An Artist’s Journey

I recently visited Fredericka (Freddie) Flynt to learn about her life as an artist. I was particularly intrigued to hear about her traveling the world teaching art on cruise ships. And I was also interested in learning about how one nurtures creativity and the “artist” in ourselves.

Freddie Flynt sitting on a couch
Fredericka (Freddie) Flynt

How It All Began

While in high school, Freddie’s first formal art lesson was an after-school charcoal drawing class that also taught her how to draw fast, which is a very valuable skill for an artist. She found if she drew something, it imprinted on her brain in a different way, and she never forgot what she saw.

Freddie didn’t pick up creating art again until she enrolled in another sketching class offered by her local library in her mid-fifties. At this time, she was enjoying her career as an administrator in the continuing education department at a local university where she had been able to nurture her strong interest in art history. She didn’t know then that one day she would be fortunate enough to travel and see many of the art pieces she studied.

Traveling the Deep Blue Sea

Freddie continued to foster her love of sketching and art by surrounding herself with fellow artists. In addition to students she met in local classes, she joined an online nonprofit international organization, Urban Sketchers, dedicated to fostering a global community of artists who practice on-location drawing.

This community connected her to someone who taught art on cruise ships and led her to send her portfolio to a company that booked the entertainment for ships. Cruise lines use entertainment companies to book a variety of talent, including dancers, singers, actors, and artists. Her portfolio was met with approval, and the “rest is history” as the saying goes.

Swallows Nest Sketch by Freddie Flynt
Swallows Nest sketch
Drawing of Queen Elizabeth Ship
Drawing of Queen Elizabeth cruise ship
Sketches from Papua New Guinea
Sketches from Papua New Guinea

As a cruise line art teacher, she didn’t receive a salary but instead was compensated with free room, board, and art supplies during the three-month stints she traveled on the ship. Of course, the biggest rewards were the exotic places she traveled and people she met.

Freddie visited over 100 countries while working on ships. Some of her favorite places are Barcelona and Singapore, as well as Russia while traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

Her job was to fill the sea days when the ship was not at a port. During these times, she taught three hours each morning and afternoon. When the ship was docked at a port, her time was free to explore those places like every other passenger.

Freddie sent the following e-mail to a friend reflecting on her experience:

“So, I have been taking stock on what I may have missed not being a full-fledged passenger rather than a part crew, part entertainer, part passenger and I can’t quite see it. I have been treated quite well, have a nice cabin, good service, work six hours a day and have a nice vacation on this luxury liner. The passengers who don’t work tell me they are just exhausted with the costume changes, tournaments, and trivia contests. Some tell me they come to my class on Perspective just to relax! The food is the same….British! Our clothing goes to the same laundry, and we all arrive in Sydney at the same time. So, what have I missed? In fact, I have had the chance for an “Upstairs/Downstairs” Experiment, which I liked well enough to do again!”

Indeed she did like it well enough to continue teaching for six years on various ships, including the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and Queen Mary 2.

Nurture your Creativity

Freddie’s students were from all over the world, but because art is visual, language was never a barrier. She and they could find sketching inspiration in the ordinary and extraordinary sights they saw. Freddie continues to inspire and teach art, albeit now closer to home at an Adult Learning Center.

Her advice is to reinvent yourself every ten years by learning something new. She challenges us all to think of what we can try new today to nurture our creativity.

Freddie Flynt standing in front of art hanging from wall
Freddie Flynt with her artwork
Japanese Cherry Blossoms Artwork
Japanese Cherry Blossoms Artwork
Three Dogs in USA Bandanas Artwork
Three Dogs in USA Bandanas Artwork

Mary Blumberg

Mary leads the Strategic Planning and Development Team within the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Aging and Independence Service Group. She is especially energized by helping cities and neighborhoods learn how to become age friendly and changing hearts and minds about many of our stereotypes about aging and older persons. Mary lives in Atlanta with her husband Marc and enjoys yoga, traveling, and SEC football.