Artist Spotlight- Dennis Friel

Q: Where do you live?

A: I was born and raised in Coral Springs, Florida.

Q: What mediums do you work in?

A: Currently I work in oil, acrylic, watercolor/ink, graphite and digital – mostly on canvas, paper and wood.

Q: What is your favorite style?

A: Oil painting on canvas will always be where my heart is. Nothing beats that classic studio feel of a brush to canvas and the smell of linseed oil permeating throughout the studio. Its such a romantic process. However, these days with the studio being so busy and multi-faceted to both illustration and design, I don’t always have the luxury of taking that sort of time with each piece. I can create work faster and tighter painting acrylic on wood panels. I also do alot of commercial and shirt work digitally which I am really starting to love.

Q: What are your other hobbies, and are they related to your artwork?

A: Being that I am the proud father to a three year old girl and a six month old boy, coupled with the fact that we just moved into our first official studio space, my “hobby time” right now is somewhat limited. I try and fish as much as I can which equates mostly to tournaments at the moment. I fish with the “Moesy On,” a 54 Viking out of Lighthouse Point. We are mostly a sailfish crew. I also enjoy taking Florida Keys and Gulf coast trips when I can fit them in. Each time I head out fishing or being in the elements it inspires me to create.

Q:How did you get started and what was the evolution of your style?

A: I don’t really remember not being an artist. I started drawing fish and boats at an early age. Thats directly related to growing up in South Florida and my friends always wanting me to draw them what we caught that day. Early on I did some work with the IGFA and the Billfish Foundation auctions and even sold a couple of pieces to Tred Barta. I was also involved with the Wildfish Collection Gallery in Pompano Beach where, at 18, my work was being hung with Guy Harvey, Carey Chen and Don Ray. I was stoked! But I knew I was still young and had alot to learn. So eventually I went off to art school as an illustration major and there I fell in love with graphic design too. After that I took a real job, eventually becoming a Creative Director, in the music business and in hindsight that really opened me up to a variety of styles and influences that I normally would not have been exposed to. I attribute getting away from fish for awhile as helping create my own identity seperate from the traditional work that was out there at the time. But as the great Norman Maclean said,

“Eventually all things lead into one and a river runs through it.”

So here I am for the past few years back to being full-on with fish and the ocean in general as my main focus. Only now I’m much wiser and more diverse in both skillset and mindset. Since being back in the game so-to-speak, my work has been featured in Florida Sportfishing Magazine, I’ve been featured in Marlin Magazine’s Art Gallery issue for three consecutive years and even received their Facebook Reader’s Choice last year. I’ve also been doing alot of event and tournament featured artist spots including the Palm Beach Sailfish Classic, The Billfish Expo and the Jimmy Johnson National Billfish Championship, which I will be the featured artist of again this year. The studio has been landing a huge amount of custom team and charter stuff lately too.

Q: What goals do you have for your artwork, what does the future hold?

A: I really want to keep pushing to create new stuff, different stuff, both within my work and in creating unique items and even apparel that goes against the grain. Its really a philosophy of our studio, run by myself and my super supportive wife and fellow artist Liz. For both of us we refuse to relegate ourselves to any sort of mold or idea that is already out there. So many people we talk to tell us things like – Oh you have to do this because this artist did… Or this is what is hot and selling. We know folks mean well when they say that, but we don’t really want to follow the herd. To us we want to create work and produce items that we like and stuff that we think is cool. Sure we may offer things that are similar to what’s out there at times, but within that space we want to be unique and challenge peoples perspectives from a visual standpoint. We want to make sound decisions on the projects that we work on for clients as well. If it doesn’t work for us then its not going to be the best creative solution for them either. We believe that. But we have lots going on. Some of which we can’t talk about yet. But for sure, the future is bright.

Q: Is there a message behind your artwork?

