Farewell to the Forge

Farewell to the Forge


“You’ll have to use your imagination,” she said.

“I can do that,” I replied. “I’m an artist.”

The coordinator, Jackie Boos, unfolded the vision of what this place called Artisan Forge Studios, would become. I thought the vision was compelling. And so after some thought and prayer, I signed on as a renter at the beginning of 2016.

It’s amazing that just a little over two years ago, I moved my art business from my home into this diesel truck service center-turned high scale art gallery.



It didn’t take long for the building to transform into one of Eau Claire’s best places to go to see local fine art. With it, I met a lot of fantastic artists, built some great relationships, sold artwork, and even started teaching classes.




I had no idea that I would be able to teach until I came to Artisan Forge Studios. Other artists–sculptors and welders–were teaching, and someone asked if I would teach a class.




“I’ll give it a try,” I said.

I had such a good time, I decided to do more.

Artisan Forge changed a lot in two years–starting with just a handful of artists and growing to include more than 40 of the area’s best talent. My art business grew as well. I gained more clients, built relationships with local artists and collectors, and art students. I had the chance to share my art–and my faith as a Christian–with hundreds since I’ve been there, in person, and in some public speaking engagements.




And even though I’ve enjoyed being at “the Forge,” I decided to bid farewell.





It started with this…

Toward the end of last year, my wife and I were discussing our goal of moving out of the city and buying a home in the country (in the Eau Claire area.)  She has always been a country girl. I’m more of a city slicker. But after many years of being in town, I long for the open vistas of nature, and I especially want my children to enjoy that as well.

And it would be a perfect place to set up a studio.


Eleva Hills2.jpg


We were pre-approved for a home purchase, but we still have some debts to pay off. So, to trim some expenses, the idea of cutting out studio rent seemed like a plausible idea. I still have a spare room in my home that’s not being used. So, it would be possible to move back in.

But to leave the Forge was nearly unthinkable. How could I leave the place when things were going so well?




“Why don’t you just pray about it?” my wife suggested.

Seemed like a good idea. It never hurts to pray.

I had just as many reasons to stay than I did to go. Maybe even more reasons to stay, depending on how you spin the “pros and cons” plate. But I figured, “Let’s see what God has to say about it.”

When I pray for God’s direction, I almost always have a Bible in front of me. He speaks to me out of that book. It’s amazing. The Bible itself says…

“Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” (Psalm 119:133)

At the middle of November, after going to church, I asked God, “Do you want me to leave Artisan Forge?”

I opened up my Bible and started reading. Immediately, this passage jumped out at me. In fact, I think it was the first page I opened to.

“Leave, leave, go out from there!…” (Isaiah 52:11)

Hmm. Interesting. Could it be, Lord, that you want me to actually leave?

I thought about it, but I wasn’t sure. I prayed again a few more times, and I saw glimpses of verses that seemed to say the same thing: “Go.” But I still wanted more assurance. This was a big decision.




“I believe God will make it clear to you if you seek Him diligently,” my mother-in-law (the one who encouraged me to do art full time) advised me.

Made my choice. Stamped it.

Finally, it was the end of November. I needed to find out for sure if it was God’s will for me to leave Artisan Forge Studios, so I could give them adequate notice, and maybe be out by the end of the year.

I had to make a decision. I dropped to my knees in the studio, and opened up my Bible. And quickly, my eyes landed on Romans 15:23…

“But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.”

It wasn’t just the verse itself that spoke to me, but the feeling I got when I read it. I felt peace. It was like God was saying to me, “You’ve served here faithfully. Now your time here is done.”

OK, Lord. I don’t want you to have to hit me over the head with this. I’m making my decision. I’m leaving. I’ll give them notice today.

That was two months ago. Christmas brought in a lot of commissions, so I figured I’d wait until the hoopla was over to really begin taking down my studio and setting up again in my home. During the packing up process, I have to say I second-guessed my decision more than just a few times.

Man, this is crazy. I’m going backwards. I left my house to come here as an artist. And now I’m going back?




But then I thought: Going back to the place you came from can also be forward progress too.

Didn’t the Israelites go back to the Promised Land after being in Egypt for 400 years? Didn’t the Jews go back to their homeland after being in Babylon for 70 years? And didn’t Jesus return back home after being on earth for 33 years?

I made my decision. I’m not looking back. I’m walking by faith and not by sight. To me, it’s more important to follow God’s leading than to have it all figured out.

