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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Starburst Fruit Chews

Just in time for Halloween, a candy painting. I think it is a combination of my love of painting, graphic design, pop art and of course candy.

Over the years of posting to this blog, there have been paintings of a Reeses Peanut Butter cup (my personal favorite candy),  a Twin Bing, a Hershey's Kiss, and a piece of Double Bubble. Add to the list a pack of Starbursts.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rembrandt Revisited

Of the many paintings I have created over the years, this one has always been one of my favorites. It's a painting of an old building that sits on main street in Rembrandt, Iowa which is about an hour east of where we live. I painted it in 1995 based on photos I shot on a backroads Iowa road trip taken nearly 20 years ago.

Even in 1995 the building had already seen its better days. The main street businesses that once may have thrived behind these doors and windows were gone. All that was left was the wear and tear from passing years of neglect, but it still stood straight and tall trying to maintain some sense of dignity.

Rembrandt, Iowa - painted in 1995
Well, this past summer, Denise and I spent a day cruising the backroads of NW Iowa and we happened to pass through Rembrandt once again. The building is there but it looks a bit different these days. Below is a photo as it looks today.

photo of the same building in 2013

While it basically looks the same in many ways, there are many details that show additional signs of aging and of use. I'm guessing it has primarily been used as a building for storing miscellaneous  "stuff", but each rotting window, patched board, and stored artifact has a story to tell. That's what I love about the original painting, and now many years later, it has new stories to tell.

I painted it way back in 1995 and it still hangs in our living room and I never really never tire of looking at it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fire Truck Graphics

Something a little different this week. It was Fire Prevention week recently, and the Maurice Fire Department just had their open house this past Saturday. The fire trucks were outside so I snapped a few photos with my phone.

I designed the graphics for the trucks when they purchased a new truck a couple of years ago. At least  I think it was that long ago. Time does fly. I created the graphics on the computer, and then my brother Bruce cut and applied all the vinyl lettering.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Learning Commons - Part 3

It's worth mentioning that I painted this in my garage, rather than in the studio. It would have fit in the studio, but I have to say the garage was a really great place to paint.  I cranked up the tunes and spent numerous hours sitting in a lawn chair contemplating the next phase as the piece progressed. Here is a panoramic photo with my son, Jack, taking the spotlight.

The installation in the new Learning Commons went great, due once again to the efforts of my Dad who was up to the challenge of building and stretching this large custom built canvas. Also to my brother Bruce who is a wiz when it comes to installing large works like this.

This is a photo of the finished painting taken just after installation.

So here is a little more in depth description of the painting, and the symbolism contained in the work.

It is titled "The Storehouse". Obviously, a corn crib is a storehouse for grain or corn, but it represents the new Learning Commons which is a storehouse for books and knowledge. It also represents the students and Christians as storehouses for knowledge and truth. As Christians, we believe all truth is from God, and you'll notice that there is only one way to get into this building from this viewpoint.­ It is the window above, so we are to look up, or look to God alone for guidance as we fill our storehouse.

The grasses are all blowing to the right and the clouds are moving to the right. This represents the things of this world pushing us in a worldly direction. Even the corn crib itself is not centered on the canvas, but has been pushed to the right. The shadow of the cupola (cast by God as the light) points us back toward a life centered on Christ.

Click on the photos for a larger view.

Here is a  photo that shows a little broader view of the space.

This view is as you walk in the front doors. I think this give you a sense of some of the geometric lines that are evident throughout the structure. If you get to Orange City, stop and take a look. It is easy to find and is one of the first things you will see as you enter the building.

The dedication for the new Jack and Mary DeWitt Learning Commons takes place next week Friday, September 27. I consider it a privilege to have my work as part of this wonderful addition to the campus.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Learning Commons Painting - Part 2

So you saw the proposal sketch that I submitted in May, and I was informed in June that they wanted me to paint it. "Great!", I thought to myself.

The college wanted me to talk with Robyn, the person in charge of the interior space in the Learning Commons. I spoke with her on the phone, and we discussed the painting, the wall she had in mind for the piece and a little about her thoughts and direction for the interior design.  She then suggested I tour the building with, Brent, one of the architects.

I met Brent and he showed me the wall near the entrance to the building. It was a big blue horizontal wall. This was a wall that needed a BIG painting. There is nothing like seeing a puny painting on a big wall.

I shot a couple photos of the wall and then suggested a couple sizes for the painting to Robyn. We agreed that 5'x8' was going to be about right. I had been thinking all along that is was going to be a vertical painting less than half that size.

