S_V_H Play that Song

This is the process that I go through trying to figure out what song should be my next project. In my last post I said this: “I need to find a song. It always starts that way. But it is difficult. I need to find a song I can spend a month or more with and still like the music. That is tough.” Let me add to that description the words frustrating, confusing, and even boring after sifting through dozens of songs. Here is how it went down for my next project.

I have a list of songs that I keep in my computer note software call Songs to Paint.

Part of my song list possibilities

Each of these listings where added because I had an emotional moment that matched up to the listening music moment. If I pick a song on the list, I remove them otherwise they remain on the list long after I have “lost that loving feeling.” Sometimes I am lucky and a song or a piece of music just catches me when I need a source. Other times, when nothing trips-my-trigger, I start my search with the list.

Until recently, once I found the music I wanted to paint I would look for a phrase, or a sentence with a clean start and a clean finish. If the music had words that I also wanted to include in the artwork, I then had to make sure that the notation was interesting to catch the viewer’s eye. That part of the process remains today, except I am now a lot more flexible with my word use. What I have added since 2018 is the sound of the music the artwork is portraying. Having to create a soundtrack for an artwork complicates my project choices. It has also changed my project flow. I now create my cover music for the chosen song, which then becomes the template for the artwork 

I create the soundtracks using a Digital Audio Workstation (computer) using StudioOne. There is an immense learning curve with this software. To keep things simple, I build my notation with an instrument I am familiar with, the piano. It then takes a week or more to build a respectable sounding cover that often includes the addition of other instruments, mostly strings and woodwinds. Getting my soundtrack to sound decent and polished is demanding. My music needs to sound good enough to represent the why I chose this music. My goal is never to I match the original music. The goal is that my cover music, when played, presents to the listener the spirit of the music that the artwork is displaying to the viewer.

For this project, I rejected everything I had on my list. Here then are some of the music choices that I considered and discarded over a couple of days:

Bob Dylan Forever Young. But I have already painted Rod Stewart version

I started with Bob Dylan but moved on to Jeff Lynne singing Lift Me up. This music I like for its uplifting music and lyrics and its musical lightness. I feel that combination would be a suitable match for my mood. But I hesitated. It was not quite what I wanted. It did not ring-my-bell.

Jeff Lynn I love this uplifting music but again in this moment I did not feel it.
Elvis Presley live singing Love Letters. I listen to other versions, but could not convince me, but his voice is amazing.
I like the lyrics to this music, but the music flow and notation pace I did not thing would work with either the piano or a string instrument.

In desperation, and the hope to find a potential classic song material amongst today’s music, I turn to the google search looking for the “Best songs of the 21st Century.” I went through a number of lists: 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far- The Rolling Stone, Every song of the Summer of the 2000s, 150 songs of the 21st century (so far), The Best Songs of 21st Century – Ranker. I even listen to a Spotty playlist Best Songs of the 21st Century. Besides Mr. Brightside, which I have already painted, nothing I listen to tripped-my-biffy, and which I thought I could notate and create a respectable soundtrack.

The next day, I thought for a moment to go with Born in the USA. No, I am not doing another Bruce Springsteen song. I did like the song’s rebellious sound, which got me to think about finding a Punk Rock song to paint. That idea popped up after listening earlier on my walk to the Violent Femmes singing Blister In the Sun. I have for a long time wanted to paint an example of this music genre. It somehow relates to my youth when I played the organ and sang backup with a local garage band. So I looked around. I started with the Ramones. I then moved on to play a few other bands, mostly from Spotify Punk Rock playlist. Nothing tripped-my-trigger. Besides, punk uses a lot of guitar which I have limited skill level to produce. The band Green Day surprised me as their music shows up in the punk music category. I have always liked their music. For me they felt like a garage band, but that wasn’t enough to move me.

Born in the USA, but enough of Bruce, please expand your range I told myself
The Violent Femmes. A good Song but not good enough to paint.
The Ramones and Blitzkreig Bop
Green Day I like the sound of these guitars but for now I do not think I have the skill or time to figure out how cover those guitars and drums.

