My Mural and the Easter Story Part 3: “Alive with Him”

My Mural and the Easter Story Part 3: “Alive with Him”

Although this post is getting out a little late, seeing that Easter is already passed, I’d like to finish up on this series about the mural my friend Dave Mattison and I did. I saved the best part for last.

In the previous post, I showed you the image of the cross of Christ, and people stained by sin, desperately climbing out of the mire to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. All of us are in that predicament, and if all of us seek after God, we will find forgiveness flowing out from Calvary.

If we trust in the finished work of Christ–that He alone can save and wash away our sins by His blood, His death being the payment that makes us right before God, we are forgiven. The debt has been paid.

But God doesn’t stop there.

Why?

Because Jesus didn’t stop there. He died, but He didn’t stay dead in the tomb. He rose again. The stone was rolled away and the bones are not in the grave.

By the way, the historicity of Jesus resurrection is vital to the Christian faith. Jesus said He would rise again. His resurrection proved the claim that He is the Messiah who came not only to deliver the Jewish people but the Gentiles (most of us) as well.

Bethel Mural: "The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation" by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4' x 28", acrylic on panel, Panel 4 and 5

Bethel Mural: “The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation” by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4′ x 28″, acrylic on panel, Panel 4 and 5

Like the Paul the apostle said, “And if Christ is not raised, your faith is futile. You are still in your sins.” (I Corinthians 15:17)

Fortunately, proof of Jesus resurrection, although denied by some groups today, can be backed up by many accounts in the Bible, as well as a few outside the Bible, and by applying simple logic. I’m not going to go into depth on that in this post. If you want to read more on that subject, check out “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.

I want to write about the fact that Jesus’ resurrection gives us power to live a life free from the control of sin. Notice I did not say a life free from sin. I do not believe in sinless perfectionism. Some believe that once you become a Christian, it is possible to never sin again. If you are one of those people, tell me your secret! I haven’t found a person like this yet.

But if we are Christians, born again and bought by the blood of Christ, we are new creatures–alive from the dead, just like Christ is alive from the dead. We don’t live the way we used to.

As Christians, we live a life free from the control of sin.

I still have an old Zenith CRT television set in the living room–with the big glass front–you know, the “old school” TV that you often see sitting next to people’s garbage by the curb. My wife says I can’t get rid of it until it dies. I’ve had this thing since I moved out of my parents’ house in 1998! Unfortunately, it just keeps on going.

My Zenith behemoth of a TV.

My Zenith behemoth of a TV.

Fortunately, I do have a newer Vizio high-definition LCD in my upstairs room that I can use to watch the Packer games. Now imagine if I use the remote control for my old Zenith on that new Vizio. It’s not going to work. It’s not compatible with that TV. Even if I tried to program it to work for the Vizio, it still wouldn’t work, because the old remote doesn’t have the code for a new Vizio TV.

In the same way, as Christians, the old remote control of sin just isn’t compatible with who we are. Neither do the features of the old compare to the new.

We’re a completely different model.

I used to work at Sears as an electronics sales associate just when the new high definition flat screen TVs were hitting the market. The difference between the old and new technology is like night and day.

Sure, I can take my old analog Zenith, and hook up a converter box to it so I can still watch digital broadcasts, but it’s just not the same. The picture is downgraded and fuzzy. (I can’t even make out the scoreboard in a Packer game!) It’s not even close to the clarity you get watching a high-definition broadcast on a high definition TV.

To get the full picture, to get the benefits of being a Christian–peace, joy, a life free from the control of sin–I’ve got to be living like I’m a new person.

And if I am born again, I am a new person, a new creation in Christ and I have those benefits available to me. Why would I want to enjoy the show (live my life) on the old set when I’ve got the new?

But becoming and living as a Christian is more than just a choice that we make. It is a work of God, transforming us from something dead into something alive. And no, this is not like Frankenstein’s monster, who was an hideous amalgamation of body parts stitched together from various corpses, animated by a massive spark of electricity. We are beautiful, a unique masterpiece created by God!

As an artist, I can appreciate that. I tell you what, in the middle of doing a painting, sometimes it looks pretty sketchy. My wife has peeked in on me while I’m working on a portrait, and said, “Matt, it doesn’t look like them. I’m not sure if you can pull this one off.”

