Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

The 2011 Vander Stelt Gazette

It is hard to believe another year has passed us by again. We have a lot to be thankful for here at the Vander Stelt household and looking back on the year we have some really great memories. If you click on the photo above, the link is suppose to open a copy of our annual Christmas newsletter. I'm not sure if I got the code embedded correctly, so if it doesn't work I guess you're out of luck.

I need to admit that every year I complain and threaten that this is going to be the last year I write it because it is too much work. We send out more of these than I'd care to admit. I suppose it is my yearly contribution to help save the United States Postal Service.

This is the 23rd consecutive year for the Gazette. We always save at least a couple copies of each issue, and each year when I begin writing, I grab all the old issues to get inspired and to reminisce a bit. It always brings a smile to my face as I read stories of the vacations we have taken or of the things the kids have done over the years.

Typically we start working on the content a week or two after Thanksgiving, and try to publish by mid-December. It has always been a two page document, but it started in black and white 23 years ago and in 2000 it was upgraded to color. You can also see the improvements in computer technology, printing and probably my design skills because looking back at some of the early issues, they look pretty crude in style compared to issue 23. But even though it is 23 years later, it is still an awful lot of work. Maybe I'll give up doing it next year.

Merry Christmas from the Vander Stelts

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Angels' Song

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than three weeks away. Our little town is rather known in the area as a place to come and view outdoor Christmas lighting and displays. I have shown some of my lawn displays in the past, and decided to paint a new one this year.

I also thought it might be fun to take a few snapshots of it as it progressed so you could see how it developed. Above you can see the first shot I took.

This is at the point where I started to block in the fiery bright angelic colors. It started to come to life a bit more at this point.

Here is a close-up at an early stage of a shepherd's face. This particular shepherd is probably my favorite. I didn't put a lot of time into any of the figures, mostly because people are almost always driving past and viewing it from the road. Viewing from that distance forgives a lot of errors.

This is a closeup of the lower part of the angel. This was probably the most fun to paint. Free flowing paint and brilliant colors.

We put it out in the front yard on Wednesday of last week. The paint was not fully dry, but we put it out anyway. It snowed 3-4 inches this weekend, so it looks really nice surrounded by a fresh layer of the white stuff.

The Angels' Song
Here is a little better look at the entire finished piece. It is what I would call a very traditional interpretation of this scene–one you might see in a Sunday school classroom. I think people are drawn to the traditional images and music that permeate the Christmas season.

If you are in the area, I invite you to come view the lights as well as the new painting at the Vander Stelts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Santa Fe

Here are a few photos I shot on a trip that Denise and I took to Santa Fe, New Mexico this fall. It is a place I've always wanted to see and it lived up to my expectations. The color, architecture, culture, food and art were all wonderful.

The Taos Pueblo

El Sanctuario de Chimayo
I've been working on a large new painting for Christmas. I hope to have it done soon so we can put it out on our front yard for display this Christmas season. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dad's Profile

Dad's Profile | 6"x6" | oil on hardboard
My Dad is always a good subject for a portrait. He has had a big white beard for many years and turns the heads of a lot of small children at Christmas time.

I remember drawing his profile when I was a kid. I don't know if that drawing is still around or not. There is something I like about a profile. The window light streaming into the room really worked perfectly in adding dimension to his face. This was based on a photo I took after a Sunday dinner at my brother Bruces' house.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Todd's Cottonwoods

This is a quick sketch I did as my contribution to a 50th birthday scrapbook created by many of my co-workers for our company president and friend, Adrie Groeneweg. Adrie likes nature and particularly trees. I even did a tree commission for him a couple years ago.

I based this sketch on a photo posted on Facebook and shot by another friend, Todd Thompson. In addition to being a great writer and friend, Todd has a good eye for photography too. He says about these trees "My two favorite trees in the world. Cottonwoods. My great uncle L.D. moved here in 1914 and he said they were big trees then."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I hope you're having a good summer. It has been busy here, but good. A little over a week ago I was fortunate to be able to attend a design conference in Chicago–what a great city. While there, I squeezed in a few hours at the Art Institute, which is one of my favorite museums. I had not been there in many years so it was a real treat to see some of my old favorites as well as see the new modern art wing and find a few new gems.

Penitent Saint Peter, Jusepe de Ribera
Of all the pieces I viewed during my visit to the Art Institute, this is the one that really grabbed me this time. I am not really familiar with this Spanish artist who painted this around 1628, but the face of Peter was just amazing.

