At 8:00 a.m. on a blistery St. Patrick’s Day morning, Sean Friloux mounts his scooter and winds his way through the French Quarter. He arrives at the T where Orleans Ave. meets Royal St., a beautiful block framed by the manicured gardens and intricate facade of the back side of St. Louis Cathedral. There isn’t a parking lot in sight, but luckily Sean doesn’t need one. His handy scooter fits neatly against an art gallery wall, only steps from his destination.
Sean begins to unload and set up shop. Since July he has gotten up each morning to work along the grand old iron structure that has been protecting St. Louis Cathedral for over a century. As a former graphic designer, he values the open, public space he can now call “the office.” The bleak weather and start of a new workweek has given him a bit of time to spare this morning. On a sunny Saturday you could expect to see Sean unloading his scooter closer to 5 a.m., securing his favorite piece of the fence before others arrive. As a licensed artist, his permit allows him to occupy two sections along the perimeter; this 20 feet of fence and a large old telephone pole are the only defining structures that frame his work space. Sean sets up his supplies the same way everyday. Another workweek has commenced as he begins to clip his paintings to a rope he strings through the winding ironwork.
A Restaurant Scene
Despite the gloomy weather, the Quarter is glittered with tourists by mid-afternoon, running about in various shades of green. Among the costume clad and laughing spectators, Sean Friloux stands on the sidewalk quietly painting his newest work, an indoor restaurant scene, starring a dapper looking waiter attending to his duties. The impressionist style watercolor feels calm and comfortable with slews of blues and brown. His color pallet and hands reflect a similar smattering of paint that has slowly built-up into the crevices of his fingerprints and creases between his knuckles throughout the day. Sean chats with the other artists working beside him and smiles as a crowd of young students chitter-chatter past the square.
A tall, becoming man quickly approaches, stopping on the sidewalk to view Sean’s work. “Are you finished with this painting?”, he asks, pointing to the canvas still propped on the easel. “Almost, but not quite yet,” Sean proclaims, looking down at his sketchbook that depicts a rough outline of the painting before him. His small sketchbook lives its life three feet from his easel, leaning against the iron fence. Each page holds a record of Sean’s latest lunch or walk along the Mississippi, guiding his brush strokes as he recreates the energy of each scene. “Well I think it’s great, just as it is,” the man responds. His wife soon catches up and chimes in, asking Sean about his inspiration for the piece. “Often people will paint the outside of a famous restaurant or landmark in the city, but never show the life inside that makes the restaurant so famous,” Sean explains (Sean Friloux, interviewed by Cameron Conklin, March 17th, 2014).He has always been drawn to the intimacy of interiors.
Today Was Your Day
The dapper looking waiter slowly disappears into brown packing paper as Sean accepts a check for the restaurant scene in blues and browns. This marked his second sale since this morning, a feat on such a cold and barren day in the Quarter. As the happy couple trots off with their latest purchase, Sean’s friend congratulates him, “I said today was gonna be your day. Today was your day brother, was I lying to you, no!” As it approaches early evening, Sean begins to break down and pack up, following his usual routine. He loads his scooter and winds his way back through the quarter, heading home to his wife and son.
Being A Part of it All
Many of the galleries strewn up and down Royal St. belong to artists who once found success on the ironwork. With close to a year under his belt “on the fence,” Sean has considered pursuing this shift one day. But for now, he values the opportunity to making a living expressing himself and doing what he loves, without the burden of buildings, electric bills or employees. He enjoys interacting with those passing by and “being a part of it all.” His scooter serves as his only small tie to a private work space, and for Sean, it is just enough.