Sunday, January 23, 2011

In the Beginning

Summer of 85 (Mill Dam)
I want to go back to the start of my directional spraying technique and take a look at some of the art that influenced the pieces I am doing today. I had taken a summer independent study watercolor class where I intended to do on location “plein air” paintings. Things started out well and every morning I would pack up my bicycle with my equipment and some snacks and set out to find something new to paint. After a couple weeks I happened across a set of Dr. Ph. Martin’s Concentrated Watercolors while perusing an art shop. I was totally taken with the intensity of the colors and started experimenting with them in my airbrush. I had used the airbrush in college but tired of the mixing and cleaning that went along with using the tube acrylics which were pretty much the only option in the early years. It didn’t take long after finding the concentrated colors before I was spending all my time with the experimenting with the medium. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that the watercolors weren’t lightfast. The good news is that I had only sold a few pieces and was able to warn the people who bought them to keep them out of the light. It was during this time that I started to notice the subtle effects that I could achieve by spraying the colors on from different directions. I experimented with different types of paper to try to bring out the color effects but could never get the kind of texture I needed to achieve it to its fullest. By then we had moved to Minnesota. Here I met an artist friend Chris Hindle who suggested my taking a papermaking class with Walter Nottingham at UW-River Falls but that’s another story.
Summer of 85 #1

Summer of 85 # 2


Untitled #1

Untitled #2

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Leaves

As I warned in the beginning of this blog, order is not going to be a major priority and things might get a little random. In this segment for example we are going to go back to the fall of 2006. It was the weekend of September 13th and 14th. Cedar Grove had just been hit by a huge wind storm. The sound of chain saws cleaning up trees and branches could be heard everywhere. We hadn’t lost anything major in our yard but there was debris everywhere. I set out to make some paper to commemorate the event. Out of this endeavor several new techniques were born. As any artist knows, often you just go through the motions in hope that some happening or discovery will spark an idea. I had an instructor along the line who referred to them as happy accidents. This day brought a couple. It was the first time I pressed leaves into the surface of the paper to represent the leaves that were blown everywhere. I wanted to produce a paper piece that also illustrated the energy of the storm so I started whipping the wet paper with willow branches to give the surface a windblown effect. After working out some issues it became an effective way of texturing the surface and I have used it in other pieces since. After it was dry it still didn’t quite have the action I was looking for so I sprayed it with a special whirling technique, again developed for these two pieces. I then applied some molded leaves to the surface in a way to represent the blowing leaves. Until writing about my later leave pieces I had kind of forgotten about these and it was fun to revisit them.


Sunday, January 16, 2011


Autumn Leaves
This particular series is in part the result of a request by a gallery for smaller framed pieces. I purchased various sized shadow box frames and started to develop paper to fill them. It happened to be autumn when I started making the paper. Seasons have often been a source of inspiration in my work and I regularly make my paper according to the season at hand. It seems like an obvious extension of the passage of time element of my work to explore seasonal changes as well. Leaves, of one kind or another, have too been a major influence in much of my work. In early works I would often embed leaves to add texture to my paper. In my “Peace Paper” series I inserted olive branches to add texture and symbolism. Because I make all my paper outside it seems only natural to use what I have at hand in the paper. In these later pieces instead of imbedding the leaves I have pressed them into the surface and later removed them to leave an impression. Undulating colors was the driving force behind my work when I started painting these works. I was experimenting with getting some areas to recede while others advance. Although it is hard to see in the photographs, in the art itself, they really start to work.

Flowing Leaves
Blowing Leaves
Falling Leaves

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Early Undulations

Undulating Pangaea
Several years ago while doing a show at U.W. Sheboygan I was surprised to see an instructor with his students in the gallery looking at my work with 3D glasses on. He asked me if I had ever looked at my pieces through 3D glasses? When I told him I hadn’t he handed me the glasses to give it a try. It was like looking at the work for the first time. I had always been conscious of the interactions between the colors and in fact that was what had inspired the art in the first place. What I wasn’t prepared for was the depth which the glasses produced. In some cases the art appeared to be almost a foot thick. Since that day I have been striving, off and on, to get this effect without the glasses. It hasn’t been until the last year that I have really made some head way. These pieces where actually in that first show at Sheboygan. Two of them, Flutterbye and Undulations, I have since sold to The American Girl Doll Company. This group will always hold a special place in my heart because their purity and simple sophistication. I have since been able to achieve more depth in some of my pieces but I still enjoy the plethora of color when I look at these.