Penitent Saint Peter, (detail)
To me, the artist captured vividly just what Peter must have felt like after denying Jesus three times.

Cloud Gate (aka "The Bean") by Anish Kapoor
This sculpture in the Millenium Park, next door to the Art Institute, is truly a magnet for people. I was drawn to it numerous times during my four day visit. It's hard to describe the experience or even why this huge chrome bean is so appealing, but if you are in the windy city, it is worth stopping to see.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Slice of Tuscan Roma

A Slice of Tuscan Roma | 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

I've been thinking about painting a slice of Pizza Ranch pizza for a long time, and when fellow artist and friend, Darren Mauer, recently painted a slice of El Fredos pizza (a Sioux City landmark) it got me motivated to tackle the subject.

I shot a few snapshots of this slice a few weeks ago one night when we were having dinner at the Ranch. The Tuscan Roma pizza is a simple classic that combines tomato and spinach toppings with an alfredo sauce on a crispy thin crust. It's one of my favorites. The lighting was poor for shooting photos, and it made using the reference photo a little more difficult.

I do wonder if a slice of pepperoni may have been easier to paint.

Interested in buying this painting?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

View of Landscape West of Maurice

View of Landscape West of Maurice | 30"x40" | oil on canvas

This is a fairly large work that I recently bartered for a new custom iron railing created by, Lauren Ochsner, a talented local artisan. His acreage can actually be seen in the distance toward the far right of the painting.

Lauren stopped me on the street not long after I delivered the painting. He said he had already framed it and hung it in his home. One of his adult sons saw it and said, "Dad, I'd like to have that after you and Mom are gone." Well, we both had a chuckle over that, but it did make me feel pretty good.

I think it's one of the things I enjoy most about being an artist–that hopefully many of my pieces will be enjoyed long after I leave this earth. I know I still continue to get constant enjoyment out of viewing the paintings of my grandfather, and he has been gone nearly 40 years already.

This painting reminds me of those 17th century Dutch landscapes that I love so much. Flat land with big billowing clouds.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Monoprep

The Monoprep | 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

Recently I received an e-mail from, Erica, one of my blog readers who is a marketing specialist for Arcadia Publishing. Arcadia is best known for its popular Images of America series, which chronicles the history of communities all across the country. Each title celebrates a town or region, bringing to life the people, places, and events that define the community.

Arcadia is releasing two new titles, both featuring Iowa. One is Eastern Iowa's Aviation History and the other is a postcard history of Waterloo. Erica sent me advance copies of the books and I decided to paint one of the images. Both books are packed with wonderful historic images of their subjects.

I chose the Monoprep to paint. This plane cost $1650 and was ordered from the Velie Company by Glen and Ada Phelps of Davenport. Quoting from the book:

The Phelp's Monoprep was completed in March of 1930 and flown to Davenport's Cram Field. Glen surprised Ada, who had not seen the completed airplane, pointing it out as they drove over the hill on Division Street toward the airport. "See that down there? That's ours," he said.

Book covers

Submit a comment or send me an e-mail to be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a copy of one of these books.

Both books will be available May 2.
Eastern Iowa's Aviation Heritage, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888) 313-2665

Waterloo, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888) 313-2665

Interested in buying The Monoprep

Monday, April 25, 2011

Orange and Blue

Orange and Blue | 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

A little orange and a little blue. This is a painting I completed some time ago, but had not yet posted.

There are paintings that I complete and am excited to post, and then there are others (like this one) that end up in a different place than I would like – in other words, I don't like it. For whatever reasons, this piece didn't end up a masterpiece, but I thought it might be a good thing for me to show you a piece I'm not happy with.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Show and Tell

Dordt AIGA Poster

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Dordt College AIGA meeting in Sioux Center, Iowa. The AIGA is a national association committed to the advancement of design. David Versluis invited me to share my story of art and design with the group.

I am not a speaker, but thought this would be a non-threatening group who share my interests and passion for art and design. I loaded a box full of paintings, printed catalogs, advertising and even the Pizza Ranch NASCAR car I designed. To me it was a bit like Show and Tell in grade school. Do they still do that in school?

