Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Water Colors: The river, nature offer renewal, inspiration for artist Jonathan Frazier.

Screenshot 2014-08-29 09.49.23If you’ve visited Riverfront Park lately, you may have noticed a lone figure behind a canvas examining his surroundings with a keen eye for detail, color, shape and feeling.

He’s a painterly type; an artist who views the world uniquely, a bit differently from those nearby who may be walking through the park after a typical workday at the Capitol or a runner adhering to an exercise regimen as the sun is just about to set. For Jonathan Frazier, Riverfront Park is not just a place leading to somewhere else—it is that place.

“There are always a variety of folks out for an evening stroll/jog/bicycle ride,” he says. “Whenever they comment, their words are always very positive and encouraging.”

Sometimes, they see the early stage of a painting he’s working on when they’re going somewhere earlier in the day. Later, it may be more developed, and they’ll notice the progression.

“People are always amazed that something can start as large blocks of abstract color and turn into something that they recognize,” Frazier adds. “Children are particularly fascinated, as it seems to be their first time witnessing such a thing. People often take photos, which is fun. I have encountered people for the first time who recognized my name and work from the galleries, which is a neat way to bring it all full circle.”

Those artistic “full circles” are transformed into lush landscapes, the angular bends of historic buildings, perhaps a Provincetown sunset in his collection of Cape Cod paintings. That’s right. His “studio” reaches beyond Harrisburg.

“I’ve often traveled fair-to-long distances to paint, such as my annual trip to Cape Cod, my trips to Gettysburg and the Shenandoah, and even Montana last summer,” Frazier explains. “I love travel, but the nice thing about living on the river is that I have a range of great scenes within a five-minute drive. Sometimes I just walk out my front door.”

Frazier’s work has not gone unnoticed. One of his Montana paintings, “Glacial Lake,” was included in the recent Lebanon Valley College 43rd Annual Juried Art Exhibition. His river painting “Calm (but not boring)” won first place in the faculty category at the Art Association of Harrisburg’s Annual School Show in July. Another was selected for inclusion in the Washington County Museum of Fine Art’s 82nd Annual Cumberland Valley Artists Exhibition. He also has a body of work at Gallery@Second, where he often performs musically for 3rd in The Burg.

Musically? Frazier has been a musician for years and, despite his lack of formal education in the subject, relates to rhythms and textures in songs because of his visual thinking as an artist. He doesn’t care about the words or a flashy solo—he just likes the sounds.

“So, naturally, I gravitated initially towards the keyboard as it allows me to play with sound and shape in all sorts of ways,” he says. “There were always guitars around the house, as my father plays, so I learned that, as well.”

He’s now on an instrument-collecting spree, as he calls it, gathering such unusual items as a triple flute, Irish penny whistles, a couple of Chinese hulusi “gourd flutes,” a melodica, various harmonicas and a theremin.

“It’s the first electronic musical instrument and perfect for Halloween,” Frazier says. “I have ordered a Thai khim, which is a form of hammered dulcimer popular in Thailand and should be a great fit for my monthly gigs at the Bangkok Wok.”

Frazier has even begun to give evening talks about the native flutes, along with other exotic wind instruments, to local groups that feature speakers. He explains a bit of history, talks/demonstrates a little theory along with playing technique. His listeners are lucky enough to get a talk and a concert all wrapped up into one. And, as if that weren’t enough, he lends his musical talents to Hershey Medical Center, where he plays flute and piano in patient entrances and waiting areas—a connection to his past in the medical field, when he served as a medical lab tech in the Air Force.

“I’ve always felt that my artistic and musical interests feed off each other, though it’s hard to articulate how,” Frazier says. “For me, it’s all about openness to process. They both involve the expressive manipulation of a group of known parameters to create interest, movement and a sense of place or mood.”

While Frazier loves the sounds emanating from his musical menagerie, it’s the river that speaks to his artistic soul. And, besides, it’s only a few steps away.

“These river images have been so popular that some never even reach the commercial galleries as they are snatched up by folks who see them on social media,” he says. “They tend to be smaller canvases, which enable me to complete a painting ‘alla prima,’ all in one take.”

Jonathan Frazier shows his work at many galleries in central Pennsylvania, including at Gallery@Second, 608 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg, where he also frequently performs music during 3rd in The Burg. His painting, “Looking Down the Hill from Reservoir Park,” graces the front cover of this month’s Burg. For more information on the artist, visit



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