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.

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

Who's Chihuly?

This is what I saw at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art
I felt as though I was diving in a coral reef and exploring things that would never be seen by the human eye. 
Neodymium Spears
The organic shapes that depict natural elements from the sea and nature are what gives Chihuly the edge with his glass sculpture. He gives us a look at vivid color and designs that we might never imagine. 
Did you miss the Chihuly Exhibit at Meijer Gardens? OK City has a permanent exhibit. They purchased all 18 exhibit installations plus a 55 foot tall Waterford Crystal Chandelier that is lit 24/7. It hangs in a window at the main entrance so you can see it from outside anytime day or night.
                                                                Rowboat with Floats
                                                                Ancestor White Seaforms

Wild Animal Prints in 4 Steps

4 Steps to Hand painted walls: Wild Animal Prints
Here is a beautiful design imagined by Kathy Barry a talented interior designer. This project was completed for one of her clients and they loved it! By following her design ideas I came up with this method to paint different animal skin prints on the walls of a guest bathroom. Here is how it's done:

1. Choose earth tone paint colors and mix half and half with water based glaze.
2. Use a moistened sponge to apply the paint in large organic shapes.
3. Use a marker to draw the animal print shapes on plastic. I use heavy clear plastic report covers.
The plastic is cut with an x-acto knife to create a stencil.  
Make sure to protect the surface underneath with a board or a piece of drywall. 
4. Tape the plastic stencil on the wall and brush over with glaze in the desired color.
I am using a cheap natural bristle brush because I want the finish to be rough and random.
More stripes can be added by moving the stencil around. 
Each of the different prints are created with the same technique. I used a sponge instead of a brush to apply the glaze over the leopard and giraffe stencils. Use a random design by applying the stencils at different angles. 
Results: beautiful faux finish on your walls. Now decorate the rest of the room with fun animal accents. Ask Kathy Barry if you need help. 

Art School #8: Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

Find out how you can create papier mache sculpture on your own.
This is similar to what the "Peter, Peter" sculpture looked like~ for real! Imagine the newspaper wife of Peter sitting despondantly inside with mushy pumpkin everywhere.

Freshman college art was fun. I dove in and neglected the fundamentals that are required for graduation. Who cared about graduating? That was at least 4 years away.
I took every art class I could fit into my schedule and slept, drank and ate art.

One project for design 101 was "Create an environment." It was called environmental art back then. That was before ‘green speak’ so it had nothing to do with environmental science.  Always loving sculpture and the human figure, I decided to make a paper mache doll, carve a pumpkin, and place the doll inside. After carving the pumpkin I placed it on a radiator in the back of the studio room, hoping to dry it out.  It sat there over the weekend and when I returned the pumpkin, paper mache and all, was covered in mold. The project was due that day! what could I do?

I was last to arrive in class, large cardboard box in tow. 
“Ok. Who’s first?”
Everyone took turns exhibiting their environments. There were boxes that housed rooms similar to miniature doll houses but with different settings.  Their concepts displayed everything within a small and confined space. Finally my box was opened. I lifted the pumpkin out of the box carefully. Slowly the classroom became the environment as the aroma of the moldy mass was exposed. 

 Peter’s wife sat dejectedly inside the pumpkin, her feet resting on the crumbled open side that poured out onto the table.  
No one seemed impressed at least not in a positive way but I did get an A.

If you are looking for info on paper mache this is a great link. You need to register to get into their network but it will be worth it. You will get everything you need to know about Papier Machè and if you are an artist you can create a portfolio to display and sell your work.
Paper mache info

Art School #7: "You don't have to peel the bark off a tree to find out what it looks like."

 As a freshman in college in my home town I sought out every opportunity to learn about art and practically lived in the art department. There were a few of us artists that were allowed to set up studios in a large open room that was used mostly for drawing classes. We set up dividers that were used to hang artwork and each had our very own studio space. It was a working environment and even though most of what we created would later be considered "studies" we were serious about our work. 

I decided to paint something big and made a stretcher about 10 feet long by 4 feet tall. I sized the canvas with untinted rabbit skin glue which really tightened the canvas nicely. A friend modeled for me and I drew several reclining figures in pencil. Then I enlarged the drawing with an opaque projector which superimposed the original onto the the canvas. I traced over the projected image with pencil and added acrylic color in a wash over the raw canvas. 

The result was a simple figure reclining across the horizontal canvas titled “Landscape”. Yes, it was a nude in the classical style although a very simple line drawing with subtle shading.  
                                                           drawing by Henri Mattisse

It was so large that I had no place for it and had to leave it behind when I moved on to another school. I remember seeing other cast off paintings and odd artifacts left behind in the art department. I wondered who made them and why they were left there. Didn’t the artist appreciate the attempt or feel the art was really worth anything? Selling something like that never even occurred to me so I went on my way to St. Olaf College and forgot about it. 

Then 10 years later I came back and was astonished to see that painting hanging in the student center on a prominent wall. Someone appreciated it or maybe they just thought it was cool to have a nude painting hanging there. 

Later I heard the teaching, "You don't have to peel the bark off a tree to find out what it looks like."  I still believe that today and think artists don't need shock value. The human body can be a beautiful thing but not always and not to everyone.