Welcome to my blog about art and design. Get inspired for your next project and see what I'm working on and teaching about right now.

FACE ME; Artbeing at ArtPrize 2011

The orange and gold kinetic sculpture is now on display on Monroe Avenue across the street from the Amway Grand Plaza.

Find your name on the sculpture and see how it moves with the human touch.

The message is about people losing out on face to face interaction because of this modern era of communication. Are we just plain lazy or is the need not there?

The sculpture is made of metal and turns on a base plus moves at the elbows, wrists and neck. The face and hands are cast from a live model so they look realistic but the rest of the body is a tangled mass of metal strips.

FACE ME is ready!

Face Me is ready to be installed at ArtPrize 2011. We are taking it downtown tomorrow (becasue it's raining today and I want to make sure the paint is dry)

Good news! Face Me is one of only a handful of ArtPrize projects to make it on Kickstarter. They helped me raise the funds for Face Me and here's the video that was posted for the project campaign. Over 30 people signed up as backers for the ArtPrize sculpture and we raised enough to pay almost all the expenses.

I hate to say it but there was about $900 devoted solely to gasoline for my Ford explorer. I need a big vehicle to haul around all the stuff and the finished sculpture itself.

ArtPrize 2011; FACE ME; Artbeing. Process

The process of building FACE ME; First I came up with a concept….
Then I decided what to make it out of and looked for places to find the materials I would need….

Next I looked for people who would like to get involved. Lots of people said, "I can help!" Drew from Keller Ford helped me with used parts. He talked to the mechanics and found all kinds of cool stuff.

  Joshua and Paul Evans said, "Sure! We love to weld and cut and bend steel. We can help." 

Then I designed some fun stuff to give away to my supporters. Miriam Yisel models the medallion that the supporters of FACE ME get. Kickstarter has all the info.

You can make a keychain with it or use it as a necklace or even hang it in a picture frame. The medallions will have your name engraved and will be signed by me.

ArtPrize 2011; FACE ME; Artbeing Update

Hey, everyone! There is a lot happening and I can't keep up. I'll give you all the info I have up to this date. Look for more great photos and video Labor Day weekend.
You can see almost the whole skeleton here. The head is missing! But there will be a lot more added to this structure. You can see how it will be about 6 1/2 feet tall.
Working on the legs. See the red hot iron below. This is how we're bending it. The feet are being welded here.

The forge is fired up until the coals are nice and hot. Then the iron is placed in the coals until it's red hot and bendable. You will see lots of twists and bends in FACE ME.

ArtPrize 2011; FACE ME; Artbeing

Want to know what I'm making for ArtPrize this year? It's going to be a kinetic sculpture so the whole thing will be based on metal parts with moving joints. Here's some of the cool stuff I get to choose from. This is all stainless steel and is being dismantled by Melching Demolition. They are donating anything I can use for the sculpture. 

 Here's some of the guys at Melching, Nick, Brock and Chris. They are always happy to help.

Here's some of the stuff I will be using to make FACE ME; Artbeing. It's stainless steel and will also be used to make the  medallions which were cut from some big sheets at the scrap yard. I used a grinding wheel to smooth the edges and polish them up. Then I used  Maggie's drill press to punch the holes. You get one if you support the cause on Kickstarter.

Here I am at Melching Demolition. The wrecking ball is what they use to demolish buildings, some of what's left you can see here. I had the pleasure of choosing anything!

Drawings of the sculpture are all you get to see now but I will be posting lots of pictures of the progress starting tomorrow. There will be a lot happening in the next few weeks with only about 5 weeks to go before ArtPrize begins.

ArtPrize; The Story of Rain, chapter 9

ArtPrize Sculpture Dedicated at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

By Rachael Recker | The Grand Rapids Press
 Rick DeVos, founder of ArtPrize, and Anna Donahue wait to speak at the dedication ceremony.
Anna Donahue, far left, talks about her sculpture, Rain, at Mary Free Bed.

GRAND RAPIDS -- A CAT scan at age 1 revealed that now-28-year-old Emily Donahue suffered a stroke at about 2 months old. A bronzed ArtPrize sculpture depicting Donahue, dedicated Monday morning to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, reveals a sense of hope and inspiration to future patients.

