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Stories from the Road: Bob Friedenberg: “Stick to it”

A few months ago, I had the pleasure to enjoy the Frederick Festival of the Arts, while I was there, I had a conversation with Robert "Bob" Friedenberg. Unlike the rest of the artists in this series, Bob maintains his day job as a physicist, and uniquely imposes his academic passions into his art. Where some of his best clients love not only his “anti-pattern” mentality but also the subtly littered physics and math equations.

Bob has only been displaying his work publicly for about 8 years, even through he really started back in the early 70’s. He always jokes that his work, “peaked in 71”, since he has grown his artistic talent and ability since then, he has been keeping the styles of his early work. A major reason for the motif is the artistic boundaries he sets for himself.

Creating a framework helps enable Bob’s creativity, since he was in high school he used a .25mm Rapidograph, and always in black in white. The whole piece will have a coherent message, these self-imposed limitations empower him the freedom to have drawings niched within each square inch, independent of the adjacent square inch.

I asked Bob what advice he would give to younger artists today, and it was a simple, “go show your work”. As someone who has a strong footing on the artist and academic lifestyle he has a different journey on following his passion, however similar to the other artists in this series. Bob told me, “I run into a lot people who are closeted artists. They do it but don’t know if they are good enough. Other people will let you know if your good enough because there is only one measure; if they lay down cash”. Then I wanted to know what got him inspired to dedicate more time and energy into the art festivals, since he started after many years in a stable job. He said, “[he] didn’t worry about starting at a highly ranked show. Anyone should start slow, and local; start at the community center and work your way up, learn from other people’s comments, and try new things”.

Bob started at a community center art festival where kids got their faces painted and parents only came for the fried dough. However, it had a small juried art section, and he still does that show today. Now after years of presenting his art, and improving his form, presentation, and collection, but still gets to keep the pieces he truly enjoys.

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