Um, thanks.

Well, she knows I can take it! It’s a work in progress. With God’s help, sooner or later, I almost always “pull it off.”

Before and After: Portrait of Pastor and Mrs. Palser, acrylic on canvas

Before and After: Portrait of Pastor and Mrs. Palser, acrylic on canvas

Now think about God–the master artist. How much more is He going to be able to “pull it off?” I tell you, He’s going to be able to finish the work He started in you, every time. Just don’t be a canvas that runs away out of the studio! Let the Master do His thing.

“And He died for all, that those who live, should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Are you a part of “all”? Then this applies to you too. When we are trust in Jesus, have faith in Him, and are born again, because of the work God has done in us, we won’t even want to live for ourselves. Our natural response will be to live for the one who gave us life, out of gratitude, not out of begrudging duty. God gives us His Holy Spirit to help us to follow Him too. In the mural, that is symbolized by the dove. The Holy Spirit is gentle and yet very powerful. Jesus gave Him to us as a gift.

Bethel Mural: "The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation" by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4' x 28", acrylic on panel, Panel 4 and 5

Bethel Mural: “The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation” by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4′ x 28″, acrylic on panel, Panel 4, detail

If you’ve been a Christian for a while like me (15 years now) you can lose the spark you once had as you begin to think you have to do certain things to keep yourself saved or acceptable before God. You may find reading your Bible, praying, going to church, talking to others about Jesus is not exciting or even interesting like it once was.

There is only one thing that will truly motivate you to live a life pleasing to God. Remember what Jesus did for you on the cross, and thank Him. 

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

When your world is falling apart, remember that Jesus has risen. Out of the darkness and despair of of the crucifixion, Jesus arose, emerging out of the tomb, like a conqueror, with his foot on the neck of Death. He will enter into your life if you let Him, and light will arise in the darkness!

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Good Friday: My Mural and the Easter Story Part 2

Good Friday: My Mural and the Easter Story Part 2

Last week, I wrote about the 4′ x 28′ mural my friend Dave Mattison and I did for our church, illustrating the Gospel message from Genesis to Revelation. In that post, I showed some images of creation, the fall with the sin Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden, the flood with Noah’s ark, and then the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments reveal to us, like a mirror showing any dirt on our face, how we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Being that it’s Good Friday, I want to share the middle section of the mural, what it’s about and what it means to me, and how I think it can speak to all of us.

Before I do that, though, I’ll share the panel before it.

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation," 4' x 28', acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 3

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,” 4′ x 28′, acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 3.

There’s not a lot here, except a lot of darkness. This is how it is for all of us before God reveals to us the awesomeness of His Son Jesus Christ. The river flowing below is black with the venom of sin. Death, destruction, and devastation covers the earth.

Above however, we do see the rainbow, symbolizing the promise of God that He would never again the flood the whole earth as He did in Noah’s day. I think it’s also a symbol of God’s mercy being extended to us.

In the middle panel, we have the cross of Christ. Notice Jesus is not on the cross.

Why?

Because He is up in heaven right, seated at His Father’s right hand.

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation," 4' x 28', acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 4, detail

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,” 4′ x 28′, acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 4, detail

There are churches depicting Jesus as being on the cross, and although I think they do it that way to help us to remember His passion, we have to remember that He died once for us. He was sacrificed once for us. He does not go perpetually, and is not offered up repeatedly on an altar for us. That happened once in history almost 2,000 years ago, but His blood keeps on cleansing from our sin.

In the last post, I mentioned how our sin is missing the mark of God’s perfection. In order to appreciate what Jesus has done for us, we have to recognize the seriousness of our sin, and that God must punish our sins to accord with His own sense of justice.

A little child can understand why sin has to be punished.

When my daughter was about 3 or 4, we were reading through the book of Romans in the Bible one night, and she asked me about how people can go to hell and if that’s fair for God to send people there?

I motioned toward the window, and asked her “What would you think if there was a police officer sitting in his car in the parking lot, and a guy came up to an old lady and beat her and took her purse, but the police officer saw it but did nothing to help her?”

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Police officer standing by (public domain image)

“That would be bad,” she replied. “He should have helped the lady!”

I would go further and say that the police officer would be as bad as the criminal!

