Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#Snapshots: My Instagram Life

My love of Instagram has come to a tangible art show. #Snapshots: My Instagram Life is a show completely made up of select Instagram photos I have posted over the last couple of years. The show is in the TePaske Gallery at Northwestern College in Orange City. There are 44 images in the show and I had a tough time narrowing it down to that since I have posted nearly 500 images. The gallery is open daily through October 16th.

The show opened on Monday and there was an opening reception Monday evening. I was truly humbled by the amazing crowd that showed up. Above is a selfie with just a portion of those who attended. Click on the panoramic image below to get a view of the gallery.

If you're not currently following me on Instagram, I invite you to do so! New followers will be entered in a drawing to be held after the show closes on October 16. I'll be drawing 5 names and each will receive one of the small photos from the show.

Search for John Vander Stelt or  jvstelt on Instagram.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tulip Festival painting -Part 3

 The unveiling of the Tulip Festival painting was a part of the Extravaganza luncheon. The event took place at the Prairie Winds Event Center, and there was a wonderful crowd on hand for the festivities. The Tulip queen, Cara Venema, and her court were present. They are such a wonderful group of young women who represent the community.

Below is the finished painting. Many of you have seen this by now, but for those who have not I'm excited to show it to you and tell you a bit more about it. I decided to title it,  A Faithful Walk.

The theme of the 75th Orange City Tulip Festival is “Remembering Our Roots.” To commemorate the 2015 festival, I wanted to paint a scene that would take a glimpse into the heritage of the community and of the festival.

The tradition of scrubbing streets began at the first festivals and 75 years later remains one of the most popular events. It led me to thoughts of painting something associated with that activity. I felt a genre painting of a father and son carrying water would be a natural subject to paint–a subject that at first glance seems simple and commonplace, but in reality says much about our shared
experience as descendants of those who worked so hard to make this place special.

In the oil painting, the sun has recently set and a warm summer glow washes over the landscape. An iconic Dutch windmill is seen in the distance and a long path extends from the mill toward a father and son in the foreground. Both are dressed in the simple clothing of the province of Volendam and the father carries buckets of water with the traditional yoke to help lighten load. The curious son, always wanting to be at his father’s side, is seen taking a curious peek inside the bucket.

I wanted to communicate a number of things through this simple scene of life as it was in the Netherlands of old. The painting stands alone as a straightforward glimpse into everyday life, but there are symbolic portions of the painting, which represent some of the things that make Orange City unique.
    •I chose the simple attire of the province of Volendam to signify the strong Dutch work ethic that embodied settlers of NW Iowa and the same work ethic that thrives today.
    •The winding path connects and leads from the present where the father and son stand, to the past with roots in the Netherlands.
    •Those who settled in Orange City were people of faith. The father
        showing the water to his son is symbolic of the faith he passes to his son. The Living Water continues being shared from generation to generation.
    • God’s faithfulness and care are represented by the sparrow, by the sheep in the distant field and by the wild flowers growing along the path.

Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation. And as you do it, you’ll say, “Give thanks to God. Call out his name. Ask him anything! Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done, spread the news of his great reputation!” –Isaiah 12:3-4

Two options of prints of the work are available for purchase at the Tulip Festival office. The first option is a traditional print on sterling paper, 75 of which are hand signed and numbered. The paper is sized at 22”x22” and the print at 18”x 18.” The signed prints are $50 each and the unsigned prints are $30 each. Print number 1/75 will be framed and auctioned off at the grand opening of Stadscentrum later this spring.

A canvas print of the work, sized at either 24”x 24” for $275 or 30”x 30″ for $325, can also be ordered through April 30.

Prints of the work can be ordered by calling the Tulip Festival office at 712-707-4510.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tulip Festival Painting - Part 2

It was a goal to make this painting have an old masters quality to it. I wanted it to have a significant warmth that would almost radiate from the work. In order to do that I used a technique of underpainting called grisaille, which is an underpainting done in nearly monochrome. Often it is done in shades of gray but I wanted the warmth to come through in the final painting, so I opted for yellows, golds and browns.

As you can see, the whole painting was completed in these tones prior to adding any other color. I had family members who saw the painting at this stage and thought it was finished. Nice of them to think that, but it was far from done!

This was at a point later as I began layering color. I tried to remain mindful that the colors not get too vibrant or vivid. Even the red of the little boy's jacket was muted to help in creating the old masters feel. 

Next blog post will show the completed painting and unveiling event.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tulip Festival Painting - Part 1

After working out the general composition and sketch for the painting, I began thinking about who would make good models for the painting. Almost immediately the family of one of my co-workers came to mind. I work with Courtney Boone, whose husband and two young sons seemed like the perfect candidates. Costuming and props were all coordinated and organized for me by Tulip Festival Director, Juliana Pennings. We all met on a sunny winter afternoon in a room with large windows in the Northwestern College Learning Commons. 

