Jim Freeheart starts each of his paintings with a big heart and a smile—both literally and figuratively. He paints this as his signature before coating the canvas in color. “The message that’s under all my paintings is to live by your heart and have a happy life,” he says. It’s a hidden message that is at once a reminder and an expression of Freeheart’s love for his craft.
Freeheart started his artistic journey as a teenager traveling through the Canary Islands, where he was lucky enough to train under a well-known Spanish artist, Joan Parés. “It was a really magical apprenticeship,” he says. “I went from hardly ever painting to selling my first piece and becoming a professional artist.”
Years later, he is still finding inspiration in his travels, including the summers he spends with his wife on Cape Cod. Freeheart shows at Chapman Art Gallery in Cotuit, a special place for him. “It’s an extraordinary gallery,” he says, explaining how he came to find himself as a friend and supporter of gallery owner Scott Chapman. “We had a long talk well before he knew he would be opening a gallery, and I knew I would be showing there,” explains Freeheart. But when Chapman finally did open a gallery, it seemed only fitting that Freeheart, a longtime Cotuit resident, be featured.
“I’m absolutely in love with nature,” says Freeheart about what drives him. “It’s my home.” He can often be found painting on location, always standing, fully immersed in the nature that so inspires him, and he enjoys when passersby stop to appreciate the moments with him. “Part of my intention has always been to highlight the beauty of the world on canvas so that people might take notice of it, and then maybe they will help care for the world and make it a better place in whatever way that means for each person,” he says.
Freeheart’s style could easily be described as impressionistic, which is no surprise since he credits artists like Van Gogh and Winslow Homer as his icons. A common project for him is creating figurative likenesses of families—his own unique take on a family portrait. “That’s one of my favorite things in the world to do because of the way it touches people,” he says. “I feel so honored to be able to capture somebody’s priceless moments.” He’s in luck, because there is certainly no shortage of special family moments during a Cape Cod summer.
“There’s a second thing that inspires me, and that’s children,” says Freeheart. “Teaching kids art is almost more of a purpose for me than the painting itself.” Freeheart uses his travels to share his talents and love of art with young generations of future artists around the world, donating everything from graphite drawing pencils to his time. His goal is to “help them create something that goes a little bit beyond what they thought they could do.” As he puts it, “All kids are artists,” and all they need is a little support to help their talents shine.
“It’s like breathing to me,” Freeheart says about painting, and, even after a life spent creating, teaching and loving art, he claims he still gets goosebumps every time he starts a painting.
Jim Freeheart’s painting “Lost at Play” is featured on the cover of Cape Cod ART 2018.