Geek of the Week

Seattle Sounders goalie Stefan Frei saves some ardour for off the pitch with artwork and tech pursuits

Seattle Sounders FC goaltender Stefan Frei in the studio where he creates his art. (Sounders FC Communications Photo / Mike Fiechtner)

There is artistry in athletics. And certainly that is true for those who play goaltender in soccer — just go rewatch “The Save.” Now the man behind that iconic Seattle sports moment, Sounders FC goalie Stefan Frei, is getting as serious about his art as he is about the game he loves.

Frei this week launched, a website dedicated to showcasing his colorful, angular artwork and sharing the backstory around his pursuits. When he’s not in goal for Seattle’s professional soccer team — or playing video games — Frei is painting.

And it’s a stroke of timely luck that he’s our latest Geek of the Week, because fans of the Sounders still have time to join us for GeekWire Sounders Day on Sept. 18. Our annual rooftop party is a chance to tailgate with fellow fans and tech workers and then march to the match across the street and see Frei and his mates in action.

Stefan Frei makes “The Save” during the MLS Cup against Toronto FC in 2016. (YouTube screen grab via Sounders FC)

Soccer was indeed Frei’s first passion. His family used to watch games together pretty much every day. But he was also exposed to art early on — he called his dad a “pretty good watercolor artist” — and Frei was always drawn to the fluorescent colors in graffiti.

“Art was more like an outlet, but one I really enjoyed,” Frei said. “I wish I could have studied either art or architecture in college, but the demands of being an athlete wouldn’t permit it.”

Today, Frei is creative and technical in his approach. He mainly uses acrylics, but he mixes in other mediums. His process starts with an underpainting, with drips and colors blending together.

“Then I import a picture of that into Illustrator to do some sketching on,” Frei said. “The [Microsoft] Surface Pro is perfect for when I’m on the road and still need to get work done. Once I am happy with the sketch it goes back to the canvas to add many layers of lines, some with brushes, others using an airbrush or spray can with taped lines.”

Frei brings the mindset of a goaltender to his work, paying attention to the utmost detail and really trying to become a master of many steps.

“That attention to detail and conformity to precise technique is clearly evident in my geometric parts of the work,” he said. “It’s a constant struggle to surrender and let go. The goalkeeper in me keeps trying to control and anticipate every step.”

(Sounders FC Communications Photo / Mike Fiechtner)

Frei’s appreciation for tech and his geeky side extends into his love for video games and entertainment. He’s fascinated by the technology that powers games and he’s closely following the development associated with virtual reality and artificial intelligence. He’s interested in HoloLens, untethered VR, cloud-based gaming such as Google Stadia and more.

“I just enjoy technology and love following the incredible strides we’ve made over the years,” Frei said.

When he does unplug, whether it’s from soccer, art or tech, Frei enjoys cooking and his time with his “awesome family” — wife Jenn, little Shar-Pei Cloi and not-so-little Great Dane Mobley.

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Stefan Frei:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I have been getting more serious about my art as of late. It’s always been a passion of mine but being creative has also helped me cope with the pressures that a professional athlete deals with.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? I think that art is subjective. When you walk into it being comfortable with the fact that some people will like your art and others will hate it, that puts you at ease. With that pressure dissolved it’s more enjoyable to explore what you are currently feeling or what may inspire you at that moment.

Where do you find your inspiration? Inspiration is everywhere. I find a lot of comfort in modern architecture, clean geometric lines. But it can also happen that a smell or certain feeling serves as an inspiration.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? It has to be the phone. The amount of knowledge and possibilities all in our hand wherever we are, it’s beautiful and scary at the same time.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? I have a small studio that allows me to focus on the paint that goes on the canvas, and not the paint that misses it. Having worked out of a kitchen before, I was more worried about the kitchen then the actual painting, so having my own space now is great.

Stefan Frei and his wife Jenn walk with their dog Cloi. (Photo courtesy of Stefan Frei)

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) I think balance is so important. Art has helped me tremendously to deal with the stress I feel on the soccer pitch. But it’s also a balance of precision on the field and creativity off it. So whatever you deal with at work, I’d recommend doing something that stimulates the other side of the brain when you have a moment to yourself.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows, hands down.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Picard.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time Machine.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … hire some good people to tell me how to use it best.

I once waited in line for … a midnight video game launch (may have been more than once).

Your role models: Oliver Kahn. Legendary German goalkeeper who was so inspiring to watch play. He was crazy, complete disregard for his own safety and would literally run through anything to help his teammates. A true inspiration.

Greatest game in history: Soccer?

Best gadget ever: Phone.

First computer: I built my first own computer as a junior in high school. I can’t remember what components I used, but it was a lime green mid tower.

Current phone: Samsung Galaxy.

Favorite app: I’m ashamed to say it, “Clash Royal.”

Favorite cause: Childhood cancer research.

Most important technology of 2019 I’m excited for Google Stadia. The future of cloud gaming is upon us.

Most important technology of 2021: Something that helped with global warming. Get on it people.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Embrace your geekiness. I just dragged my wife to PAX West to check out some games. Pretty sure she hated it, but she was a good sport. Whatever you’re into, chances are there are other people that are passionate about the same thing. So always work on who you are and want to be, but also be proud of that!

Website: Art by Stefan Frei

Twitter: @Stefan24Frei

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