S_V_H Please Come Home for Christmas_ project complete

My approach to creating a Christmas painting for the last fourteen years was to keep it simple, in the current style of that year, and get it done quickly and painless.    That all ended with this the last Christmas painting. 

 

My explanation starts with my previous blog entry: ” … I found this music…….. going through several video lists of the top Christmas songs of all time.    ….. I stopped to look at a video of a song I never heard of called Please Come Home for Christmas.  It was being sung by Bon Jovi….. …… The cover that closed the deal was by the country singer Martina McBride.”  That was my typical start of a Christmas painting.  What happened next requires a brief history retelling.

It was in 2018 that I noticed that the amount of music I wanted to base my portraits was increasing in length.   Eventually, I stop using small pieces or short phrases of music from sheet music.  That had been the norm since the beginning of this art.   This happened because I was creating my own arrangements as I added sound to an increasing number of artworks.   As my arrangements and the sound reproduction improved, so did the length and the size of the artwork’s music.   The switching to more professional software improved the quality of my arrangements even more.  This all sped up, with the decision to buy a mechanical license for any copyrighted music I wanted to portray.  This trend to expand the artwork’s arrangements surely had its origins from Classical and older pieces of musical artworks that were in the Public Doman with no copyright issues.

Now that I had the Christmas song I wanted to portray, as in the past, I needed a short piece of the music to do an easy and quick to finish artwork similar to the last fourteen years.  I wanted the music to fit on a three-foot by two-foot piece of primed canvas.   My problems started with the song’s arrangement, which required a lot of time and effort to complete before I could plan out the artwork.   I soon realized it was going to be difficult if not impossible to fit my arrangement of Please Come Home on my chosen piece of canvas?   To fit a minute plus long arrangement of music on a 3 x 2-foot canvas would require a ridiculous reduction in the wood’s size to fit three lines of music across the canvas.  The arrangement contained almost a hundred pieces of the music, which would require weeks more work to create and finish and a larger piece of canvas.   That seemed like an exhausting and crazy waste of effort and time for an artwork I basically felt indifference towards.   Christmas time restraints were already becoming a concerned.  When I realized I could not fit on a small canvas, an arrangement that used up days of effort to create, I changed direction.

I decided I would eliminate a fundamental rule that I lived with from the first music painting.  What resulted was that I reversed the roles of the Artwork and the Music.  From day one of the art, the chosen music had to match the flow of the artwork’s design, meaning both the artwork and the music needed to fit the canvas.   That changed with Please Come home.   Please Come Home became the first artwork to no longer be a portrait of a song.

The arrangement of the Music for Please Come Home now became the source material for the Artwork.   For this project, the plan was to use a small size canvas,   That made it impossible to display all the music from the arrangement.   For the workaround Please Come Home became the first artwork to sample the arrangement of the music.   What the means is this artwork would not be a portrait.  Instead, this artwork would be a sketch of the music. 

Sampling defined by Wikipedia is “…. the reuse of a portion (or sample) of a sound recording in another recording.”   In Please Come home for Christmas, I am displaying samples of the musical arrangement in two lines across a three-foot canvas.   I took the words from each sample of the arrangement and painted them where I planned to attach each wooden sample.  I then painted the other words from the music in no particular plan or arrangement to liven up the interest and for their connection to the music.

 

I have these other thoughts on this final Christmas painting and the final artwork of 2020. When a viewer looks at this artwork, what are they looking at I ask?  I have wondered and debated this question with myself throughout this year.  I going to guess because it is fictitious that anyone has looked in person at my artworks and told me directly what they were seeing, or lately hearing. 

I can see the total disruption of sheet music being transformed into the visual as a portrait that is a mix of two abstractions: music, and the visual arts.  This can be a blending into a new form of art?  I could also see a future for painted sheet music of popular music.  Or maybe there is nothing to see here.   What if I don’t really listen to music and if I did I surely would not understand what music looks like, or even care to know what it should look like, but I am guessing it doesn’t look like what I see in this art, and so all I can say is, whatever and where is that button so I can at less have a moment of enjoyment playing the sound of something that means nothing to me?   It is all a not sure.

What I can believe for certain is this art is moving to sampling.   I feel I am stepping through another unlocked door that leads me from what was to what is a path where music and art are one: Art in Music.

Scott Von Holzen

 

S_V_H Please Come Home for Christmas progress images

Background canvas layer image

Please Come Home for Christmas is this year’s Christmas painting and the last in the series.  This first image shows what I would call a generic abstraction.   All I am trying to do is paint the canvas with colors that when scratching off the top coat of paint would review a contrast in color interest between the two layers.  It is a style of painting that I can honestly call my own.   Concerning the painting of the background, I noticed after scratching down to the background that I should have painted over all the white areas of the background.   I believe that would have improved the color contrast with the top layer paint.

My brother Roger’s Christmas card gave me the basic color scheme for Please Come Home.