Here’s another example, borrowed from a preacher…

Imagine that you return home one night to find your family brutally murdered, you catch the criminal red handed, manage somehow to wrestle him to the ground, and tie him up. You call the police and they take him away.

Later, at the trial, with every shred of evidence clearly convicting the criminal of murder, the judge says, “I know you are guilty. But I’m a good judge, and today it’s your lucky day. I’m going to let you go free!”

What would you do?

I think you would call and write everyone you knew–the newspapers, the governor, saying that there is a judge on the bench more wicked that the criminal he just acquitted!

If we expect a judge to be just and do his duty, how can we expect the Judge of all the earth to not do His?

God cannot just let us off the hook. Sin must be punished.

God, knowing beforehand what needed to be done, did something about it! He sent His Son Jesus, who is both completely God and completely Man, to live a perfect life on this earth, and take our place on the cross, being punished for our sins.

Although we have sinned in many ways–lying, stealing, gossip, slander, lust, etc–Jesus never sinned even once. He always did what God the Father wanted Him to do.

Justice demands a payment. If you break the law, and get fined, you either have to pay or go to jail. But if you are broke, (which we all are, spiritually speaking) and someone offers to pay your fine, the debt is satisfied, and you can go free.

The Bible says, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness for sin.” Life is in the blood. God demands that blood must be shed to pay the price for sin.

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation," 4' x 28', acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 4, detail

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,” 4′ x 28′, acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 4, detail

Sin brings death, but the righteous blood of Jesus cleanses our sin, and brings us life.

Jesus was whipped, beaten and bruised, after His own people rejected Him and sentenced Him to be crucified. He was mocked and spit at. On the cross, Jesus experienced what it was like to be separated from God the Father, as he felt God’s wrath for all our sins fall upon Him.

During crucifixion day, there were about three hours of darkness that fell over the land. I believe it was during this particular time that Jesus experienced this unimaginable torment of God’s hatred of sin, focused like the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass, upon the Man who always did everything right His whole life.  Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)

The Bible says “All we like sheep have gone astray and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus literally became accursed for us, while on the cross, so that we would be free of the curse of death! When it was all done, He gave up His life, breathed His last and said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23)

When we trust in what Jesus did for us on the cross, his blood shed, his death on our behalf, we are justified. Justifed–that is a legal term meaning although we are not inherently righteous through our own behavior, we are declared righteous by God and treated as if we are! God gives His righteousness to us as a gift.

Amazing! To think that God would do that for us–while we were rebellious towards God, He made a way for us to be restored to Him. And He did this because of His great love for us. “Not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son as atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

 

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation," 4' x 28', acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 4, detail

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,” 4′ x 28′, acrylic on hardboard, by David Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 4, detail

Here we see in this detail image, the blood cleanses the black venom of sin, restoring it to a river of life flowing out our lives.  Remember the words of the famous hymn? “Oh, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” You can see the joy written on the older lady’s face as she experiences the wonder of sins forgiven!

That’s great news, that we don’t have to try to make ourselves perfect to come to God. We can “approach the throne of grace to find mercy and help in our time of need.” We can come with our fears, disappointments, hurts, and failures and bring them to the cross.

As we head into Easter, let’s think again about all the Jesus suffered for us. Let’s keep going back to the cross, remembering that there is a God who loves us, will forgive us, and continue to cleanse us of our sins if we trust in His Son.

Here is Part 3 of the story…

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My Mural and the Easter Story Part 1

My Mural and the Easter Story Part 1

Easter is just a little over a week away and I want to share a mural I created and tell you what it’s about. I think this mural correlates well with the upcoming season.

First of all, this mural was a collaborative project between my friend Dave Mattison and I, who God gave an art talent to as a middle-aged adult, when a co-worker asked him to draw a picture of a deer. His co-worker wanted to give the drawing to another guy at the factory who was goofing off and then caught like a deer in the headlights by the supervisor.

Dave said, “You know I can’t draw very well, just doodles.”

“It doesn’t have to be that good,” the coworker replied.

Later on, Dave held the pencil in his hand, ready to draw. Wanting to come up with a halfway-decent drawing, Dave thought for a moment and prayed, “Lord, you know I can’t draw, but if I hold this pencil, you could draw the deer through me!”