And so, I am saying “farewell to Artisan Forge.” I’m leaving on good terms and plan on keeping in touch with the wonderful people there, but right now the future is wide open to many possibilities.

Wherever God leads me.

I’ll walk by faith.

I can’t see what lies ahead of me.




That’s okay. I can use my imagination.


Be blessed and I’ll be in touch,



Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, 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 on the side or below. Thank you!


8 Reasons Why I’m Back to Writing the Book

8 Reasons Why I’m Back to Writing the Book

Almost two years ago, I decided I was going to write a book on encouragement. Initially, it was going to be just a brief E-Book, but then…

Then, I started asking for a few folks to contribute their stories–stories of how they went through struggles in life, but somehow made it through. Several people responded, and I had stories that I could include to truly add life to the book!

This meant that the book needed to expand and with several concepts brewing in my head, I knew that I had enough content for a full-length printed book. My goal was (and still is) to make this a unique book by including a lot of paintings, drawings, and illustrations to go with the concepts and stories.



I had a title already picked out for it: Light Arises in the Darkness: How to Go Through Suffering and Experience Incredible Joy. The premise of the book is that in the middle of your biggest trials, fears, disillusionment and devastations, God would meet you in the dark place and pour out His light, love and mercy on you, if you would only seek Him.

I know, because I’ve been there, and experienced it. Maybe you have too! This was a book that I needed to write. Even as an artist, sometimes pictures just aren’t enough to communicate a message that dives down so deep into who you are. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I would need at least a hundred pictures to share this message of hope with others.

Words are needed too.

Soon enough, these words flowed out into the keyboard and on my screen, and I had about two chapters done within a couple months. I was feeling good.

Fast forward two years later.

For the longest time, I was sitting with just two chapters in the book! What happened?

Let me be completely transparent here and share with you seven reasons why my book still remains undone:

1. I didn’t feel like I had my outline organized enough.

2. I got so busy with art commissions, teaching classes, marketing, and just life, that I didn’t feel like I could commit to the time necessary to get the book done.

3. Marketing seemed like such a nebulous thing and so the whole project became too daunting.

4. Am I a good enough writer? I was afraid of what people may think–either something they thought that was incorrect, or that it wouldn’t connect with them.

5. I procrastinated on it this long. The people who knew I started the project had to be disappointed that I haven’t finished it yet and so, in my shame, how could I continue?

6. My relationship with God at times is not as close as I’d like it to be, so I thought, who am I to write a book like this?

7. Because this book deals with theological concepts, I was afraid of writing something erroneous, even heretical, and God would be angry with me.



Recently, I was praying, and I asked God if I should write this book. As I had my Bible in front of me just paging through, I read the words, “write the book.” I know this seems strange, but that is how God often speaks to me!

I flipped through a few more pages, and quickly my eyes fell upon the words, “Tell your friends how the Lord has had compassion on you” (And that is the main thrust of the book.)

Then I thought “Well, I’m afraid.” But the Lord showed me the passage “So do not be afraid…”

And again another: “Why are you so afraid?”

Finally: “Where is your faith?”

I really sensed God’s presence and encouragement as I prayed.

The Bible says that plans fail for a lack of counsel. So recently, I asked my pastor what he thought of the idea and if he would pray for God’s blessing on it of it. He said, “It’s not just a good idea, it’s a God-idea.” He was happy to pray with me.

So for that and many other indications when I’ve asked “Lord, is this your will?” I’ve gotten a green light. I shouldn’t have to have God hit me over the head to get me to do this.

Now, let me write eight reasons why the book must get done, in answer to my excuses–and by God’s grace why I’m going to do it.

1. I’ll never have my outline organized enough. But I have many concepts that I’ve written down in my journals, and soon enough, they’ll find a home within the chapters I already have set up. The book can evolve as I write it.

2. I have to just make the time to write. It only takes about 30 minutes to write about 400 words. I can schedule that time every day, and little by little, I’ll chip away at the project until it’s done.

3. I’m a better artist (possibly writer too) than a marketer, but I’ve educated myself on some of the core concepts of marketing. Basically, it involves letting people know about what you’re doing before and while you do it, getting their feedback, letting them be a part of the experience so that they are truly interested once the project is done and launched! Even if I make several mistakes in the logistics part of it, I will have still connected with people on a deeper level, and that will have been worth it!