I then thought about doing a song by Bon Iver (I liked his voice on the Taylor Swift song) They are a kind of local band, but that also went nowhere. Finally, I thought I could turn back the clock and so I searched but found nothing: not a pop standard or a Jazz Standard, or even a torch song was going to flip-my-switch. All delightful music, but again no light went on. I was in the dark, not knowing which way to go. Then in a soft desperate voice I spoke to myself that I needed a song to play, “Play that song,” I said. At that moment I paused as a faint connection with those three words popped into my head. In my Spotify search I typed “Play that Song.” There it was, Play that song by the band Train.

Finally, a song that caught my attention. It had that similar uptempo sound and interesting lyrics as my earlier option, “Lift me Up,” but its title and its story fit my current emotional situation better. I even think I can listen to this music, maybe for a month. Maybe. Hopefully.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia Play that Song”…. incorporates the melody of “Heart and Soul.”

Oh my god, this video played after I listen to the Cleftones, Heart and Soul. Would you know it? There was Bruce Springsteen with Chuck Berry singing Johnny B. Goode. Definitely on the list. I thoroughly enjoyed this video.


This is a special blog post. For this is my 651 post, and it ties the number of letters Vincent Van Gogh sent to Theo Van Gogh. Somewhere in a long ago blog post I set that as a goal to reach. Today I have. The best stuff is yet to come.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Summer Allegro image 6


Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons Summer Allegro this is a near finished work.  I need to worked on better defining the words which translated are, “The North-wind appears nearby and suddenly,”  Then after painting in the ‘threes‘ I will move to cleaning up this fifteen foot image.  An important part of this work, because of the words is to make sure to add a lot of movement in this work.  You see that effect, in the musical ties that look like tall grass swaying in the wind., along with the color contrast with the background, that creates a small visual simmering. Then I added more speed in those little circles inside the music, which all rotate clockwise, across the canvas.  I do not see much else to create more motion except maybe the  shafts if I make their look solid with greater color contrasting.  Not sure that would be worth the effort.  I may try some ideas to see if the results are worth the time.

The question I ask is can this art be displayed during a live performance by professional musicians?  Is this art good enough that gifted musicians are not offended?   I know that this art works when seen while the music is heard, but I have not made that public step, to prove that connection.  I have made an inquirer to a local Orchestra but have heard nothing back.   Maybe a greater understanding of musicians would help to move this art to the next level.  I am not sure, but it may help this art if I had more opportunities to speak and listen to more musicians. I guess what I am debating here is contacting, once again, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. They are performing Vivaldi’s four seasons several times in February and March of 2014.  Would it not be nice to take, at least one of the Winter Vivaldi’s or maybe all three, to one of their performances.  Would the art and I look silly even trying?  Should I even contact them?  Somehow I must.  I will compose a solid well reviewed email that hopefully works around these issues, just to see, what they might say or do.  I may even get a reasonable answer to my request. If nothing else it will add an adventure line to this story.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Keep on Loving You image3


Keep on Loving You consists of four panels with an overall length of five feet four inches. This artwork is one of my new series  I call my mini-works. This background is now ready for the music.  I have tried to use many 80’s color shades for this part of the work. The thought is to give each canvass its own feel.  I believe I achieved that in this artwork. Next up I will be drawing in the flow of the music.

As for the color scheme for the music, ah…….I have not a clue. Picking the note color usually happens in a moment. I look at the work, and look at the colors that I have not use for the background, and I then find one that either stands out, or blends in, depending on what I believe is the overall feel of the music I am portraying.  So, is the music is in your face, or instead does it shy away, that is how I decide the colors to use for the music.  I then focus on the flow of the music. The moment that this artwork portrays actually decides the mood and the color drama I want to create.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Dave Brubeck Blue Rondo á la Turk Finalimage

BlueRondoFinal This is the Final Image of Blue Rondo á La Turk. These 8 canvases, that make up this work, contain a piece of the music, that when arranged, as you see in the images above, produce the flow that is Blue Rondo. This sectioning of the music gives me more creative options, enhancing the overall look and emotional impact to a greater extent than canvas based on one look.  Each piece can stand out, but still remain part of an even greater whole.  A universal theme, I do believe.

In the past the look of an artwork was fairly consistent even across multiple canvases.  For examples take a look at Thunder Road, Hallelujah, or Body and Soul, all from 2011.  This trend continued through 2012 with Four Seasons Autumn Allegro, completed in December and  pictured on the main page of the website.  This pieces  look of Blue Rondo first showed up in early march, of this year,  with The Pretender.  That trend showed its strength with 2012 Christmas painting, Let It Snow.