And that’s just what he did. The deer was very well done. I had just gotten to know Dave around this time when he told me the story. He had never really drawn anything well up until that point, but then the Lord gave him a talent to draw, just like that, out of the blue.

Seeing the way God blessed him, I wanted Dave to be a part of this mural project, and he agreed to help me with it.

Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, artists.

Dave Mattison, left, and Matt Philleo, members of Bethel Church in Eau Claire, created a seven-panel mural depicting significant events in Christian history, including Christ’s Crucifixion. In mid-December, the artists both of Eau Claire hung the mural in the church. The two posed on March 27, 2013, with the painting. Leader Telegram photo by Dan Reiland. Used with permission.

The mural Dave and I did is 28′ wide by 4′ high, consisting of a series of 4′ x 4′ hardboard panels, and it spans nearly the entire width of our church’s foyer. (You can see this mural in person at Bethel Church in Eau Claire, WI, by the way.) It is an illustration of the gospel message, that is, the Good News of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, from Genesis to Revelation. Isn’t that what Easter is about, anyway?

Before we can get to the good part, we have to set the stage.

There always has to be darkness before light can be appreciated.

Check it out in the Bible.

Genesis 1:1-3:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

In the first panel of this mural, we see that God created everything out of nothing, and it was good. You can see the beautiful, lush garden of Eden. Vegetation and flowers adorn the hills, the clouds are perfect pearls of white set in the deep blue sky; everything is just as it should be.

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation", by Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 1

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation”, by Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 1

But then we notice Adam and Eve leaving the garden in sorrow. They were cast out because they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. This is where darkness, sin and suffering entered the world. Compressing the events of several years into one image, we show them grieving not only because they are kicked out of the house, so to speak, but because their son lies dead on the ground. Their firstborn son, Cain was jealous of the younger son Abel and killed him.

In the foreground, do you notice the venom of the snake (the Devil) coming from the forbidden fruit and leaking into the stream?

This is symbolic of how sin entered the world through the temptation the Devil brought to Eve and then Adam, as they gave in and disobeyed the clear command of God. Sin is simply disobeying the commands of God. The once clear stream of human existence and consciousness has gotten muddied. People’s consciences, once clean and pure, became foggy, and eventually after years of giving into sin, downright evil. We can learn from the Bible that…

As society seems to be advancing in knowledge, the world is actually getting worse. However, God knows, and He has a plan.

In the next panel, actually even before we get to the next panel, we notice stormy clouds brewing in the background.

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation," by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, Panel 2

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,” by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, Panel 2

Then, you will notice in this second panel, Noah’s ark resting upon a mountaintop. Do you remember the story of Noah’s Ark from your childhood? The colorful picture books of lions, elephants and zebras, poking their heads out of a cartoonish, rounded boat that couldn’t even fit a few animals from your local petting zoo does nothing to help us imagine what the real ark would have looked like. On a side note, the real ark was 1 1/2 football fields long and 1 1/2  semi-truck trailers wide–plenty of room to fit young, not yet fully grown animals from every species.

The ark was needed to save the human race and animal kingdom from destruction. God sent a flood to cover the whole earth, to wipe out every living thing, except for those in the ark: Noah, his family, and pairs of each animal.

The great flood was actually an act of mercy as well as judgment.

The sons and daughters of Adam and eve–the people that lived at this time got so evil, that all their thoughts were only evil all the time. Think of skid row or the darkest corners of prison cells when no guards are watching and imagine this is what happened all over the place. God was grieved by all this sin–people forgetting Him, and hurting and destroying each other, and so judgment and cleansing came. He started things over again, fresh and brand new with the survivors in the ark.

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,"by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, panel 2, detail of ark

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,”by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, panel 2, detail of ark

However, the focal point of this panel is the two tablets of stone, coming towards you, with the Mount Sinai in the background. This may call to mind the famous “The Ten Commandments” movie with Charlson Heston. God gave Moses the law–his perfect rules and commandments to live by–to pass on to his chosen people, the nation of Israel.

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation", by Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 2

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation”, by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 2013, panel 2, detail

Not again…

Several years later, the descendants of Noah still missed the mark, and the world was full of sin as it was before. God promised He would never again wipe out the world with a flood, and instead chose Abraham and his children–the nation of Israel–to be a special group of people that would learn His ways and follow Him. They did okay at first, but eventually they lived sinful lives like their predecessors.