"I felt that any patient to be wheeled into this area ... they would think, 'If she can do it, I can do it," said Betsy Mathiesen, a Mary Free Bed Guild member who headed the fundraising campaign on behalf of the guild to purchase the $18,000 ArtPrize '09 sculpture with private donations.

"Rain," created by Emily's aunt -- Grand Rapids artist Anna Donahue -- was bronzed and re-positioned in the same location in which it was displayed during the inaugural art competition. Mary Free Bed will be an ArtPrize venue again this year.

The outdoor sculpture of a young female holding a leaf in her bent right arm -- Emily's paralyzed arm -- can been seen on the lawn off the hospital's main entrance off Wealthy Street.  Emily, of Comstock Park, received physical therapy treatments at Mary Free Bed at age 3, 8 and 16.

"I think it's more beautiful," Anna Donahue said about the sculpture being bronzed -- a $10,000 endeavor -- for its permanent home at the hospital. "The coloring is more natural."
ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos spoke at the dedication, expressing surprise at the stories that continue to emerge from the not-yet-year-old art competition.

"It's amazing to see everything that has come out of it," DeVos said. "I'm just happy that we could be a catalyst for this."

 For more information, visitartprize.org or The Press' ArtPrize site.

ArtPrize 2011; My Venue

My kinetic sculpture for ArtPrize 2011 will be exhibited at The Calder Plaza Building on Monroe Avenue. The venue is using the wide sidewalk space in front of the building for three different artist's sculptures. This sounds like a great location because it is right across the street from DeVos Hall which will be a busy venue for ArtPrize.

The concept for this kinetic sculpture is about spending face time with one another. We are losing touch physically because of modern technology and the ease of communicating. My design will include the use of kinetics for movement in the hands and face of this life size sculpture of a person. The body will be industrial and the hands and face will be casts from a live model.

Artists are now matching up with venues and by the end of June there should be at least 2,000 artists placed. Then we have a couple of months to do the final work on our art pieces for display in September.

Madame Gamborota's Art Critique

The town of Assisi, where everything is covered in stone and marble. My first impression was, "What a dreary looking town. There's not much green here and it looks like everything's covered in cement." It wasn't tourist season either so there were very few people around.

 I remember one old staircase we climbed that was worn with a deep curve on every step. It was solid marble and 1,000 years old. How many feet had climbed up and down those worn treads?

The steps led to the apartment of an American lady who had lived in Assisi since World War II. She was someone who had a deep appreciation for the art all around her. The apartment had a single window up high on a wall in the kitchen with a view of a stone wall. The rooms were spacious and we all sat down on the furniture and the floor as Madame Gamborota poured us each a small shot glass of Gamborota.

She told the story of what that name means. She had a limp and complained of rheumatism so she went down to the local storekeeper to ask for a remedy. The shopkeeper said, " Oh Senora Gamborota, you have Gamborota in your leg and you need to drink a little Gamborota to ease the pain." It's all Italian, of course, so I still don't know the exact translation of what that means. The important thing was that she was in the right place. Her name meant something there, her malady had the same name and there surprisingly was a remedy, with the same name. She always kept a bottle of the liqueur handy.

Then Madame Gamborota talked about the color of several stones and a small marble sculpture that sat in the center of the room. For some reason everyone looked at me when the questions began. I was not sure how to respond but did my best to answer her color quiz. She very politely explained how I was all wrong and challenged us to see color everywhere and in everything. Gray and brown have underlying hues that the average person doesn't really notice but it was important for the artist to see color.

Later as we were walking back to the bus I thought about what colors I could see in the gray stone that covered absolutely everything. The sun was setting and now the missing hues showed up.

It's easy to see the small town of Assisi in one day and you can enjoy walking it's marble covered streets and staircases.  Assisi info for the traveler tells you all about what to expect.

ArtPrize #3 Kinetic Sculpture

This year I debated about entering ArtPrize but gave in to the creative urge to do whatever I want. Usually I am designing and creating on commission so I don't always get to do everything exactly the way I would like. ArtPrize gives me the opportunity to really express myself and have fun with the creative process.

Here are some sketches I came up with to illustrate my concept. I am using my past ArtPrize sculptures as a springboard for this new project.

The hands and face will be made of ceramic or plastics but ideally I would like to use bronze. 