Now it was time to rethink the scale of the painting, and also to rethink it as a horizontal instead of a horizontal. Reworking the general composition wasn't too difficult.

Robyn also sent me swatches of paint colors being used and I kept those within view throughout the project. The painting was going on the blue, so I wanted to make sure of my choices in blues and grays in particular.

I did some small color studies, utilizing a variety of paint color combinations.

 Here is the painting in an early stage. At this point I was not happy with the overall development of the painting. I was very mindful that I wanted this work to remain more graphic in style, mostly to complement the learning Commons itself–to become a natural part of the facility. That was hard for me to do, mostly because of the way I am use to working. I would normally work a great amount of detail into each and every element. I had to fight that urge. It stretched me artistically to do this, but in the end it was a sense of accomplishment. The next post will show the painting installed.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Learning Commons Painting - Part 1

It has been quite some time since I last posted. It has not been that I haven't been working on art, but rather just been busy with life and art I suppose. Or are life and art the same thing? I thought I'd share with you a project that began in April and was just installed last week.

 Back in April, a Call for Art was sent out by my alma mater, Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. They were in the final stages in constructing the new Learning Commons which is to house the college's library and information resources.

Included in the Call for Art were details of the facility, including color schemes, fabrics, surfaces and more.

Judging by these elements and after giving it some thought, I decided to submit a proposed piece of art that would be created specifically for the structure. A piece inspired by the design elements of the facility, by the purpose of the building, and by the mission of the college itself.

I really wanted to have a piece of my art selected for this library, because for the past 30 years, a large artwork of mine graced the old Ramaker Library at Northwestern. When I was a student at NWC, I painted a 4'x105' mural that has since remained on the upper level of that building. I thought it would be nice to have a piece of my work in the new library as well. I'm not certain what they plan to do with that piece, as they will be converting Ramaker into an office building for the college. I think I'll try to get in there and take some photos in the next week. I'll post those for you to see.

So, the image I submitted to the selection committee was one I created in Photoshop. It is a graphic representation of a corn crib. A simple structure, but one that has intrigued me the last few years. You see, this particular corn crib sits just to the south of the Pizza Ranch Support Center, where I work each day. I have sat in the main conference room there and gazed out the window at this structure. The light changes on it throughout the day and the simple geometric shadows have always made me want to paint it. Here is a photo of it.

Those simple shapes, angles and patterns seemed to fit with the details I saw in the Learning Commons interior design. Below is the sketch/rendering I initially submitted for consideration.

This is obviously very different in style from the way you are familiar with seeing me paint. More on that another day. To be continued...
houses the college’s library and information resources - See more at: http://www.nwciowa.edu/news/press/3465/students-to-benefit-from-campus-improvements#sthash.gtNNMyGF.dpuf
Learning Commons houses the college’s library and information resources - See more at: http://www.nwciowa.edu/news/press/3465/students-to-benefit-from-campus-improvements#sthash.gtNNMyGF.dpuf
Learning Commons houses the college’s library and information resources - See more at: http://www.nwciowa.edu/news/press/3465/students-to-benefit-from-campus-improvements#sthash.gtNNMyGF.dpuf

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Proverbs 13:12

Some time ago my long-time friend and writer Todd Thompson and I had the creative idea to select a verse from the Bible. He would write a column and I would paint a picture around the verse. The catch is we promised not to talk about our respective ideas or process. What you see and read here are the two coming together. A blind date of paint and prose, if you will.

If you're not already a regular to Todd's site "A Slice Of Life To Go", I encourage you to go there and sign up.  You'll be blessed by his writing.

We hope you'll take a minute to give us some feedback on our project. Drop us a note with your thoughts!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. - Proverbs 13:12

 This verse from Proverbs is the one we chose to inspire us. A good verse to dwell on and one not necessarily easy to visualize. I thought for quite some time on good ways to capture the scripture and the resulting painting is probably not something you'd typically see me create.

The symbolism in the painting starts with the fragile egg as a symbol of hope, wrapped in God's ribbon of love. The ribbon and knot also represent the concept of deferment or waiting on God.  Finally the mature golden leaf from the tree of life.

Below is the painting, followed by Todd's column. We hope you enjoy it.

I'm having breakfast with a friend tomorrow. When he slides into the booth across from me I know what I'm going to see.