These commandments are not just for Israel by the way–they are for all of us. They prescribe His perfect way of living. A way where we will love God, show respect to Him as we ought to above all other things, and also love our fellow man sincerely. The law of God is good.

There is just one problem.

No one has ever been able to obey all the commandments. If you have ever lied–even once, you’ve sinned. You’ve blown it. If you have ever stolen anything, regardless of the value, you are a thief. If you have ever wanted something that belongs to another person, you missed the mark, and have been covetous. You are a lawbreaker, and so am I.

The law has one purpose, really: to show us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

"Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation," by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, panel 1, detail

“Bethel Mural: The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation,” by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, panel 1, detail

You must be perfect to get to heaven. That’s where God is, and He is perfect. You can’t have a glass of pure water with one drop of cyanide and call it fit to drink. My friend Dave, the one who created this mural with me, works at a baby formula manufacturer. In some departments, the environment is locked down and has to be so clean that everyone must wear protective suits to ensure the batches of formula don’t get infected by a foreign object, even dust from the outside.

In the same way, one speck of sin would contaminate heaven. The Bible says that God’s eyes are “too pure too look upon evil.” In other words, our sin and rebellion just can’t be tolerated in His holy presence. Heaven is clean and must stay clean to be heaven.

You don’t have to be as bad as Hitler to be thrown into hell. (In fact, as bad as Hitler was–with every single murder he committed in the most heinous ways possible, he could have been forgiven through the Savior God provided.) All of us have sinned. All of us deserve the death sentence for our crimes. “The wages of sin is death.” God, in His mercy, has restrained us through governments, laws, and a prosperous country to keep us from being as evil as we could be, if given the chance to do everything we want to do.

None of us, even on our best day, can hope to make it to heaven based on our good deeds.

God says all of our righteous deeds, when they are done to earn acceptance with Him, are like filthy rags. I’m a tall guy, but there’s no way I can jump and touch a 12 foot tall ceiling. Likewise, heaven is out of reach for me by my own efforts.

The good news is, God made a way for us to be restored to Him. He made a way for us to be perfect in His sight, and to live with Him in happiness forever! I’ll share more about that, and the other panels of this mural, in the next post. In the meantime, now is the perfect time as we head into Palm Sunday and the week before Easter, to think about our problem of sin, and how God, in His love, has provided the remedy!

Here is Part 2 of this Story…

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Meet Some of my Friends at Artisan Forge Studios

Meet Some of my Friends at Artisan Forge Studios

I‘ve been at Artisan Forge Studios now for over two months and, in that time, I’ve gotten to know several of my fellow artists and craftspeople here a little bit. I’d like to introduce you to a few of them.

Artisan Forge is aptly named–it’s a melting pot of creativity within the Chippewa Valley area–a community of artists who work together, collaborate on common themes, and yet create in an incredibly diverse range of media: welded metal sculpture, blacksmithing, pottery, glass blowing, necklace making, and painting, to name a few. It’s a great place to be!

Meet Chad Christensen, Glass Artist

Chad Christensen melting glass with his torch.

Chad Christensen melting glass with his torch.

The first artisan I’d like you to meet is Chad Christensen. He does wonderfully amazing glass sculpture consisting of hand-blown creations. Most of his work is ornamental, decorative pieces that you would be proud to hang on your Christmas tree as well as above your fireplace mantle. Colorful striations twist around the whimsical forms of crystal clear glass, shapes that remind you of seashells or an amazingly decked out soft-serve ice cream cone.

What got him started in this glass making adventure? It was winter layoffs in the roofing business and then the recent economic downturn that caused this former crane operator to seek an extra source of income.

“I needed a garage hobby and a friend of mine had recently come back from Oregon, learned a lot about glass blowing out there, and I bought a torch in the winter and started working with him,” recalled Chad.

Ground glass, the beginnings of a beautiful project.

Ground glass, the beginnings of a beautiful project.

He started glass blowing part-time as a hobby during the layoffs, and then when the bottom finally fell out of the housing market altogether, Chad had enough experience–about two year’s worth–to make a go of it full time.