The kinetic sculpture, Face Me, stands about 6
feet high and the structure or body is made of steel. There are rotating joints that connect the
moving parts to the steel. The hands and face are designed to resemble reality and have the same anatomical movement of a live person. The hands and face rotate 180 degrees on an axis and the steel arms are also jointed at the elbow to add more movement. The only restriction will be at the elbows to prevent the hands and face from touching one another. This restriction is part of the message of the piece; the face being separated from physical touch and the hands also being “tied.” The original design calls for ceramic hands and face but I will adjust that to urathane plastic or bronze if the sculpture is exhibited outdoors.

The viewers on the right are about the same height as the sculpture on 
the left that I have named "Face Me."

Art School #9 Caravaggio

Renaissance Art History was the subject so we saw all kinds of antiquated artifacts and architecture.
Thirty students were touring on a semester break in January to earn some extra credit. Most were not serious artists but rich kids who's parents could afford to send them off on an adventure. What's the easiest A in college? You guessed it, Art History.

That was perplexing to me because no one else in the group (except for the professor) seemed to have a true interest or appreciation in what we were experiencing. I soaked it in and captured it's essence on paper. We were supposed to keep a journal but I used a sketch book instead and drew everywhere we went.
The schedule was full and we entered at least one Catholic edifice every day. That is where most of the art in Italy was and we searched out every nook and cranny. 

One day we walked to Santa Maria del Popolo to see something special. We entered the empty sanctuary and saw a scaffolding towering up to the ceiling. Ongoing restoration projects were a common site and this time we saw a fresco in process. Unfortunately artisans actually working was a less common sight.

There was no one there to tell us where to find our treasure. The light was so dim that we needed a flashlight to find it. We stumbled around and peered into every corner. Just when we were ready to give up hope of finding it someone spotted it in the shadows. The professor scanned the flashlight over pieces of the huge painting; first a horse and then a body laying prone on the ground under the horse. He talked about fore-shortening and the significance of the artist's techniques.
 Conversion on The Way to Damascus by Caravaggio. What a sight and to think that anyone could stroll in here anytime and come right up and touch this 400 year old painting. So much art and so much to see once you found it.

Find out why this painting depicts the second most significant event in history.

Interior Design Requirement: Rosemaling

The Scandinavian interior design requirement: at least one hand painted design on something or maybe on everything! Rosemaling is an age old decorative art that is usually displayed on wood or metal dishes, platters, bowls, and furniture. The most daring rosemalers will paint doors, cabinets, walls and rafters.

The art of rosemaling is part of Norway's culture and history and if you are Norwegian you must know how to do it or at the very least know someone else who can. It's like being an American and making apple pie. Not everyone can make the pie but absolutely everyone knows what it tastes like.

Here's a sample of Elias Halling's Rogaland design. He was a master rosemaler who taught me his techniques. I learned the basics from him and then studied on my own just so I could say, "I am Norwegian and I can rosemal".

Elias made his own wooden platters and table tops and painted with artist oils. His colors and technique were refined and his designs were the most difficult style of Rosemaling. I remember watching him paint so patiently. The brush was loaded with two or three different colors for every stroke. He dabbed the brush in the first color, smoothing the paint into the bristles with swipes across the palette. Then the edge of the brush was lightly swept across another color so just the edges of the bristles touched. And sometimes another color was added to the opposite edge or the tip of the brush. Then the brush was deftly laid down on the artwork and twisted and turned to create a beautiful singular stroke. The colors blended and shaded one another and the results were a completely finished leaf. Now the process began again for the next leaf.

You would be amazed to see this small brush he used, only about 3/8 inch across and 1/2 inch long with a very long handle of course. Each finished leaf measured only about 1 1/2 inches long.

 Here are a couple of samples of what I learned from Elias:

Here is a great link to more pictures and info Now the big question: Are you Norwegian and can you rosemal?