A: The message for us is that life is too short not to do what you love. As cool as it was to be a Creative Director in the music business it was still corporate work. I’m so happy I quit my day job and followed my dream to run a successful art and design studio. It truly surpasses my expectations. Its about portraying the lifestyle, being ourselves and being happy enough never to look back with regret. For the most part I paint fish, I paint Florida, I design for clients that are like minded in that respect and it really is a little slice of heaven. On the surface people see fish, but beneath all that is a grid-disconnected attitude. And that’s the message.

Q: What or who inspires you?

A: I really consider myself one of the luckiest guys on the planet. I have always been surrounded by so much incredible love and support. Constantly feeling that energy from family, friends and colleagues is truly what keeps me going. Liz and I both come from big families where we were raised on God, family and maintaining our core values. I think having that as our base helps keep gas in the tank. As far as specifics there are seemingly thousands of artists and intellectuals that have contributed as influences along the way. Everyone from Picasso to Hemingway to Carey Chen. Inspiration to me is just soaking it all in.

Q: What has been the hardest project, or what is the hardest aspect of you art?

A: Honestly, the hardest part has been the last couple of years. Trying to get to the point where I was able to leave my day job and still support my wife and kids. It took alot of sacrifices by everyone in the entire family. It wasn’t easy working a full day at the office and then coming home and working a full night most of the time; including weekends. I had to pass on tons of fishing too to get projects out and still find time to be dad to my children. Thank God for my amazing wife. Without her support and sacrifices it never would have happened. People sometimes think that making the actual piece is the hardest part. Creating quality work takes time and I wasn’t able to put in enough to create to my own work and find the hours to service clients as well. If this was going to happen the way it should happen the day job had to go. In the end for me the hardest aspect was making time for the work. Now with the studio running full time that path is much clearer.

Q: What brings you the most satisfaction or sense of accomplishment?

A: At the end of the day if all the work gets done and I can still do things for my kids to make them happy. This tells me that all is right with the world regardless of anything else. However, succesfully releasing a quad or landing a massive wahoo might be a close runner-ups.

To contact Dennis: or follow him on Facebook.


As a contributing force in visually defining the warm water lifestyle, Dennis has pursued his art and design by representing his passion for the ocean. Being a native South Floridian puts him at the core of consistently discovering new points of inspiration for these subjects. Fusing both traditional and non-traditional methods of illustration and design gives Dennis the flexibility to portray his visions directly to canvas, wood and paper, as well as apply them digitally when needed. For over 15 years, as a Creative Director in the music business, Dennis has completed award-winning work for companies such EMI Music and Marketing, Universal Music Group, Sony Music and Warner Music Group. Concurrently running his own home studio throughout that time allowed Dennis to extend his artistic reach by working with some prominent marine related clients like the Jimmy Johnson Billfish Championship, World Billfish Expo, Palm Beach Sailfish Classic, Bluewater Movements, Marlin Magazine, Florida Sportfishing Magazine, Marlin World Magazine, Professional Yacht Brokers Magazine, IGFA, Southern Kingfish Association, The Billfish Foundation, Everglades Wetlands Resource Foundation, Pelagic and countless tournament teams and charters. Today Dennis runs a successful, family owned and fully networked fine art, illustration and design studio developed to create impactful imagery and enhance brand identities. Currently specializing in illustrating marine life and creating fine art prints and apparel with his best work, Dennis’ goal is to keep pushing to set new standards in the art of salt and sea. He notes, “The idea is to focus our core talents on creating visual components across a variety of mediums that are fluid, functional and successful. By attempting to embark on something new and different every day, we see limitless opportunities.” An active member of his community, both personally and professionally, Dennis serves on several boards and contributes to many charities. “DFAS is always looking to partner with charities for fundraising events,” Dennis states. “These are amazing opportunities to give back to the community. Philanthropy is something that is not only a part of the DFAS mantra, it’s how we were raised, it’s what our family believes in and it’s how we intend to always be.”