4. The more I write, the better I’ll get. There will always be room for improvement. However, the goal is not to impress people with my writing. It is to share something that could make an eternal difference in their lives. Even just one word is able to do that. And since I plan on including scripture verses into my text, I know for sure, that has power to change lives.

5. It’s time to close to door on shame. For those of you who knew about this book idea when I first started writing (and especially if you took the time to share a story with me), please forgive me for how long this has taken to write! I thank God that I still have hands to type with, and as long as I do, I’ll use them to glorify God.

6. My relationship with God–and all of ours–will have its ups and downs, but I’m trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that He has brought me near to God the Father. If God wants me to write this book–then He will enable me to do it well.

7. God showed me that I don’t need to be afraid of writing erroneous things. Now, I don’t want to swing to the other side, and be prideful or careless with my words, but God can keep me in the clear. Only the Bible is inerrant. I may write some things that are not completely correct, or fail to convey an idea properly, but God can keep me from distorting essential doctrines or theological concepts.

8.  People took the time to write to me and share their deepest struggles, and it would be wrong to not share those things with others who could identify with them and use the encouragement.

And then finally, I need to write it because I believe God wants me to. And doing His will is the most important thing!

Jesus, Isaiah 42:3, Smoldering wick, suffering servant, painting,

“Smoldering Wick,” 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas, 2016, by Matt Philleo

So, the book is on! I’ve already started a habit of writing a little each day on it again, and so far, I’ve been pretty consistent. Occasionally I miss a day or two, but I get back on the saddle and keep going! So far, I’ve written over 25,000 words! 🙂

As I work on the book, I’m going to post segments of it here on my blog, and send you updates as I go along.

Eventually the goal is to have it printed up, possibly in full color, with several of my paintings, drawings, and illustrations interspersed to bring the words alive.

I want to encourage people. In this world, we need as much of it as possible.

Have a blessed day,

If you like this post, please share it with others. And feel free to comment below. Thanks!

P.S. Would you be interested in receiving updates on the book as it’s written (2-3 times a week)? Click here and I’ll send you excerpts of the book as it’s written, before it’s published. I welcome any of your feedback on it…truthfully, it would be much appreciated and very helpful. 🙂 

5 Steps to Shade Your Portraits Right

5 Steps to Shade Your Portraits Right

How do you get your portrait paintings to look lifelike?

Here’s a 5-step printable guide to get you on the road to realism.

Click here to download the full resolution 8.5″ x 11″ printable file.


It will help get you on the right track in using color and value and correctly, so that your acrylic portrait painting looks lifelike.

All of this is in a standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ printable guide that you can keep for easy reference. Although it will not solve all your painting problems,you’ll be able to use it as an excellent tool to get your painting going in the right direction, or even give you some solid principles to go by if you’re stuck.  Let me know what you think of it and how it helps.

Be blessed in your painting adventures and I’ll be in touch!

It’s for the Children

It’s for the Children

Last weekend, I had a wonderful opportunity to be able to do live portrait sketches at the United Special Sportsman Alliance Summerfest Event held in Pittsville, WI. This was kind of a summer camp for children with special needs, offering them various outdoor activities like archery, fishing, kayaking, paddleboats, horseback riding, and crafts.

And every event was free. Many vendors came from different places to volunteer their time and resources to be a blessing to hundreds of disabled and special needs children. This was a place where they felt welcomed, special, and not alone.

So I set up my tent Friday morning, and started sketching portraits around 9am. Instead of doing the sketches on a first come first served basis like I usually do, most of the sketches were by appointment. This allowed the people to go and enjoy the day, and then come back at time they were scheduled.

I must have sketched about 50 faces between Friday and Saturday morning, each one taking about 10-15 minutes.


Pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo drawing live portraits at the United Special Sportsman Alliance Summerfest Event on Friday July 15, 2016 at Pittsville, WI

Pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo drawing live portraits at the United Special Sportsman Alliance Summerfest Event on Friday July 15, 2016 at Pittsville, WI

One portrait that stood out in my mind was of a African American boy, about 14, with down’s syndrome. Although mostly non-verbal, he exuded charm. He would lift his eyebrows up and down and wink at me, in a completely innocent yet seemingly flirtatious way.

Since the portraits were set up mainly by appointment, people that walked by and wanted one done had to be fit in the schedule. There was a girl who would not be deterred. She kept coming back several times, even though I was busy with the appointment sketches, that when I had the smallest window of opportunity, I fit her in. She reminded me of the persistent widow in the Bible, who kept demanding justice until the judge relented. And that of course, was Jesus’ parable to illustrate the God will answer prayer…if we do not give up.

