Monday, January 2, 2017

Iowa State Bank of Ireton

It's a new year and I recently finished the year with a small commission for Iowa State Bank. They did a complete update to the exterior of their bank in Ireton this past summer and the building looks completely different than when I painted it for them a number of years ago (see below).

The light pole and the red trash can are about the only things that remain the same from painting to painting.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Autumn's Joy - Part 3

Here is the completed painting. I titled it "Autumn's Joy" because while I never knew Autumn, I could see her joy in each of the photographs I have seen of her–particularly in the photo that inspired this painting. It was my goal to capture that same joy in this painting. 

Standing next to the finished painting are Autumn's dad and mom, Phil and Jen Elgersma. They came to the studio open house we hosted to view the painting for the first time. As you can tell by this photo, it is a large painting!

On the back of the canvas I wrote the scripture that I used as my inspiration verse while I worked on the painting. It's a verse that speaks volumes in only 10 words.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." 
- Romans 12:12

Here are some of the people who came out to see the painting at the open house in my studio.  I enjoyed seeing so many friends, family and supporters of Autumn's Center. Click on the photo for a closer look.

Here is the painting installed in its new home in Autumn's Center in Spencer.  The text beneath the painting reads:

 "Three year old Autumn Elgersma of Orange City, Iowa, passed away on October 31, 2013 as a result of injuries she received from her daycare provider. Since her passing, Autumn's light has continued to shine and it is our hope that Autumn's Center will be a place of light for you."
-Jen Elgersma, Autumn's Mom

Being asked to create this painting was an honor and opportunity I will not forget.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Autumn's Joy - Part 2

After the decision was made to rethink the orientation of the photo of Autumn and make the final painting vertical, I took the image into Photoshop and began refining the composition. 

I wanted to make the focal point of the portrait her face. I decided to bring her her up close and crop out the distractions–things like the chair and most of the table.  Doing so brought attention to her face, but her hands still wanted to dominate. Cropping the hands, and moving them slightly improved the composition, and accomplished even more in that it was a way to frame Autumn's face.

I did a complete underpainting in shades of gold and a deep purple color. This helped build values  and gave a warm glow to the final painting.

As you can see here, I changed the table and added the paper with handprints. In the snapshot they are not present, but I felt including them better communicates why her hands have paint on them and completes that thought. It also adds another set of angular lines for interest.

I should also mention that I also gave a tilt to everything. The tilt gives more youthful energy to the painting too.

I then started building the final color passes on top of the underpainting. Painting the wet paint was fun and challenging.

I changed the color on the collar of her shirt from pink to purple–Autumn's favorite color.

My next post will show you the completed painting. Until then...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Autumn's Joy - Part 1

It was 18 months ago that I was contacted by Kim Scorza, the Executive Director of Seasons Center and we met at a local coffee shop.

Seasons Center is a comprehensive Behavioral Health Center that offers a broad range of psychiatric and behavioral health services to the people of NW Iowa. There are a number of offices in area towns, but they have renamed the facility in Spencer, Autumn's Center.

Autumn's Center was named in honor of Autumn Elgersma, of Orange City, Iowa who died on October 31, 2013 after being hospitalized for two days due to the abuse she endured while in the care of her babysitter. 

During our meeting, Kim asked if I would be interested in doing a large portrait of Autumn for the new center in Spencer.  In all honesty, I really needed to give some serious thought to whether or not I wanted to take on this project. It was a painting that would need to honor Autumn's memory, celebrate her life but also be a reminder of the tragic loss of her life at age three. I took a couple weeks to think about it and finally made the decision to paint it.

The portrait was to be based on this snapshot of Autumn sitting at a table finger painting.

The painting was to go on a large tall narrow wall just inside the front doors. I decided the painting need to be vertical to best accommodate the space. A rather large piece at 54"x66". 

This decision was based on the drawings from the architect. A smaller horizontal painting wouldn't have the impact of a larger scale piece. After this small sketch was done, the project remained in the that state until the summer of 2016 when I knew I needed to get rolling. Progress on the facility was coming along and the doors would be opening in the Fall. It was time to get serious about painting again.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Time to Lie Fallow

Fallow: –adj. 1. (of land) left unseeded after being ploughed and harrowed to regain fertility for a crop. 2. (of an idea, state of mind, etc) undeveloped or inactive, but potentially useful.

It has been a year since I've posted to this blog. 

As an artist, there are times where a great deal of output happens, the work just flows and the energy is high. This past year has not been one of those times. It has been a year to lie fallow.

I attribute much of this to the passing of my Dad. He battled from June of last year, his 80th birthday, until he passed away in November. It was a hard time for him, my Mom and our family. Spending time with him and time spent in and out of the hospital weighed on everyone. He was certainly a great Dad and his influence on my life is beyond anything I could begin to write here. It was not a time to put a paintbrush to canvas. And in the months following his death the urge to paint still did not happen. 

I was not without creative efforts. My daily graphic design work continued to stimulate creative energies and my iPhone Instagram photo passion has blossomed during this year. For some reason painting stopped until this summer. 

One of my favorite artists, Chuck Close, has a quote I always liked. He said, "Inspiration is for amateurs–the rest of us just show up and get to work."

I like that and believe it for the most part, and a looming deadline on a commission I committed to 18 months ago pushed me to "show up". 

I do believe that the year to lie fallow has been a time to regain fertility to paint again. The commission is complete and ready to install and I'll be writing about it in a few upcoming posts. It feels good to be in the studio painting again, smelling the paint and mixing the colors. There is value in a time to reflect, observe and think. Life moves quickly and there is value in quiet moments.

A time to lie fallow. 

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.