I was hesitating to paint another Christmas painting.   This conflict has been growing for years.   The feedback over the last 14 years has been almost nothing. The original reason I spent an enormous amount of time and effort to create an artwork and then design, produce and send out Christmas cards was a way to say thank you by staying connected to those who had purchased an artwork, or people and friends that have supported this art.   The issue became this plan never grew. Everything remained as it was from the first Christmas card to last year’s fourteen versions.  It became a yearly habit and nothing more.   The creating of fourteen Christmas paintings added up to a lot of time spent that resulted in a few responses, and not a single artwork or print sale.   The reason today that I am creating the fifteen Christmas painting came from a comment I got from one long time Christmas card receiver.   She had made a custom framed for all the canvas prints from the Christmas cards and had one last blank space left to fill.  I guess it came down to this, which was enough to continue this series one last year.

When I first introduce my choice for this year’s Christmas artwork, anyone who looked at the videos could see this was a distinctive agnostic style of a Christmas song that I was looking for.   How I found this music started with going through several video lists of the top Christmas songs of all time.   At first, all the music that appealed to me I had already painted.   That forced me to go back through the list that I thought contained the most diverse songs.  That is when I stopped to look at a video of a song I never heard of called Please Come Home for Christmas.  It was being sung by Bon Jovi and included the delightful Cindy Crawford.  This caught my interest, to watch other videos of Please Come Home.  The cover that closed the deal was by the country singer Martina McBride.

top paint layer covering up the background image shown above

The finished top layer of acrylic paint includes many of the words from the music.  The addition of words to an artwork helps connect the music to the artwork and provides the opportunity for the words to have other meanings beyond being the music’s lyrics.   I took the pieces and phrases of the lyrics and placed them where they would fit without concern for their order.  I kept everything fairly horizontal and used different colors for each group of words for separation and legibility. 

In the past, I have waited no longer than a day to begin the scraping process.  For this artwork, two days passed before I took a narrow pallet knife and scraped away the top layer of the artwork to review the background.  I noticed that the scraping was harder to do.  Probably because of the extra one day delay. 

I made sure my scratching away of the topcoat was extensive, even across the words, to bring out the contrasting background colors.  What surprised me when done was how easy it was to still read the words. Unlike the previous artwork, Woodstock, the scratching off of the top layer only then revealed the words. 

This is the finished canvas image part of this project.

This last image is a snapshot image of the signed canvas image of this year’s Christmas painting.   I used a stiff felt material for the pink and green-colored rectangles (my musical beams, ties, and slurs). The pink color is that of the felt, while the green color I painted using another piece that was white.   Knowing I would not be stretching this artwork, I went with the use of the flexible felt being attached to the mounted wood.  Felt bends, unlike wood.   This then would lessen the chances of pressure on the glued wood if there was any twisting of the canvas when being moved.

This finishes the first part of the project.  In the past, this step would be the end.   This artwork requires that I build a wall mounting aluminum frame to attach the canvas too.  I will next construct the speaker boxes and solder together the stereo system.  The installation of the music that I had arranged before even starting the work on the canvas is next.   I then attach everything to the frame to finish the project.  The result will be an artwork that will wall hang with a button that when pressed will play the musical arrangement that the artwork is portraying.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Happy Christmas Final Image

37″L x 23″H x 2.75″ D

Happy Christmas surprised me by taking only two weeks from start to finish.  I like the melody in which I could stop at a good point in the lyrics.  This enabled me to leave out the ending of the first stanza, including these lyrics “let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.” This music is not only a Christmas song but an anti-war song.  Lennon recorded this music during the Vietnam War, in 1971.  Although those lyrics are still relevant,  I wanted this artwork to be a celebration of Christmas.

If I had not included the word “Christmas,” along with those giant snowflakes in the background,  visually this artwork is more in the style of the Blue Danube project, and nothing like my previous Christmas works.  Over the 14 years that I have created Christmas paintings, I never attempted to create anything new.  The take on all my Christmas artworks was to take the easy Christmas style route and create a summary work of the year.  My main challenge was to get it done.  Then I could take a picture, and print out a pile of eight-inch wide canvas prints, to put inside the year’s Christmas cards.  Once the cards were out the door, like past Christmases, I will quickly store the artwork away to remain an unknown unknown.

Left to do is the music.  I have some understanding of music theory but not so musical composition.  That means I am early in my understanding of how to create and arrange a decent sound.  That is why the music it not yet done.  This year has seen the improved sound quality of increasingly sophisticated arrangements that are now a part of each project.  I believe that adding sound to the artwork is becoming vitally important to the success of the artwork.  That makes sense. This art, from the start, has been about portraying music.