Rainbow Moon

Residual Trapezoid


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reflections of Home.

In my earliest art pieces the landscape is implied. The dilemma has always been how to represent the landscape without it becoming too contrived, to predictable. Because of the passing of time element in my art, landscapes seem like the perfect vehicle. It wasn’t until I started what I later referred to as the “Reflections of Home” series that I really became inspired to try landscapes. I had found some old pictures I had taken of the Mississippi valley when I was young. I have always had a fascination with the river and the bluffs that line it. Again the problem lay in how to do a landscape without compromising my overall focus and oeuvre as an artist. I found the solution in drawing the image by placing cord under a second layer of paper and then tearing it through that layer to leave an image. I wanted to continue with my original color changing principles of cool colors in the morning that warmed up as you worked your way past eventually leaving the warm colors of afternoon. It is interesting to note that the original vision for my color changing paintings had come from some early college works I titled “The Sun on the Swamp” series which traced the relationships between the swamp and the elements that worked on it. Here I was returning to those roots. I have always thought of my works as neoimpressionism. In these works I was revisiting the impressionists’ preoccupation with light change during different periods of the day. Unlike the impressionists’ I let the light change the painting. Depending on the light direction or viewers’ orientation the color will change. I am somewhat limited in my palette of colors. As an artist I have set up certain perimeters which I feel uncomfortable going outside of. Is funny how we as artist spend our early years tearing down established order only to surround ourselves with an even more rigid set of rules. At a later time I will take a look at some of my later landscapes which are done in a different method.

Mississippi 1 (left)



Mississippi 1

Mississippi 1 (right)

Mississippi 2

Mississippi Night

Mississippi 3

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hidden Agenda Series

It is long overdue but I have decided that one goal for 2011is to write a blog about my more traditional art. For this purpose I am going to hijack my Dolmen Project site for the winter. It is easy for me to make excuses to not write about my art so the first excuse to overcome is “where to start”. I have decided that since I will never resolve that issue I am going to do what I do best and just ramble.

In the spirit of the New Years I have decided to start with the “Rattletraps” or “Hidden Agenda Series”. My wife, Eileen, showed me an article on the cathartic nature of putting a decorated bottle by your bed with a note pad to write down anything that may be bothering you and lock it away in the bottle before going to bed. It reminded me of my rattletraps.

The “Rattletrap” or “Hidden Agenda” series, a succession of art pieces that rattle when you shake them, started as the result of two separate influences involving unusual ways of recording an event. The evidence of the event is later disguised so that it cannot be discovered without the destruction of the art object containing it.

The first influence was a ceramic student whom I had met in college. I have forgotten his name but I will never forget his art work. His work was the result of his traumatic experiences in Viet Nam. For him his art was therapy. He would craft slab boxes in which he would write his experiences and thoughts on the insides of the slabs. He would then seal them up, fire them and his secrets would be sealed inside. It was his way of expressing his feelings without letting them become public knowledge.

You'll Never Know

On a less serious note, an artist friend of mine, Bruce Harstad, after writing a short story, inserted the ending in an amulet made of decorated burlap, bound in leather and then sealed by dipping in beeswax. The joke was that if anybody asked about it you could say “It was none of their beeswax”. Beyond this he placed a curse on the object so that anyone who opened the amulet to read the ending would have bad luck. It was all done in fun but the idea of not ever being able to read the ending without destroying the amulet intrigued me.

These artists were the inspiration for the hidden agenda series. Without handling these pieces you would never know that anything was hidden within. But as soon as you start moving them you are troubled by the sound of objects rattling within. Again the mystery and irony of never being able to know what is hidden inside without destruction is the impetus behind these pieces (destruction is the means to knowledge).

Wine & Song

Finally the series becomes a sort of time capsule. In this light, I have decided to try to make at least one addition to the series every year. Although I will be the only one to know what is in them it is a way to record a segment of my life.

 Before the Fall

Closed Circut