I truly enjoyed doing these live portraits, and now that my wrist is fully recuperated, I can type up this blog post with ease!

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 on the side or 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!
All Moved In

All Moved In

It’s been a little while since my last post. The craziness of the holiday season is over now, and it’s time to get back to writing.
Lately, I’ve been busy setting up my new studio at Artisan Forge Studios. (1107 Mondovi Rd., Eau Claire, WI–across from Walgreen’s on Clairemont Ave)
They put up some of my art and info on their website too, if you’d like to check that out. 
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work it takes to move your business, equipment, and supplies, even out of a 9′ x 13′ room. But stuff had been accumulating for a while tucked neatly (sometimes) onto shelves, but once the shelves came down I realized half of it isn’t needed and it’s not coming to the new studio.
My crowded old art studio.

My crowded old art studio.

A lot of mess!

A lot of mess!

This is really the first time I’ve moved anything major in over 13 years. Even though it’s not a whole house move, I forgot the dynamics of moving and all the downtime involved.
My new studio room is a 12′ x 12′. It’s a little bigger than my old 9′ x 13′ studio, if you measure by the floor plan, but vertically, it’s like comparing the Wells Fargo building in Eau Claire to the Sears Tower. My old home studio just clears my head at about 6 1/2 feet, but the new studio is nearly 10 feet tall. Goliath’s head would just barely be touching the ceiling of my new studio, whereas in my old one he would look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame! I’m glad to have this extra space for storage and working on larger canvases.
Here’s a little more of the backstory on why I decided to move out in the first place.
My studio at Artisan Forge, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, before painting.

My studio at Artisan Forge, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, before painting.

The new studio is great, but I wanted to “tweak it a little” to make it my own. I didn’t care for the boring grey color it was painted in, so I freshened it up with two-toned off white and chocolate brown, separated by a white stripe, mimicking a chair rail. The colors are close to my business/website colors and they’re a lot brighter to reflect the light in the studio. The more light there is, the easier it is to paint and draw!
My studio at Artisan Forge after painting.

My studio at Artisan Forge after painting.

After letting the paint dry, my next step was to put up shelving. I reused some neat metal shelves with adjustable brackets from my mother-in-law’s old house (Thanks, Mom!) that are kind of like the shelves you see in department stores. Very handy.
My main shelves.

My main shelves.


Oh, actually, before that, I did reassemble my drafting table, and my palette shelf on wheels. I love this drafting table. I got it from a friend and church over 10 years ago. It’s better to work on than an easel for smaller canvases.
Got my wind up clock going again too, after sitting in our basement for 6 years. Hopefully hearing it chime on the hour will help keep me productive.
Display wall and clock reminding me to get some work done!

Display wall and clock reminding me to get some work done!

One of the walls in the studio will be reserved just for displaying new art. They will also give me a little display space outside my studio too. I’m excited to have a place to show my art publicly, meet with new clients, and people in the community.
I’ve already met some cool people. One of my studio neighbors makes bead creations, the other is a sculptor. There’s an architecture/ design firm there and a guy and gal who make really amazing custom guitar pedals featuring unique sounds you can’t get anywhere else.
I’ve prayed and dedicated this room to God, to be used to serve His Kingdom purposes and for His glory. I want to continue to do paintings that bring encouragement founded upon the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ and Biblical principles, and even more than I have. I’m looking forward to meeting people in the community, sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, teaching, and gaining inspiration from the other artists who work and exhibit here.
This morning, I finally got my shelving set up, and am officially at work. I modified this TV stand into a palette cart/ paint shelf. It’s on wheels, and just the right size to hold my palette while I paint, and all my paint below. It tool a little work to cut wood to size for the shelving and screw it in, but it’s done and the sawdust is swept off the floor.
My new studio at Artisan Forge Studios, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, WI 54703

My new studio at Artisan Forge Studios, 1107 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire, WI 54703

This afternoon, I worked on a couple sketches for portrait and illustration commissions. It felt good to finally be doing art and not carpentry!
My drafting table and easel.

My drafting table and easel.

Thank you everyone for all your wonderful, encouraging comments throughout this transition. I plan on having an open house event in the not too distant future. I will keep you posted on that, and of course, you’re all invited!

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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