As you might guess, and as you can tell from the photo above, it required a bit of patience and a lot of coaxing to get the boys to pose for any length of time. They did great though, and in the end I was able to utilize the best portions from a handful of the 278 photos we shot! Shown in the photo above (left to right) are my wife, Denise, Ryan, Adam, Cohen and Courtney Boone.  

This is one of the early shots. Ryan (5) who is quite a bit taller then his little brother Cohen (2) had no trouble peeking in the bucket. When we started shooting photos with Cohen, I could tell that a smaller child would cause Adam to lean over a little more, which I liked. I also liked the increased angle of the yoke, the buckets being at much different levels and one hand being placed on the yoke while the other was holding a bucket.

I had told Juliana I wanted to use wooden buckets if she could find any. She was pretty relentless in searching for them. The buckets in the photos above are actually plastic buckets that have a wooden appearance. I thought they were pretty good and I could just make them a little bigger in the painting.

The next day I called her back and said I had reconsidered the buckets and wanted to take some photos of another bucket she had found as well. This vintage wooden bucket had a great aged look, and I believe was actually a bucket used for making ice cream. I was so glad that I reconsidered using this bucket! It was perfect, except for the color. In the final painting it does not have this green color.

The photos from this model shoot were essential for reference in creating the painting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sketchbook Scratching

Here's a glimpse into my Field Notes sketchbook, where some time ago I scratched out my thoughts and ideas for the Tulip Festival painting. I usually write down or sketch as many ideas as possible. Some are quite random and rarely get used, but sometimes even the smallest idea or thought can make an impact on the finished piece. Ideas can feed off one another and it sometimes take the concept in a new direction.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

75th Tulip Festival Commission

Yesterday, the announcement was made that I have been commissioned to create the commemorative artwork for the 2015 Tulip Festival celebration in Orange City. It's the 75th anniversary of the festival so it makes me feel even more honored to be selected.

The theme for the 75th festival is Remembering our Roots.  I've been busy painting and am excited to reveal the finished painting in March. Here is a link to the official press release.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Good Soil - Part 3

Here is the completed painting. I titled it Good Soil for a few reasons. We are blessed here with some of the best soil in the world. Good is an understatement. The richness of the land is portrayed in the vibrant and vivid colors in the painting. The size of the barn is large, a sign of prosperity as well. The young farmer is deep in thought, or prayer. He as well is soil, as the soil in the parable of the sower found in the Bible where the seed falls on different types of soil.

The farmer has much on his mind. His crop, the livestock, his family and many more things. All are in need of good soil.

"But the seed on the good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a good crop." - Luke 8:15

As the painting progressed, I took short video clips of the progress with my phone on an app called Cameo. It is a 2 minute video, and you can watch it here.

Below are a couple of photos taken after installation in the lobby of the bank. The painting has a great location in the new lobby area via the west entrance to the bank. Stop and take a look in person if you can.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good Soil - Part 2

Here are some photos from the the progression of the painting. The large 5'x8' blank canvas was built by my Dad. I then added the base coats of gesso, which is an acrylic base coat. As you can see in the first photo, that was done in my garage.

Looking at a blank canvas, especially one this size, is always exciting to me–to imagine all the possibilities and color that will be layered on it to make it come to life.

The next photos show the painting at various stages that took approximately two months to complete.

The dog was added at the request of the bank president. He had a similar dog when he was a boy.

My knowledge of cattle is pretty limited, but it was fun painting the rich reddish browns of these herefords.

My oldest son, Joe, served as the model for the farmer.

The farmers cap was later turned to green and gold. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of farmers who would prefer it to be red. More posts to follow.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Good Soil - Part 1

I spent the last few months working on another large commission. I thought I'd try to post a couple things from that, and how it progressed.

The painting was for the lobby of a new addition to American State Bank in Sioux Center. American State Bank is one of Iowa's largest lenders in agriculture. Thus the farmer and agriculture were to be a primary focus of the painting.

The owner of the bank, and the interior designer had both seen the painting I did for the Northwestern College Learning Commons, and liked it. They wanted this piece done in a similar style. Below are the original two concept sketches I submitted. I took the sketches into Photoshop and superimposed them on the stone wall where the painting would hang, to give a good idea of the scale and effect they would have in the lobby environment.

After reviewing the sketches, they preferred the version with the younger farmer, but wondered if I could incorporate some livestock as this is also a significant portion of their business. I went back and came up with what became the working composition below.

I'll soon be posting some photos of how the painting developed over the course of the summer. I started painting the beginning of July and finished it the end of August.

Monday, January 13, 2014


The paintbrushes have been taking a rest–or I suppose in all honesty, I have.

This is another small painting of candy that I just finished. The Bit-O-Honey candy has always been somewhat underrated in my opinion. Maybe it is because it is wrapped to look like a candy bar, but when you open it, it is more of a taffy. Is that what you'd call it? Whatever it is, I have always liked it.

Invented in 1924 and currently made by the Pearson's Candy Company of St. Paul, MN. Here is a look at what the wrapper looked like back in 1969.