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What's Up Magazine

Meet the Artists

Dec 01, 2018 12:00AM ● By Brian Saucedo

By James Houck

More than 100 attendees of the September artists’ reception, “The Ordinary,” came, saw, and voted for their favorite pieces of exhibited art—with the winners of awarded Best in Show honors for First Place and Runner-Up. Hosted by the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County and What’s Up? Media, the quarterly exhibitions/receptions offer local artists the opportunity to have their work professionally juried and, if selected, hung in the gallery space within 201 Defense Highway in Annapolis. Each successive art exhibition has grown in both scope and quality, as more and more artists have discovered this platform to showcase their talent. 

This fall, painter Jeanne Fryer was awarded First Place for her work titled “AYC Frostbiting,” while Deborah Kommalan was Runner-Up for her triptych of paintings, “Anticipation, Gratification and Late.” Both artists discuss their background, influences, approach to painting, and connection to the Arts Council in the following interview. 

To learn more about how you can submit artwork for the 2019 schedule of exhibitions, visit or

When did you first develop a passion for your artistic medium and what was the first inkling that you felt inspired to really try your hand at it artistically?

Jeanne Fryer: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw or paint. I loved my art classes in school. One particular teacher in high school who had a terrific sense of humor made me realize that art can be fun in so many ways. In college, I was exposed to many different types of art from printmaking to marble sculpture, stained glass, drawing, painting, design, art history, and lots more. I seemed to settle in with painting and continued to paint throughout my life when time allowed. I became more serious when I was able to find more time to paint and I took a watercolor workshop on the Eastern Shore where I met a few inspiring artists. In fact, I still paint with those artists now.

 Deborah Kommalan: All through my early years, I was always the “artsy” child. We lived on a small farm and we made most everything we could. It seems I always had an inclination for detail work and it was especially apparent with my tailoring ability which, when I was 16 years old, landed me a job doing alterations at a leading department store in Baltimore. If you’re wondering what this has to do with painting, tailoring is certainly demanding fine detail work.

I attended Maryland Institute College of Art, but towards the end of the 1960s painting classes were all about abstract expressionism. My interests in detail led me to study Graphic Design. I never really worked in the field. I returned to painting in 2007 only when my friend signed me up to study painting at Anne Arundel Community College.

What medium and equipment do you currently use?

JF: Over the years, I have painted in watercolor and oil paints. More recently, I have added acrylic paints. I still continue to paint in oils and watercolor. Each has its own unique properties, advantages, and disadvantages. I also experiment with different painting surfaces and mediums that create various textures.

DK: I paint exclusively in oils and because of the nature of photo-realism, it is difficult to paint on canvas. The texture of canvas interferes with fine detail. So, I make my own panels. They are heavily gessoed and then sanded to a lovely peach skin texture. I use tiny brushes, some of them are size 0000. I don’t use a magnifier to paint, but sometimes just to check and clean up mistakes.

 “Anticipation, Gratification and Late” By Deborah Kommalan 

What is your approach to choosing subject matter to paint and how best to capture it?

JF: I gravitate toward landscapes, seascapes, and nature in general because I spend a lot of time walking, hiking, and around the water. But, also, I don’t limit myself to those subjects. Pretty much anything’s up for grabs. While my paintings are, for the most part representational, it is my goal to interpret the subject in a way that expresses a feeling or mood in a way that is unique. I want people to look at my work and be excited by the interpretation, not the subject necessarily. 

DK: Painting fine detail has led me to paint ordinary objects. It helps the viewer take a closer look at objects we use every day. I create drama in my paintings by employing tenebrism, which is dramatic illumination. I also paint still lifes which I call “kinetic” because, although they are still, there is implied movement in the paintings.

Do you have any “golden rules” that you abide by regarding your paintings?

JF: I want my work to reflect who I am. So, I try very hard to paint what excites me. The minute I begin to paint what I think someone else would like, my individuality as an artist is lost. So, I paint what I want. Most of the time I begin a painting with an idea or a subject, but I give it space to evolve as I evolve with it. In a successful painting, there comes a point when I respond to what’s happening in the painting and I stop thinking and just react. It’s hard to describe that part of the process, but it’s the essence or the magic.

Are there any artists (local/national, historic/contemporary) that have inspired you and how/why?

DK: At AACC, I was fortunate to study with Leonard Koscianski, an Annapolis artist, and Lillian Bayley Hoover, who works in Baltimore and teaches at MICA. Currently, I study every year with the renowned artist Anthony Waichulis at Ani Art Academy Waichulis in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, whose forté is trompe l’oeil. And of course, Carravaggio (Italian, 1571–1610) was the first artist to employ chiaroscuro technique, which is akin to tenebrism.

JF: I am inspired and influenced by a wide variety of artists from the past as well as contemporary artists including many of my painting friends, artist’s work that I have seen while traveling, and young artists with fresh ideas. I feel like the more exposure I have to all different types of art, including music, performances, writing, movies, et cetera, it opens my mind to so many possibilities in my work. 

 “AYC Frostbiting” by Jeanne Fryer

When did you first connect with the Arts Council and how has your role with the organization grown over the years?

DK: Since I am also a member of Maryland Federation of Art in Annapolis, I think perhaps my connection with the Arts Council stemmed from there. I have received email calls-for-entry for the shows the Arts Council sponsors at BWI Airport. I have shown several times there and I currently have an enlarged copy of one of my “kinetic” still life paintings hanging in Gallery D at BWI. They photographed a painting that was originally 11” x 14” and enlarged it to eight feet square. It will hang in Gallery D through December 2018.

JF: I am relatively new to the Arts Council so I can’t say I have a role yet. I hope to learn more about the organization. This was the first show I was involved in and I was impressed by the people who were available to help guide theprocess.

What advice do you offer to budding artists?

JF: My first advice would be that no matter what type of art you are doing, do what you like, do what excites you, and do what’s fun. Don’t worry about what others think, you are the one that matters. Work with other artists, whether it is a workshop, a class, or just going out to paint with people. Make time to paint. Look at lots of other art work of all sorts and from
all different time periods. If you are a painter, use artist quality paint and put plenty of it on your palette. Above all, go for it with spirit and enthusiasm.

DK: Practice, practice, practice. Like any job, it’s hard work.