“It was either that or sit on unemployment indefinitely,” he added. “I really didn’t have that much of a choice, to be honest. I kind of turned a hobby into a job, just due to a lack of options.”

Necessity is often the mother of invention. I’m glad the economic downturn sparked in an interest in Chad to take up the torch and create some fantastic works of art in glass.

In retrospect, I don’t think he’s upset that the downturn happened either.

The hot end of a glass creation in progress by Chad Christensen

The hot end of a glass creation in progress by Chad Christensen.

Glass ornaments by Chad Christensen of Christensen GlassGlass ornaments by Chad Christensen of Christensen Glass

Glass ornaments by Chad Christensen of Christensen Glass

When I asked Chad what he loves most about his job, he thought a moment and said, “I’m kind of a firebug. To be honest, it kind of tickles my inner eight-year old. Every time I fire up the torch, there’s something about it–I wouldn’t quite put it as magical, but I like that aspect of it.” (WARNING: Eight-year-olds, don’t try this at home!) 🙂

In the future, Chad plans on teaching some courses at Artisan Forge, when he gets enough torches for everyone to wield and create their own mini-masterpieces of glass work. Having seen Chad personally at his craft, I can vouch that this man is a master of glass blowing (although he admits he’s still learning ) and he’s a lot of fun to watch.

He can create, carry on a good conversation–and maybe even chew gum–all at the same time! I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work and buying some unique ornaments for Christmas.

Meet Paul Nyborg, Blacksmith

Paul Nyborg, blacksmith, shaping steel on his anvil.

Paul Nyborg, woodworker and blacksmith, shaping steel on his anvil.

Working nearby in the same shop area is blacksmith and woodworker Paul Nyborg. After finishing my conversation with Chad, I walked over and asked Paul a little about why he does what he does.

Like Chad, it seems he acquired this skill out of necessity.

“First I was doing woodworking and wanted to make my own hardware,” Paul said, who has been pounding out hot steel on the anvil since 2011, a relatively short time compared to over a decade of woodworking. He still creates with wood but spends more of his time with iron.

Paul Nyborg firing up his forge.

Paul Nyborg firing up his forge at Artisan Forge Studios, Eau Claire, WI

Years ago, this was the only way to change the shape of metal and build custom tools, hinges, and other implements. When I asked Paul why he loves blacksmithing, he replied, “I get a look you don’t see anymore. It’s an appearance you can’t reproduce with welding and fabricating.”

Paul has a large scale forge in the building, complete with crank operated bellows, and a full size anvil. It’s a lot of fun to see all that fire being put to good use!

 

Paul Nyborg heating up the iron in his forge.

Paul Nyborg heating up the iron in his forge.

 Strike while the iron's hot! Paul Nyborg, blacksmith, pounding out steel on his anvil.

Strike while the iron’s hot! Paul Nyborg, blacksmith, pounding out steel on his anvil.

Creativity and talent seems to be a part of the Nyborg name. Paul’s wife, Katie, an artist herself, is a sculptor who creates functional, precise and delicately ornamented pottery. She is currently teaching classes at Artisan Forge.

Meet Ilana Vocke, Beaded Jewelry Maker

Ilana Vocke, owner of Ilana's Bead Shop, LLC, at Artisan Forge Studios, Eau Claire, WI

Ilana Vocke, owner of Ilana’s Bead Shop, LLC, at Artisan Forge Studios, Eau Claire, WI

On the other side of the building–and also my next door studio neighbor–is Ilana Vocke, a beaded jewelry maker and owner of Ilana’s Bead Shop. In addition to creating, she also sells the supplies and equipment for anyone who wants to make their own necklaces and bracelets.

Within her cozy, approximately 10′ x 20′ shop, she has quite possibly the largest selection of beads in Northwestern Wisconsin, which you can buy individually and create your own custom jewelry, bead by bead.

That’s exactly what my seven year old daughter did recently. She created a beautiful bracelet for just a little over $3.00!

My daughters custom bracelet, made with beads selected at Ilana's Bead Shop.

My daughters custom bracelet, made with beads selected at Ilana’s Bead Shop.

Ilana, who has experience in scrapbooking, got started with beaded jewelry after some friends took her to a craft shop in Menomonie, WI.

