By Lyssette Williams
Portraits by Kristie Nichols
For Frederique Poulain, being a professional artist isn’t a job but a way of life. While some people drag their feet getting into the office five days a week, Frederique happily works seven. Her studio, nestled in the coastal town of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is her sanctuary. There Frederique hand-paints floral and equestrian designs on not just vases, platters, bowls and mugs, but also jackets, purses, scarves and mailboxes.
“Being an artist is truly in my blood. I get antsy if I don’t create something every day. They say that running is addictive and penning artwork is the same,” Frederique said. “Luckily, I don’t suffer from artist’s block or burnout but I do get tired from time to time. Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps me remain balanced and keep stress at bay.”
Frederique’s love for the outdoors is evident in every brush stroke of her work. The equestrian pieces span the disciplines depicting motifs of dressage, racing, foxhunting and hunter-jumpers. Her floral line of ceramics illustrates the beauty of hydrangeas, Provence lavender, cranberries and Italian lemons.
The desire to create was evident in Frederique from a tender age. “I was very young when I took up drawing,” Frederique said. “My mother was an artist but for her it was a paying hobby. She designed posters for local stores and taught printmaking. I followed her example and began painting at a young age and sketching on everything and anything.”
Born and raised in France, her natural talent for the arts would be fostered by the French education system. “The instructors would let students pick their own subjects to render and encouraged us to bring in flowers or fruits,” Frederique said. “But I always wanted to paint horses!”
While Frederique grew up riding and even worked for Grand Écuries in Chantilly, France, as a teenager, she is currently horseless. “My heart horse was a Polish Arabian named Whiskey Jo,” Frederique said. “He passed away three years ago at the age of 26. He lived with me at home and I miss him deeply. My future goal is to lease a horse and start riding more often!”
An Arts Education
With the help of her godparents, young Frederique’s entrepreneurial skills were fostered outside of the classroom. “I enjoyed a lot of freedom as a child. I remember fondly collecting rocks on the Normandy coast and bringing them home. Those rocks would become a canvas to paint flowers and horses on,” Frederique said. “Then on the weekends my godparents and I would attend outdoor markets as vendors and sell my painted rocks along with other goods likes scarves and hats.”
Frederique’s passion for the arts led her to studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Northern France. “It was a four-year program that touched on every subject, from architecture and life drawing to culture and history,” Frederique said. “In my final year of study, I was taught mural painting and trompe l’oeil — an art technique that uses realistic imagery that depicts objects in three dimensions.”
While experimenting with the various mediums in school, Frederique found inspiration from French impressionists like Paul Cezanne and Claude Monet. “My favorite, though, was post-impressionist Toulouse-Lautrec — his works were so colorful, and artfully captured the culture and people of that time period.”
Moving to the U.S.
In 1993, Frederique made the trans-Atlantic move to southwest Florida, where she developed a loyal following of clients who requested floral frescos on their business facades and decorative murals on their homes. While there, her ceramic home goods caught the eye of discerning horse show associations that wanted to offer unique division prizes and year-end awards.
“These relationships go way back – I’ve been working with the Greensboro Horse Show for over 15 years,” Frederique said. “Because of that, I try to offer a wide selection of painted works, more than just ceramics like hand-painted pillows or other home décor. I’ve created pieces for over 50 horse shows: Dressage at Devon, The Devon Horse Show, Deep Run Horse Show, Blowing Rock and Thunderbird to name a few.”
At some of these events, you will find her in the vendor row among the brightly painted scenes of her pieces. “I attend about six shows a year and each one holds a special place in my heart. Most recently I was at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event,” Frederique said, “This summer, I’ll be at Flower and Arts and craft shows across New England. Each individual show has its highlight but for me the best part of attending the same shows year after year is how closely you bond with event staff and other vendors. We’ve become a family of sorts.”
Frederique’s last show of the summer will be the Festival of Art in Cape Cod, where her home and studio are located. She moved to the beautiful town in Massachusetts about 2 1/2 years ago. “I had been visiting the area once a year for the last two decades. It was a spectacular place for art and inspiration and always I felt at home,” she said. “The natural beauty spoke to me, the gorgeous colors of the marshes and beaches. The cape has its own magic and attracts the creative community.”
Even in such a magical place, Frederique remains diligently disciplined. “I always start my day with meditation and a run,” Frederique said. “By 8 a.m., I’m already getting to work painting. I’m rarely distracted so it’s easy for me to paint until about 6 p.m. when I fire up the kilns.”
The pieces will spend over a day in the kiln, baking at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. “The firing needs to be slow in order to get the color right, but sometimes it’s a surprise but always a delight to see what comes out,” Frederique said. “But that is part of being an artist – patience and persistence. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, but I need to persist and never give up.”
For more information, visit www.frederiquestudio.com
Photos by Kristie Nichols, moonfyrephotography.com