Freeman met Bleckner in 1993 while he was working as an assistant for the art director Sam Shahid. After being introduced, Freeman became intrigued with the process of painting and visited the older artist’s studio almost daily during his lunch hour. "I’d take out these little canvases and play around," he remembers. "Finally I set up a little table in his studio and worked there. Ross really encouraged me. He thought my paintings were good.
"I was always interested in painting, but never thought it would be possible to do this for a living," adds Freeman, who seems a little lost when he’s doing anything other than painting, according to friends. "That’s where Ross was extremely helpful. He showed me how to be an artist."
Freeman knows that his friendship with Bleckner inspires jealousy in some corners of the art world, but he doesn’t dwell on any of that. Besides, he says, he’s paid his dues —and then some.
"People can say what they want," he explains. "I’ve had to work twice as hard. In the end, the work speaks for itself."