The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

Several times, I have wanted to give up being an artist. The end of last month was the most recent time. After Thanksgiving, we had our “Small Business Saturday” sales event at Artisan Forge Studios. But the day before I was very discouraged. The month of October and especially November were slow months, with not a lot of art sales or commissions. Rent was overdue.  Our landlord called, after getting a partial payment on rent, and he wanted to know when we would bring our account up to date. I didn’t know the answer to that question. I didn’t know what to do–and I had already tried everything I knew. I felt like throwing in the towel. Sharing these sentiments with my wife, she matter-of-factly and truthfully advised: “God has always provided. He’s not going to stop now.”  Feeling just a tiny bit better, I went to bed. The morning of the show I prayed, “God you’re a big God, so I am going to pray a big prayer. I pray that I would sell ‘Smoldering Wick’ (my biggest and most detailed painting, a 30″ x 40″ ) today at the art show.”   There was only a trickle of people that came in. But I smiled even though I didn’t feel like it and talked about the painting and the message behind it to whoever showed interest. During the middle of the show, two middle-aged men came in, and drawn to the painting, they asked me what it was about. They listened openly to the spiritual message behind it, and although they didn’t seem to quite share the...
Getting the Message Out

Getting the Message Out

This Thursday, I was excited to see the copy of the local paper, the Leader-Telegram, and the article they did on the book I illustrated, “The Boy in a Tree.” They did a great job in highlighting the main message of the book: being content, trusting God like a child, and seeing the value that people with special needs can offer the world. The Saturday before, the author and I held a book signing event at Artisan Forge Studios, and we had a great time chatting with people interested in the story, listening to their stories, and eating too many cookies.   It was also neat that I had a chance to see an old friend that I worked with at Sears from years ago and catch up with him. Today, a woman who had read the newspaper article walked into my studio and  bought two copies of “Boy in a Tree” from me. We chatted for several minutes, sharing stories about the children in our lives who have special needs, and talking about how thankful we are that societal attitudes have changed so much in the last few decades towards differently able people. I can recall a few years ago, when I had take take my son out of the store because he had a meltdown and, while trying my best to keep my composure, someone looked me in the eye and said, “Good job, dad.” Just those three words made all the difference. I thought, “this person gets it.” It gave me just a bit more of a spark, and I think helped ease the tension a...
The Dreams of the Elderly

The Dreams of the Elderly

Ours is a society of youth. Technology is constantly changing; everything seems to be getting faster. We’re constantly looking for the latest young celebrity, while the older ones are being pushed off to the side to make room for the new. And those who are old are being propped up to look younger, so that they can still be an acceptable part of society. Years ago, we used to appreciate and respect the grey-haired for their wisdom. The older people were the living links to the past: they could share historical events first hand, what they learned, and pass it on to the next generation. But recently, we have increasingly diminished their role in society, often leaving them in nursing homes with little to no contact with family. Over Thanksgiving break, we went to see my wife’s grandmother in the nursing home. Although she didn’t remember us very well, I think she was thrilled to see her children, and especially her great-grandchildren. Our two year old daughter connected with her over a stuffed animal that she shared with great-grandma. Earlier, I visited my grandmother in the nursing home before she passed away a couple years ago. I am glad I did, and now I don’t have any regrets. Now my grandmother, too, at the end, was not very lucid and so it was a bit awkward to visit. But even though she couldn’t communicate, who knows how much ideas, hopes, and aspirations were still circulating within her mind? Here is an excerpt from the book I illustrated, “The Boy in a Tree.”  As I’ve shared in the past, the...
How I do Shading with Acrylic (Video)

How I do Shading with Acrylic (Video)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I know I did. It was rejuvenating to take a little time off from the studio, and spend it with family. Sometimes as an artist, you feel the crunch of having to create a lot of artwork, and your creative energies get tapped out. Thanksgiving’s a fantastic time to recharge, give thanks to God for all the blessings He’s given, be with family, and of course, eat a wonderful home-cooked meal. Back to the studio tomorrow. While teaching art classes lately, I’ve discovered one of the most challenging things for my students to learn is how to shade. For artists and art appreciators, shading is a mysterious thing. We wonder how to do it, or how others did it. Shading– the transition from a dark value to a lighter value in a two-dimensional work of art–is one of the most important techniques you can master to make a painting or drawing look realistic. I’d like to share a video (hosted on YouTube) I created earlier this week about that, with you. This is my first art instructional video–in fact really the first serious video recording I’ve done, since the old days of playing around with a VHS-C camcorder with my buddies after school. We made some pretty crazy movies back then! Somewhere towards the end of the video–maybe about 2/3 of the way through–is where I really get into it: how to do shading with acrylic and make it look real. Hope you enjoy this video, and let me know if it helps you in your painting. Let me know, too, how I can...
“The Boy in a Tree” Interview

“The Boy in a Tree” Interview

About a year ago, I was asked to illustrate a children’s book called the “The Boy in a Tree,” written by my sister’s friend, Pamela Boodle, a resident of Schofield, WI. We now recently published the book–a 30 page, full color story of a boy with special needs named Nick who has a fascination and relentless interest in climbing trees. And not just any tree. He searches for trees “with branches made just right for climbing and up, up, up he goes.” Nick has a different perspective on life. He simply enjoys being out in nature and being himself. He is not distracted by all the things that most people are and is free to love, to be silly, and to spend time with the people he cares most about.   The story in this book really spoke to me, as I can relate. I have a son with special needs as well. While reading the manuscript, I was nearly moved to tears, and I felt the connection. I knew I needed to illustrate the book for Pam. A few days ago I did an interview with the author, asking her about the inspiration behind the book. I’d like to share her thoughts with you… Me: Tell me a little about yourself. Pam: I live in northern Wisconsin with my husband of 38 years. We have two married children and eight grandchildren. We are guardians of a niece and nephew who still reside with us. I have been involved with various children’s ministries for over 25 years. My heart’s passion and joy has been working with children with special needs....
After the Artisan Market

After the Artisan Market

This past Saturday, we had our Artisan Market event at Artisan Forge Studios. It was a great time, with a steady flow of people visiting. In addition to all the artists, we had the wood fired pizza guys there as well as Soul Brewed Coffee. I grabbed a nice cup of a dark roast made in an aero press, which they then poured in my mug. Very unique flavor–it kind of grows on you! I’d like to get some more 🙂 During the show, I met some wonderful folks and some people I knew came in and visited as well. The main painting on display is a work in progress called “Smoldering Wick.” I’ll share more about that in-depth later. On the wall opposite my easel, I displayed a print series of the 4′ x 28′ mural, depicting Biblical history with an emphasis on the gospel message, that my friend Dave Mattison and I completed in 2013 for Bethel Church in Eau Claire.   Most of the day, I painted on that canvas live (though mostly I just talked). A lot of people were touched by the message of encouragement, and had really incisive questions on my process in creating art. A few were interested in having custom portraits painted from a photo. At this time of year, getting close to Christmas, I tend to get a lot more of those kinds of commissions, which I am very thankful for. Partway through, I met a gal that does some excellent photography work. Although an amateur photographer, she takes professional-quality portraits for people that can’t typically afford them–senior photos, wedding,...
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