatham County painter, Sarah Graham. But Miles Freuler is no average ten-year-old. With a steady stream of encouragement from his mom, Ashley — who is a talented photographer by her own right — Miles’ appetite for art in all its forms seems to grow by the day. I encourage you to read more about this introspective young artist and to consider the impact when children have access to the arts.
How did you get started with art?
I started out just drawing in my sketchbooks at school and doodling on the sides of my papers, but I got in trouble a lot for that. I used to like to draw free-hand. All my friends watched tutorials on how to draw, but I never really did that because I feel like if you want your drawing to look like something, then you just have to work on it a lot. You don’t have to watch a video of someone telling you how to draw.
But then I met Miss Sarah [Sarah Graham], who is a painter. I really like her paintings, so I decided I wanted to try painting. At first I only painted little canvases, but when I got better, my mom bought me bigger canvases. Once I started painting on the bigger canvases, I started looking for a way to find a good style of art. I decided to start painting abstract faces; I really enjoy painting like that. I started painting one of a face I could see on the floorboards in my grandma’s house. Everybody loved the painting, so I started painting more abstract faces. My grandma and grandpa actually bought the painting from me because my grandfather said it was really cool. A lot of people wanted it, but I decided to give it to him because that’s where I got my inspiration from.
Miles’ mom, Ashley: When he was about two years old, he had a little easel in a corner. I remember friends would say, “You just let him paint?” Sometimes he would do painting drive-bys without me even noticing he had been standing there. I have a two-minute video of him just standing there for a long time, just painting and painting. He turned around after about two minutes and said, “Look, it’s a heart!” He had been putting so much into it. I remember the first email I got from his first grade teacher. I was like, “Oh boy, here we go . . .” but she said the little characters he drew were amazing, and that she was going to keep some of them because she knew he was going to be famous one day. She still has a sketch of a little carrot that he drew up on her desk.
How do you come up with ideas for what to paint?
I just have a vision of what I want to paint. Sometimes when I see floorboards or smudges on things, I see faces and I try to go with it. My painting doesn’t always turn out exactly the way I want it to, but I usually like it.
When I went to the mountains over the summer — the mountains are my favorite place to go because it’s peaceful and quiet — I wanted to paint there. I started painting mountains. I gave one of the mountain paintings to my grandma to have since she had a place for it. But when I got home from my grandma’s house, where I’d seen the face in the floorboard, I decided to paint over the mountains because it wasn’t going very well. I called my first painting, “The man in the hat.”
Miles’ mom, Ashley: He always has an easel set up so there’s always a blank canvas there for whenever he wants to access that. When we got to the mountains, the first thing he said was that he wished he had his paints because we were just surrounded by this beautiful scenery. So I jumped in the car, drove to the nearest Walmart, and bought some canvases, paint, and brushes. I wish I had brought his painting stuff with me from home, knowing that he was always inspired. It was cool because he spent a lot of that trip painting the landscape, especially when the sky would change color.
Does your sketchbook work differ from your painting?
My paintings are more abstract and colorful. In my sketchbook, I like to draw with a pencil. A lot of people think pencil is just one color, gray. But I think that the pencil can be a bunch of different varieties of colors. So my sketchbook is pretty black and white, but I really like it.
My friend Dylan used to love carrots and he used to draw little carrot people. I decided I wanted to draw little radish people in wars with the carrot people. I drew tiny carrot and radish people doing funny stuff, like digging tunnels, using hairdryers, or rollerblading.
Who inspires you?
Mr. Jose’s [Jose Ciceraro] art is really, really inspirational for me. I always have his book with me. I think it’s really cool. I like how the front part is colorful, but when you get to the back, there are more black and white sketches. He actually signed the book in the front, so it’s really special to me. I have it in my backpack every day.
Miss Sarah is a really awesome painter and a really inspiring mentor. I also like to go to the Pittsboro Gallery of Arts. I like to look at the art and get inspired by all of the amazing paintings down there. My grandma said she’ll take me to an art museum soon, but my cousins and my brothers don’t really want to go. They said they would get bored by looking at art when I’m like, “How can you get bored? It’s so amazing how people can make amazing paintings with just a brush, paints, and a blank canvas!”
Miles’s mom, Ashley: Sarah Graham is his art mentor. She offered to take Miles on as her apprentice last year. It’s great that he can work with her because he’s never taken an art class (besides pottery), mainly because he doesn’t like to be told how to paint.
He went to Sarah’s art studio once a week for a long time, where he did work around the studio, like cleaning brushes. It was interesting because she always said that she never knew if anything that she was showing him was sinking in. But once he started painting landscapes, she said, “Oh, maybe some of this DID sink in!” So she sort of planted a seed. But they have a really cool relationship. There have been some times when he’s like, “I just don’t feel like painting. Is that normal? Is that okay?” And she just said, “Honor the slump.”
What’s your process like when you’re painting?
Well, I never really feel incorrect about the way I paint; and I usually just feel like this might not look right or exactly how I imagined it, but it’s still going to be at least a painting that I usually like.
Sometimes I make changes, like when I’m finished adding things like the eyelashes, a hat, or hair; I look at it and think that maybe I need to add a little more. Sometimes I’ll have an unfinished feeling about it. One part of me wants to say it’s finished, but another part of me says it’s not. So I usually wait until the next day to come look at it to see if anything needs to be corrected.
Miles’s mom, Ashley: What’s cool about his process is that he knows when he needs to leave it and walk away and when to go back. I think it’s kind of a mature way of looking at your process, that you can leave something and not have to have an immediate finished product. He’s private about his process; my camera’s not allowed out in the studio until he has declared that he’s done.
How do you feel when you’re doing your art?
You can tell, when you look at my painting, if I feel mad or sad because of the way it looks, how the person looks, or the colors I use.
I heard that you also do pottery. How did you get started with that?
I’ve been doing pottery for a little while. I’m now taking classes with Lara O’Keefe at the Chatham Clay Studio. When my grandma took me on the Studio Tour this year, I traded one of my paintings for a pot made by Rusty Sieck. He told me to pick out anything I wanted in exchange for the painting.
What do you like about pottery?
I like challenging things. It’s not like you can do it really quickly and easily; that just gets boring. I like how you can just start off with a lump of clay and make something cool. I also like how the glaze mix is so smooth and shiny. I like the whole process except for centering — it’s really hard. And you get your fingers and clothes dirty, and then your mom gets mad at you when you come home because you have clay all over your face.
And you also play the drums?
I’ve been drumming for two years and I take drum lessons once a week with my teacher Dan. I really like drumming because, again, it’s challenging. I like to look online and watch videos of people drumming and try to do the same thing. I love listening to bands like the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. Did you know that the drummer for Nirvana is now the singer for the Foo Fighters?
If you could see yourself in the future, what do you think you’ll be doing? What kind of art do you think you’ll do?
I’m not sure. I wish I had a third eye to see the future. But maybe I’ll be a painter. Or a drummer. Or maybe an engineer. I really like Legos, too.
Miles’ mom, Ashley: A lot of people ask me if I think he’ll go to art school, and I’m sort of conflicted about that. I think it’s kind of cool that he has art as his thing. Miles just has this really interesting way of seeing and hearing the world. I hope that art will always be an outlet for him.