Take a look at the only other Dave Brubeck piece, Take Five,  from March of 2006, and you will see how far this art has changed. What a different 7 years can make.  According to the words of  Robert Frank, a photographer must have both a sense of Purpose and a sense of Passion. I cannot help but think that is the same philosophy that drives every creative person and what pushes this art. Everyday, I interact with people who have purpose but no passion, and regrettable that has become a learned and a reinforced behavior, in today’s disposable work place.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Winter Largo image4


This is image 4 of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons – Winter – Largo.  This is the sixth in the 13 part series with this artwork measuring 15 feet(4.572m) in length.  The next image you will see of this work will be the final completed work.

One addition to this work are the two interesting eight notes.  They have similar contours as sailing masts in a good wind.  I have always admired sailing ships, and actually did a little sailing in college so I have enjoyed this approach to these lone notes. Over the years there have been a lot of different attempts to display eighth notes with this idea being my favorite approach.   In addition to the eighth notes the quarter rest at the end of this work, I also like this evolution of this type of notation.  Those three angled rectangles  look to me like they are putting on the brakes, which works as a good representation of a musical rest.

This is work is now in its final days.  The main components have all been painted in, which leaves the only the finishing.

Rough Image:


Image finished:


I could easily leave the work as is,  with only a little amount of clean up, and in truth the main points made in this work would still all be there. But it is the cleaning up and the sharpening of edges that gives the work that professional look.  These artworks may not have that plastic finish of much of the current  art scene, but art is more than the look it is about the depth of meaning and  purpose, along with  lots of originality.

Let me expand on originality, in that in it self guarantees nothing, when it comes to art.  My artwork, certainly has originality, but when it does not sell, and is  unknown in the art circles, who besides myself can give it value?  That is where recognition comes in.  When the artwork, somehow finds a way out of basement storage  into the view of art critics, and or art appreciation circles, then comes the opportunity for recognition. So, originality may bring opportunity, which leads hopefully to that phantom word, success.

This originality in this art is the foundation that may eventually lead to recognition and then success.  What recognition, means to me, is the changing definition who I am.  It is this transition from  Scott the IT guy that works at a local paper company, to Scott the Artist that eventually becomes know, beyond local contacts. Then with a career eventually focused entirely on art, hopefully I can create a number of small successes that it can push me further along.

Success finally leads to freedom and greater self discovery, which can end with living the dream, but in many of the lives of artists the tragic opposite has occurred.  For me, my whole life has been about, finding the way.  Now, that I have decided that Art is the way, there is no turning back no matter the overwhelming risks.  I am all in, and what happens, will happen if I am good enough to make it happen.  We shall see.

At this point in my life, there is this realization  that if I am to live the dream the time to reach this goal is somewhat limited by my age. It does not take much research into the lives of successful artists to understand that it can take decades to get recognition of their work beyond friends and relatives.  So that is a reality check.  I will take the time that is given to me, and try to make the most of it.  Although, writing blog entries does take me away from painting, I am discovering that it has made me slowly, a better writer. That also was once the dream to live the life as the  next Ernest Hemingway.

I will have more thoughts on this, but I would like to pause this line thinking (just go with it) and respond to this quote I heard today: In a segment of CBS Sunday Morning, about the artist Ai Weiwei, Kerry Brougher the Chief Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum said this:” His works are filled with questions. That is what great artwork does. It raises questions.  It doesn’t necessary answer them for you.  It makes you have to think about things” (my transcription. I regret the commercial. Go to just after 6 minutes for the quote).