“I was waiting and picked up a magazine and saw a necklace and thought it was really cool, ” Ilana shared with me.  “The lady had everything there that I needed. And I thought I can do this. I don’t have to buy a bunch of crazy tools. So I got the beads and thought that was really fun, and that led to the next project and the next project and the next project.”

Unfortunately, beaded jewelry supplies are often hard to find.

“Pretty soon,” Ilana said,  “I was into beading things that you couldn’t find the supplies for locally. I had to order everything online, and I didn’t know anything about colors or finishes, sizes, and so when I got my shipment it usually wasn’t what I expected. And that led me to thinking we need a store.”

Ilana creating a piece of custom jewelry.

Ilana creating a piece of custom jewelry.

Ilana has been creating and selling beads full time for six years, and has a fairly steady business now, but the shop began in a much smaller way.

“I started out in my garage, but we lived out in the country, and it was understandable that women didn’t want to go to some stranger’s garage searching for beads, so business was not good. After two to two and a half years, I thought I either need to be done, take the garage back or try to find  a space in town,” Ilana recalled.

For a few years, Ilana rented a storage space on London Road in Eau Claire, but high rent costs compelled her to move her business to the newly developed Artisan Forge Studios building in December. Metal sculptor Greg Johnson bought the building in 2015, offering spaces at a very affordable rent cost to make it easier for fellow artists and craftspeople to concentrate on the things they love doing best: creating and reaching out to new customers and clients. For Ilana, it was the perfect place to move her business into.

“My rent is way less, so my life is so much less stressful. I was a stay at home mom before this, this is more my hobby.  I’m not in it for the money, I just enjoy it. I pay the rent. I’m able to grow here.”

 

A beaded decorative hanging at Ilana's Bead Shop.

A beaded decorative hanging at Ilana’s Bead Shop.

How does Ilana fit so many beads and supplies into such a small space? She mentioned that most stores carry several brands of tools, and the many choices can be overwhelming for the customer who’s just starting out, to know what works and what doesn’t.

So Ilana came up with a better way that I think makes much more sense.

“My philosophy here is to just offer one option,” she reasoned, “that I have personally grown to love and have used and I think is a good balance of–it’s not top of the line, but definitely better than what you would find at Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s or something like that.

Ilana is also offering classes where students will complete part of the work at her studio and another part at home, and then join the two halves together into one finished piece of jewelry. If you’re going to have a class it only makes sense to give your students homework!

Meet Chad White, Architect 

Architect Chad White of The Eau Claire Design Company in his office at Artisan Forge Studios, Eau Claire, WI

Architect Chad White of The Eau Claire Design Company in his office at Artisan Forge Studios, Eau Claire, WI

In the front office area of Artisan Forge Studios there is an architect by the name of Chad White who, along with his wife Keri, heads up The Eau Claire Design Company. Together, they have been doing both residential and commercial projects, on their own, full time for the last two years. I asked Chad what got him started in his career as an architect. 

“I had an interest in architecture back in high school, took some drafting classes, ” he replied. “I always did a lot of freehand drawing when I was younger, so between that and a bit of construction experience working with my dad it seemed like the natural avenue. I was drawn to it pretty young, and after high school I took some time off, but I decided it was time to go back to school and it was a pretty obvious major. ”

Chad completed his associates degree, but that was the just the beginning of his training.

The process to get licensed as an architect is extensive: architectural students have to track all of their work in sixteen different categories. Once that part is completed it takes three or four years more, and then they are able take their exams, which consist of seven different tests in seven different categories. Finally, if they pass them, they can get their license.

Architectural work is a interesting balance of utilizing art and math skills. I got the impression that Chad doesn’t feel it’s just drawing monotonous lines on a paper. When I asked Chad why he does architectural work for a living, he replied:

“I feel it’s very impactful, because You’re designing the built environment. You stand in a city, look around and the buildings are the major focal point around you. Historically, attention has always been paid to the detail, a real focus on aesthetics, function and integration with community values. It can have a huge impact on the people who live there.”

Both Chad and I got on our soapboxes for a moment and commented on the ways buildings, along with values in society, have changed over the years. The trend has been a downward slide in certain areas, but with all trends there often is a reversal when people appreciate some of the good things of the past.

One of Architect Chad White's Projects.

One of Architect Chad White’s Projects.