A face numb with sadness and disbelief. Even though he's been to this cafe a hundred times or more he will look lost. He will stare at the menu like it's written in French and making the simple decision between pancakes or bacon and eggs will be paralyzing. He will sound overly cheerful in saying "yes" to the waitress when she asks if he wants coffee. Then he will fidget with the salt and pepper shakers and straighten the napkin, aligning it in perfect parallel to the silverware, wishing desperately that he could straighten out his life with the same ease.

Then he will glance around the room before making eye contact and say, "I really appreciate you taking time to talk with me." In the saying he will attempt to convey some degree of strength that both of us know he doesn't have. His world has gone from familiar ground to unknown territory. He wants to have a handle on this. He wants it to be just a matter of time before it's fixed. He wants to be on top of it.

But he's not on top of it. He's buried. He's suffocating. He knows it. As for it being just a matter of time, it's true. At this point, it's all about time. It's the question of time that's haunting him. The years that have past. And the years to come. It's the toss and turn, can't sleep at night, can't focus in the day fear that he can't shake.

And though he won't ask me the question because he knows it's pointless, he will want to. He will badly want to ask.

How long until life will be good again?

They say you can't fool kids and dogs. And you can't fool someone who's been there. That's how I know how it's going down tomorrow.

Because I've been there.

While your circumstances may be different, the core issue is the same. It's about time. Time as in, "How long, God?" How long? How long until life will be good again? How long until God answers my prayer? How long until my dream comes true? How long until the longing of my heart is realized? How long until I have resolution to my uncertainty?

How long until...?

Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."

Hope deferred. On hold. Postponed. Pushed back. Delayed. The waiting game. However you say it, it's about time.

If you're praying for a wayward child, you understand hope deferred. It seems the harder you pray, the further they run. While you bravely say, "God will take care of them" you can't help but worry. And wonder, "How long, God?"

If you're on your fourth round of chemotherapy, you understand hope deferred. You think this time you'll hear the doctor say, "It's in remission" but she doesn't and you're back to staring at the same off-white hospital walls while the IV drips and your tears run.

If you've been abandoned by your spouse, only to realize that while it was a shock to you they were planning it for a long time, you understand hope deferred. As you pick through the rubble of your relationship, you wonder how a lifetime commitment was dumped like a temporary job. And you wonder how life will ever be normal again.

If you've been on the promotion list for three years you understand hope deferred. Knowing you're more qualified than anyone else yet continue to be passed over for candidates who cut corners, play the game or happen to have the right last name. You wonder how long until you're recognized for your contributions.

If you've struggled with depression and anxiety, you understand hope deferred. Confidence, optimism, and a peaceful mind are islands you swim for everyday yet you feel like you're drowning in a sea of angst.

If you've experienced the roller coaster ride of infertility, you understand hope deferred. To endure years of expensive medical tests and invasive procedures in a long shot attempt to accomplish what two teenagers achieve in 20 minutes in the back seat of a Chevy leaves you frustrated and angry.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. So when, dear God, will we finally see some trees?

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, in part, because we feel like no progress is being made. That we're spinning our wheels when everyone around us it seems are hitting not so much as a speed bump on the way to their goals and dreams. With every day, week, month and year that passes with no apparent progress it seems we fall further and further behind.

It's about time. And time is passing us by.

Were we solely in charge of all that concerns what we hope for, that would be true. But we're not in charge. And that's the good news. God is sovereign and intimately concerned with the details of our lives. If you'll allow me a rapid fire burst of Bible references, Psalm 139 says "God had all of our days written down in His book before there was yet one of them". Ephesians 2 tells us that "we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that He prepared in advance for us to do". Philippians 1 reminds us that "God who began a good work in us will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus".And Psalm 138:8 gives us the wonderful sigh of relief promise that "God will accomplish everything that concerns us. His loyal love endures."

Which is to say that the God of the universe put purposeful thought and planning into our lives, including good works He designed for us to do. In the progression of our life, He will never quit on us or on His plans for us. And best of all, at the end of our lives everything He intended for us will be accomplished. Perhaps not everything we intended for our lives will be accomplished, but everything God purposes for us will come to fruition. Guaranteed.

Whatever is making your heart sick right now, know that progress is being made even if you can't see it. Because God is always at work, even when we're waiting. And knowing that He promises to accomplish all that concerns us brings peace as we wait.

And when our hope is no longer deferred and God's promise is finally fulfilled we'll be able to say...

"It's about time!"

"The Lord will accomplish all that concerns me." - Psalm 138:8