First, the only show I know that consistently has segments on Art is CBS Sunday Morning. You can see people murdered all day long on multiple channels but the great many stories of hundreds of outstanding Artist is rarely being told.  So, I enjoyed this six-minute break.  Ai Weiwei, is a good artist that deserves recognition and success. Now, for the quoted lines from Kerry Brougher,  they make sense, and they make me stand back and look at my work, and wonder, what  questions  does my art offer?  Let me put it this way, this art is about displaying music without actually displaying real music.  Hum? That should raise some questions. If this art is about music, but is not music, what is it?  I am not sure. No wonder no one recognizes me. My art is an enigma.  I guess that sums it up. Hum? As far as Kerry Brougher’s line “It makes you have to think about things,” that is true about a lot of things, and not just art. I think about things all day long at work, that have nothing to do with art, so really does art have to make you think.  I am thinking most people would rather feel art.  In Mr. Weiwei’s situation, well explained, maybe the way to understand his art is to feel it from the perspective of his life in China.  That is good for him, but what about me.  My life is fairly ordinary, so in my case, to fill my artworks with questions, I need to do it emotionally, and that is why I paint music. OK  whoopee.  Here then is the issue with my art:  if a viewer understands music they try to analyze the flow of the notes across the canvas, which misses the emotional point of this art. If you do not read musical notation and have no clue what music it is, can that viewer feel the music it is depicting  just by looking at it? The answer is yes. This art is about music. And music stirs great emotions in billions of people.  And this art speaks to that, and if you see the music in the art, your hooked.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons – Summer-adagio” image1

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons four Canvas, 12 feet(3.66m)in length by 36 inches(.91m).  This is a snap shot, of the early background.  Next up will be to draw in the music to see how it lays across the canvas. Once the draft of the music is laid out then it will be back to the background.

The grey colored area, on the left side of this image, is not canvas. What you are looking at is the first odd shape work, that  could be called a combine.  To explain how this art got to this point you have to look back to 2005.  From one canvas to another,  it was felt back then, that it was necessary that the musical phrase  fit the selected canvas support.  Of course that was restrictive, which eventually lead from works that were on a two foot by four canvases to larger signal sizes and then to works on two same size canvases bolted together in 2009.

It was in earlier 2012, with the Mozart work Serenade No.13, that this artist realized that this thinking was backwards: the art needed  to accommodate the music.  That is why you see, in the image above, that extra 12-inch panel on the far left, and the 12-inch panel in the lower middle.  Those two small pieces will allowed  the bass sound a stronger visual on the right side. There are style changes in the sharpening of the effort to  not  blend the canvas parts together, and with the use of two different size canvases, that are awkward to handle, that compose the background.

One thing that has matured with this art, over the years, is the approach to depicting music. If you look at general sheet music, it is rigid in structured and this set the standard for much of my earlier works.  But that got boring, and once the technical confidence grew, so did the ideas to better paint the flow of music without turning it into a typical wall hanging.  This art is not your generic abstract  music painting, splashed in complementary colors, you see everywhere. This art has grown and so have I while staying true to the idea that started it all.

Listening to:   The Thrill is Gone – B.B King,  Hallelujah – K.D Lang,   The Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive,  She Talks to Angels – The Black Crowes, Peal Jam – Come Back.  George Carlin – Capital Punishment

The following is a video of this music:

UPDATE on the Birthday Painting Suggestions that have come in.  Here is the list so far:

Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers.

Your Are so Beautiful – Joe Cocker

Roses are Red  –  Bobby Vinton

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston

House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

Blame it on the Rain –  Milli Vanilli

Vincent – Don McLean

What’s Going on – Marvin Gaye

Changes – Tupac  Shakur

The Sky is Crying – Stevie Ray Vaughan

 It is your turn  to add to this list. Here is the link for the details, detailing the Birthday music painting.  On my Birthday, July 31st I will start,  and complete this work.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Thunder Road final image

Thunder Road 3 panel 36 inches by 9 feet.
Just few dabs of paint, the cleaning of the canvas edges, and the name, date and signature and this work is finished.  It has been over a month. The song Thunder Road, all ten versions in the collection,  have now a total number of 273 plays.   It would have been more except this last week, the music filter was set for Bruce Springsteen, so another 150 songs were given a chance to be heard.  Of those the one song that stuck a chord, surprisingly was Youngstown, especially the live version.  There will never be enough time in this lifetime to get to that music, but it’s effect lingers, as Thunder Road will for weeks to come.

How would this painting rate, with its rival Hallelujah, and with this artist progress?  The darkness of Hallelujah’s background and the power of blue is hard to criticize, and could have been used with Thunder, but that seemed redundant.  The strength of the violet strip in the middle of Thunder does give it a snap that the Hallelujah lacks.  Thunders eight notes are a lot more intricate in design and colors, but it is not sure that is better then the simpler , and maybe stronger, Hallelujah. The more complicated colors relationships, and shapes use in Thunder, does add considerable more interest.  The notes themselves in Thunder spin across the canvas and are more interesting then the dimmer and basic design used in Hallelujah.  Hallelujah’s word is stronger but its thickness did not seem appropriate in Thunder. Also, more important in Thunder, was that its words blend more with the whole canvases muted color theme.