“I think more attention was paid to detail 100 years ago when a new building was instructed, ” Chad mused. “To build a building was a huge achievement, so you would put your name and the date on the top. And the type of detail you would put into it…you see a lot of tiered bricks and cornices on top of old buildings. That type of detail and ornamentation said something about you and your status, so there was a little more importance to have that exterior aesthetic really dialed in.

“Over the years that’s faded away and now often times people are looking more at volume rather than detail. But I think there’s a trend of people looking at more less volume and more detail.”

I’m glad for that new trend myself, because as an artist, I love to put a lot of detail into my paintings and drawings!

Chad designs both residential and commercial architecture. He started designing energy efficient homes, then hotel chains, and finally worked for an architecture firm. In the last two years, he launched out, along with his wife Keri, starting his own design and architecture business.

One of the things that impresses me about Chad is his versatility: he is able to do both computer aided design, and the old fashioned technique of drawing the design by hand at the drafting table.

Keri, who has a background in traditional two-dimensional art, handles more of the design side of the business. “Her preferred media is sketching and paint,” Chad shared, “but over the years she has been drawn to the graphic design piece.”

Interestingly, most of the artists, myself included, who work here are thirty-somethings, married with children. We are entrepreneurs at heart who have experienced the ups and downs of life, and are willing to embrace the challenges and rewards of owning our own business. It’s more than just making a living for us–it’s about fulfilling a calling and creating things that add meaning, joy and purpose to others’ lives.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave me your feedback below! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links below. Thank you!

 

 

 

Celebrating 25 Years of Doing Commissioned Art

Celebrating 25 Years of Doing Commissioned Art

It all started back in 1991 at age 14, when my mom’s friend asked me to do a drawing of her friend who had passed away and paid me for it. Backing up just a bit, shortly before that I had just learned how to draw realistically from a photo. I had drawn OK up until that point, but suddenly, faithfully reproducing the details of a photograph “clicked” for me. Here is that commissioned portrait, a montage of several photos put together into one cohesive drawing.

 

My first commissioned drawing, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, 1991.

My first commissioned drawing, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, 1991.

One of my first realistic drawings was of one of my favorite bands, Metallica. I did two of them, one of the whole band, and then one of the lead guitarist, James Hetfield. I don’t have that first drawing, but here is the second one–pencil on paper.

J_Hetfield, Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo, 1993

J_Hetfield, Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo, 1993

While doing that first drawing of Metallica, I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I don’t think I took a break for hours. My eyes were glued to the paper, close in so I could capture all the detail. I came downstairs after several hours of working. My pulled me aside and asked me, “Matt I need to talk to you. Are you, umm…on drugs?”

“Mom, you know me better than that!”

“Well, your eyes are all dilated.”

I then explained how I was drawing for hours (probably with poor lighting) and we both got a little laugh out of it.

But those realistic drawings, if I remember correctly, is what she showed to her friend, and that spurred on the first commission. I had a couple more from teachers in high school and one of my brother’s coworkers. Mostly by word of mouth, I was given and completed several commissions before graduating. This is what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Since then, I have done hundreds of portraits over the years, for folks to give to their loved ones on many different occasions. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmas, to commemorate lost loved ones, Mother’s Day, and “just because.” Here’s a few of my favorites:

How to Paint Acrylic Portraits Final-clear by Matt Philleo

How to Paint Acrylic Portraits Final-clear by Matt Philleo

Commissioned wedding portrait, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, copyright 2015, by portrait artist Matt Philleo

Commissioned wedding portrait, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, copyright 2015, by portrait artist Matt Philleo

"Williams Family Portrait," 8 x 10, acrylic on panel by artist Matt Philleo

“Williams Family Portrait,” 8 x 10, acrylic on panel by artist Matt Philleo

"Walking in His Footsteps", 11 x 14, pencil on paper, by artist Matt Philleo

“Walking in His Footsteps”, 11 x 14, pencil on paper, by artist Matt Philleo

To celebrate 25 years of doing commissioned art, all commissions will be 25% off until March 25th!

If you are looking at having a portrait done (Mother’s Day is coming up soon :)) this would be a great time to get your order in. For more information on my portraits, please visit my official commissioned artwork site, www.traditionstudio.com or contact me.

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave me your feedback below! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links below. Thank you!
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