Lightening Pope

The only modern building I saw in the entire country of Italy was the Papal Audience Hall. Opened in 1971 it was practically brand new when we were there in 1975. Here's a panorama view of the inside showing the ceiling and both sides of the room.
We were studying art history and the St. Olaf Choir was on tour as well. We all met up in Rome after touring around the countryside. One of the highlights of our stay in Rome was the special treatment we received in the Papal Audience Hall.
See the inside of the Papal Audience Hall.
We were ushered to the center front rows where we waited. I gazed at the windows and the interesting shape of the room.
See a close up of the window

 Suddenly everyone stood with a loud roar. I was surprised by the noise and the continuous flash of white light that lasted at least 5 minutes. The Pope was carried down the center aisle from the back of the room. He was actually sitting on one of those "Cleopatra" thrones just like in the movies about ancient Rome. I stood silent (probably with gaping jaw) as the applause and cameras went crazy. Once he was positioned on the stage the ceremony began and he spoke a short message in several languages. A medal was produced and our choir director was summoned to the stage. This was an historic moment since we represented a Lutheran college and this was the first time in history that a Catholic Pope bestowed this honor on a protestant. I was completely clueless until later about the significance of all that took place.
What really impressed me about the whole event was seeing the huge oval stained glass windows, one on either side of this gigantic wave room. The windows were glowing with color as the morning sun shown in.

Ever Eat Snap Dragons?

Love the look and they taste great too. What a wonderful way to decorate a plate…..with edible flowers!
 Savory crackers with crab salad and snap dragons or pansies. I found these where the fresh herbs are displayed in the produce section at Meijers.

Who are the Wyeths?

The Wyeth exhibit at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art was so worth it!  Almost 100 beautiful works of art by 5 different Wyeths, America's most famous family of painters. Hurry, this show ends April 17.

Andrew Wyeth's famous painting "Christina's World" 
You can see the original at NY Museum of Modern Art

Most of the exhibit shows work by N.C. Wyeth and his son,  Andrew Wyeth, the shining star of the family. There are several early works by Andrew that demonstrate how his style developed. Trained by his father, he brings realism to life with exceptional detail. His work shows more than a picture of reality because he tells a story from a  specific moment in time. Every detail seems to have special meaning for Andrew and the complexity of his style contradicts the simplicity of his subjects. “ If I can get beyond the subject to the object , then it has a deeper meaning......I can never get close enough to an object or inside of it enough.”
N.C. Wyeth became famous for his illustrations and is known for his work on “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped” by R.L.Stevenson. It was his popularity as an illustrator that brought notoriety to his family. Because of his success as an illustrator he was never able to establish himself as a studio artist. However, several memorable seascapes and landscapes from his New England surroundings endure. 

His daughter Henriette is skilled in the tenets of realism and 2 oil paintings in the Kalamazoo exhibit show her ability. I was surprised and impressed by “Blue Cineraria”, a still life with flowers. The other is a life-like image of a man called “Portrait of Chookie”.
Jamie Wyeth is Andrew’s son and is a prolific artist with several paintings that show the progression of his painting career. It is obvious that he too carries on the family tradition of realism. He studied under his Aunt Carolyn whose compositions are creative but outside the ultra-realistic Wyeth style. He is known for his sensitive style and was sought after as a portrait artist.

My personal favorite, "Wind From the Sea" by Andrew Wyeth

On Safari

This safari scene is a little daunting as you step down the staircase. What are all those beasts and why are they staring at me? I can't tell you their names. Do you know what they are?

Dr. John Ludwig loves to hunt and these are a few of his trophies from Africa. I painted the background scene with a watercolor wash and some impressionist scenery. The detail is very subtle so you can't see too much here. The painting is designed to create a grassland for the display area, a staircase. We added the woven wood blind that hangs from the ceiling. Notice the real grass and wood used with the mounts.

At the landing is this beautiful mount on a pedestal.
                                      Black and white beauty with leathal horns.
These two friendly beasts greet you as you turn past the landing

The final two are waiting at the bottom of the staircase. The one on the right looks a little cranky.

If you can name any of the above you win the unofficial "Name the African Animal Award" 


I teach a class about once a month at Rest Haven Homes in Grand Rapids, MI. This is an opportunity for any of the residents to learn about fine art. Our objective is to study and practice fine art techniques. Today we are learning about Monet and impressionism. 
Short brush strokes and lots of color.
White or yellow is added for the light reflective quality.
Using one of Monet's paintings for inspiration helps.
Another interpretation of the same painting.
Flower Garden by Monet
 Critics panned the concept of impressionism and made fun of Monet and his contemporaries but today this is one of the most popular classic styles.

This is the painting that started the Impressionist movement in 1872. It is titled Impression, Soliel Levant or Impression, Sunrise.
One of the most famous subjects: Water Lilies by Claude Monet