One thing that grew over the weeks with Thunder, that strongly resembles Hallelujah, and even exceeds it, is its emotional impact of being music of faith. Thunder is not a song about God saving the poor soul, that cannot save itself.  It is bigger then that. It is about the strength of faith in the beliefs of two people, to lift themselves up and above that they once where. Thunder is about a chance for salvation.  Thunder is about a belief greater than any pray to God.  Thunder is about people taking control and responsibility for their own destiny.  Thunder surprised  this artist, and hopefully Thunder will stir a better understanding of what true salvation is about.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Hallelujah image9

Modest update for Hallelujah a 36 inches by ten feet two panel work on canvas.  Spent two evenings trying to decide what colors to use for this musics one word,  Hallelujah.  The first color was Burnt Sienna, and then no matter what dark or light shades of Sienna that were used, it just did not look right. Even trying the other brown colors, failed, so then the shift was to the acrylic Green Gold at the end of last night.

Last night,  after seeing that color dry, it was a quick decision that green was not the answer.  Finally, magenta was chosen, for its tint, and magenta had not been used on the three quarter rests.  It is also a color that would not interfere with the green slur. The five eighth notes where also a color problem the drag on. There was a need for an additional color to complement the existing three , acrylics Indian Yellow Hue, and Iridescent Copper, with the oil Yellow Ochre.  Because of this need to harmonize these notes a slightly tinted Raw Sienna fit in logically after all the other attempts created too much contrast or too little interest.  More finishing needs to be done to deepen the color and to sharpen the edges.

To keep art on the mind there is always an art book being read, and currently it is Portrait of Dr. Gachet.  It is interesting to see some of the details around the flow of Vincent Van Gogh’s art after his death.  Fascinating, and somewhat disquieting  that he should take his life, with all the advantages he had over other artists.  It would be fascinating to know just what he was honestly thinking that is only hinted at in his letters. His end fate must have been on his mind for awhile: he had to acquired a gun.  His death seems silly, and selfish, at times, and the true purpose of his fatal decision will never be known.  Even with Vincent Van Gogh, then and now, it is all about the Image.

This Artist, honestly sees only a very, very long road.  This Artist sees the evolution occurring.   This Artist seems the fragility of this dream.   This Artist sees no other way.  This Artist is going for the ride. This Artist lives the Image.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Hallelujah image8

Hallelujah photo from Friday night.  Family was here this weekend, and the home improvement project was building another bookshelf to fill with Art and Music books.  It is quiet now, they are gone home.  It was the standing watching their car slowly disappear down the road,  that is most difficult.  To go from the voices and noises of many to the slowly dying engine sound of a white Toyota van traveling away puts everything in perspective.

What is above was completed in a couple of hours time early Friday night, before they arrived.   It does not look like much, but a lot of time goes into thinking. And again a big wall of frustration for this artist is a need for more colors that just may not exist, or possible he has not discovered, ….yet. The search continues, but for now relief was found for the eighth notes in Iridescent Copper, Yellow Ochre,  and Gold Ochre.  This music which is listened to every night is sad, but inspirational, and also an inspirational challenge, that is much enjoyed.

It is the Music.  It is the Sound.  It is the Deliverance. It is the Spiritual. It is the Salvation.  It is Art.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Christmas Painting image1

What Child is This is this years Christmas Painting, close up. This is a dinky painting 20inches by 5feet.  The size is rather boring and surprisingly it’s size pales in comparison to the Chopin piece along with the sense of challenge.  Strange,  it was thought that a smaller canvas offered the chance to experiment with more freedom.  Yet, hum, that feeling still stands, yet, hum, maybe it is like betting with quarters instead of hundred dollar bills.   It is this way with each painting: there is an idea and a path to take and  for some reason the artist attention span is short, and the path quickly turns into a trail, into trampled grasses, into finally an open field filled with a breeze and a reassuring sun.  And what does he do? He puts on his sun glasses and searches for the way out.

Scott Von Holzen