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.   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...
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.   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. 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...
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.   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....
New Old Portrait Drawing

New Old Portrait Drawing

I was doing a little cleaning when I discovered a CD that had a file saved on it I thought was lost. It was the image of this drawing here, a commission I did back in 2010. If I remember correctly, this was the drawing I did for a gentleman at my church–the commission that helped bring in the rent money when I was a month behind. I’m glad I found this portrait again–it’s one of my favorites! He wanted to commemorate his parents wedding anniversary–I think it was their 70th, but again, this was 5 years ago, so I’m not sure. This is an 11 x 14 pencil on paper drawing, and it took over 20 hours to complete. I got a really great scan of this drawing that captured the detail and texture of the graphite in the paper. First is the entire drawing and then below that are some close-ups…thanks for looking! In the detail below, we see them at the time of their wedding, along with an image of their church. Below, of course, is the picture of this couple when they are well advanced in years. In the lower right is an image of the family farm. And here’s the detail of that. I love doing custom commissioned portraits like this, where I can incorporate elements that are near and dear to the people being portrayed. When they receive this as a gift, it is extra special to them, to not only have a portrait of the two of them, but to proudly display the longevity of their marriage and interweave them into the...
Goodbye, Wonderful Old Woman

Goodbye, Wonderful Old Woman

Today, I said goodbye to a familiar face: a drawing I’ve had in my collection for 22 years. It is one of my favorites, but it was time to let it go.  A customer who met me at the Falling Leaves Art Studio Tour this year bought a print of this drawing, and later through email, said she loves the image and would like to buy the original.  This is a drawing I did back in 1993, when 15, so it is very special to me. I discovered that black colored pencil could achieve a really rich black, almost like ink. In addition, although nearly impossible to erase, it doesn’t smudge like normal graphite pencils. When I showed it to my art teacher, she loved it, and later on referred to it as the drawing of “that wonderful old woman” The name stuck. My source photo was of an elderly woman, an immigrant from the depression era. I chose not draw a background behind her, leaving the white of the paper to draw even more attention to her face. You can imagine the stories she’d tell if you waited a while to listen. Her careworn face, etched with deep wrinkles, is almost like a roadmap that guides you in learning more about the difficult journeys of her life. And yet, behind that melancholy stare there is a glimmer of hope, a firm resolve to not give up and to make it through. I met today with the customer to hand this drawing over to her. And I’m glad.  The joy of this drawing blessing somebody else makes it easy...
Artist Statement

Artist Statement

I create art to comfort and encourage. In our present era, with increasing crime, scandals, and a wall of isolation erected by too much dependence on technology, the need for encouragement is greater than ever. I don’t look at the world with myopic, rose-colored glasses, pretending everything is perfect. I go through trials, difficulties, and personal struggles and so do you. During these times of despair, I reach out to God for help like the ancient Psalmists did, and eventually light arises in the darkness. His grace overcomes my weakness. After experiencing the breakthrough, I have a burning desire to share this joy with others so they can be encouraged too. For me, art is the best way to do this. Ever since I was a child, I have loved to draw and paint people. I especially love to capture emotion through facial expressions and body gestures. Occasionally, I paint landscapes, but I am primarily a figurative painter. In my paintings, the people interact with God and with each other in relationships where truth, love, compassion, trust, hope, forgiveness, perseverance, and dignity are practiced. In highlighting these virtues, and the often the struggle to obtain them, I hope to create a dialogue with the viewer, to instill a desire for something greater, and to demonstrate God’s loving care in times of sorrow and need. My medium of choice, since being introduced to it in high school art classes, is acrylic paint. I appreciate its quick drying time and low toxicity. Using a centuries-old glazing technique, I mix the paint with a clear acrylic medium and apply layer upon layer...
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