If you'd like to read more, here is a link to the notes taken during the talk and posted on the Dordt AIGA blog.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Coke Red

Coke Red | 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

I was walking through the grocery store with my wife a few weeks ago, and spotted some classic Coca-Cola 8oz. bottles alongside these sleek new red aluminum versions. I love the look and shape of the old iconic bottles, but have to admit these sleek red containers are very cool looking. I thought it might make a good painting so I picked up one of each.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Haman's Ear

Haman's Ear | 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

The festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in Ancient Persia from Haman's plot "to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day." My wife recently led a Bible study on the book of Esther where the story unfolds. This year Purim is celebrated March 19 beginning at sundown.

On the final day of the Bible study, Denise, baked these Jewish cookies called Hamantashen, which translates means "Haman's Pockets or Haman's Hat", but in Israel they are gleefully tagged "Haman's Ears." The name comes from a legend describing the evil Haman as a man with ugly, twisted ears.

I thought they were beautiful cookies, so why not paint one?

Interested in buying Haman's Ear

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Zippo | 6"x6" | oil on hardboard

I found a new painting challenge website this week, and was drawn to the image like ...a moth to a flame. A Zippo flame that is. The classic shape of the Zippo lighter was created in the early 1930s and was popularized throughout America and the world after American soldiers carried them in WWII.

Part of the painting challenge was to paint the photo using only three colors–Ultramarine blue (a deep royal blue), Burnt Sienna (a deep rusty color), and Titanium White. You can check out a ton of other interpretations by going to the DPW Challenge. There are currently 99 versions, and counting.

Interested in buying Zippo?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bill's Apple Blossoms

Bill's Apple Blossoms | 6"x6" | oil on hardboard

It seems like the right time to post something that gives us all a little glimpse of spring. Especially considering it is 4 below zero outside as I type this.

My neighbor has a couple young apple trees and these blossoms are from this past spring. It won't be long and we'll be looking at them in bloom once again. Right?

Interested in buying Apple Blossoms

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Milwaukee Wiener House

Milwaukee Wiener House | 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

This is a Sioux City landmark. The Milwaukee Wiener House has been an institution in Sioux City for over 90 years. There are a few historic hot dog joints in the city and a nice article describing them was published in the Sioux City Journal recently.

Old advertising posted on the wall of the Wiener House boasts that it has served 4,000,000 hot dogs, but Gus Demetroulis says that statistic was true when he and his partner Thomas Eliades took over the restaurant in 1960. Today, Tom's sons Mike and John run the place and estimate that the current tally is likely close to 10,000,000 wieners sold.

I also should mention that it was featured just last week on one of my new favorite blogs called Iowa Backroads. The blog features a daily photo of an Iowa building and also a brief history of the building or the community it is in.
Ironically, they featured the Milwaukee Wiener House last week at the same time I was starting this painting. What are the chances of that happening?

Let me know if you're interested in buying the painting of Milwaukee Wiener House?

Amy Van Roekel

If you recall, Amy Van Roekel, from Orange City won the drawing for the painting recently. She was so happy to receive the painting and is going to give it a nice home on her mantle. That makes me happy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly on Toast

Peanut Butter & Jelly on Toast | 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

It's one of my favorite things in the world. Peanut butter and jelly on toast. I've seen a number of other artists tackle peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a subject, but toast is my preferred platform for the famous combination.

I used a reference photo I took on a sunny saturday morning as I prepared my breakfast, with the warm sunlight skimming directly across the plate of toast. I'd like to think that sunlit feeling comes through in the painting.

I picked strawberry this day, but I think grape may have been a better choice. Perhaps another time.

Interested in buying PB&J on Toast

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gray Day

Gray Day| 5"x7" | oil on hardboard

We've been having our fair share of gray days lately. I don't mind them occasionally, but I think they do begin to affect my mood when we have too many of them in a row. It was good to see the sun today.

I suppose it is ironic, because gray is actually one of my favorite colors. The simple composition and color scheme of this piece are appealing to me.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Saturday Evening Post cover 1945 - Norman Rockwell

The new year is officially here. The guy in this Rockwell cover from 1945 seems to be contemplating what lies ahead of him on the first day of 1946. Whether it is 1946 or 2011, we all have some of those same feelings as we anticipate the start of a new year and the opportunities, challenges and successes that are sure to be a part of it.

Thanks for the many extra comments and words of encouragement about my Snowy Creek near Maurice painting. I did the drawing for the painting yesterday, and the painting is going to Amy Van Roekel. Congratulations, Amy.

Happy new year.