From the beginnings of this art back in 2006, it was all about displaying, in a semi-abstract way, the up and down flow of a piece of music.   What it never was about was to replicate sheet music which would stifle the creative effort.  That style defined this art until recently when I added the play button to my artworks.  I guess I thought my musical arrangements would allow me to follow the art.  I soon found that difficult. Although the arrangement and the artwork share the same music, their artistic presentations are widely different.  Like everyone else that enjoys this art, for now when I play the music I will listen.  When I look at the artwork, I will then enjoy the artwork as I have always done, as a portrait of the music.  So what we have is one sculpture with two features,  with this one caveat: the artwork is the value of the project that represents the project goal which is to present itself as Art.  The music is there only to support the Artwork.  That is the difference.  The Art can exist without the music.  My music is meaningless without the Art.

The Art is the portrait; the sound is the hook.

 

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Happy Christmas 2nd Image

Happy Christmas is swiftly moving along.  Right now this is a white artwork with too much metallic gold. I will fix that.  Following the lead of my last artwork, The Circle (Will the Circle Be Unbroken) I have added and connected two canvases.  I painted them white and placed store snowflakes on top of a wet white glaze.  I then applied several more coats of clear glaze over the canvases to hold the flakes in place. I did tried to follow the instructions to fold a sheet of paper and cut out my own snowflakes, but all I accomplished was to create a lot of misshapen, jagged edges and paper waste.  So off to the store I went.

I am planning on adding other colors to add some depth and interest to this project.  Right now I am not thinking of sticking to the traditional Christmas colors, such as a bright red and green.  I would rather use softer pastel versions of these and other colors. I want white to remain the dominate color.  I will see what I can come up with.  It is kind of hard to picture Santa Claus dressed in a light hot pink, red suit, but for this project it could work.

Scott Von Holzen

 

 

S_V_H Happy Christmas first image

 

This first image shows how much construction I have completed before I can put together the basic image of the artwork. To this point, it is the designing of the artwork, along with tedious repetition, that includes cutting, building, a lot of sanding, priming, more sanding, and evaluation to confirm all the pieces work with each other.  Only then can I paint.

Happy Christmas, by John Lennon, is my project for Christmas 2019.

This is the fourteenth year that I will have created a Christmas painting and a small canvas image that is a part of the Christmas card I send to those who have supported this art.  I know that my Christmas project will be the last work for the year.  Because of this, I look at the Christmas work as an opportunity to summarize how this art has evolved in the past twelvemonth period.   That is about it. None of these artworks have ever been on public display, nor has anyone ever ordered a print or requested a price.  That is fine.  They are works meant to add interest to a generic Christmas card, and a fancy way for me to thank those who have influenced this artist’s life.  Although after so many years you would think enough with the praise.

Scott Von Holzen

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree Final Image

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, 42.5″ in length x 13″ high

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree sums up this years Art style.  I did come up with a style change in the vertical staffs. In the past they have all been square.  For the staffs for this artwork I cut round dowels into half rounds.  Nothing special, just interesting to make those small changes that add up to bigger movements in this Art.   Those four words “small changes….add up” have always been what pushes this Art forward.

The photograph of this final image is not bad. It comes close to capturing the look of the aluminum frame and of the coarse Pearl paint I used on the two canvases.  To improve the accuracy of the image I did have to cut back on the contrast of the entire work.  This dimmed the whites especially noticeable in the backgrounds of the words.  I can still  perked up the whites in Photoshop, to improve the accuracy of the prints.  I do sell my Art as prints on Etsy and Amazon.  Although, I need not rush to do so,  for I have never sold a Christmas print.

Of interest I have entered this artwork, a first for a Christmas painting,  in The Center for the Visual Arts 2019 29th Annual Midwest Seasons Prospectus, on the very last day of eligibility. In the information brochure it states:

“Original works should draw inspiration from Midwest seasonal impressions and
activities: i.e., the excitement of summer sports,
the fresh scents of spring awakenings, the
warmth of a cup of hot soup in the bitter winter,
or the crisp air in the autumn colors.
Interpretations of the season may be broad and
entries are not limited to representational works”

I believe I meet this criteria for the Christmas season is a season in the Midwest, and my artwork comes from a popular Christmas song.  After 28 years of jurors I am pretty sure those who know this show probably have seen every take on what the look of our weather is in Wisconsin, accept, in truth, not the way I present it.  That than may be a problem: this Art is different and unknown.  My take than is that no matter who jurors the 29th show including any of the last 28 jurors, the 29 juror will also reject this art.  A generic rejection notice bothers me less than the lost of my entrance fee of 25 bucks, which bothers me a lot less than not trying.

I see this art as too different from what is popular at Art Fairs,  and not understood enough to be exhibited constantly in local area Art exhibitions. Over the last couple of years, against my own instincts, I have tried to market my art through Art Fairs.  I have had some success and a few sales.  Those buyers both connect to the music and find my pricing , under 300 dollars, in their range.  I have also gradually lowered my pricing and the size of my works to be more in tuned with these type of price conscience buyers.   Unfortunately,  the effect of these moves did not lead to more sales.  Instead, I feel Art Fairs have actually undercut the direction, the value, and stunted this Art’s growth.

My experiences with Art Fairs along with discussions with veteran vendors has lead me to believe that Art Fairs from year to year don’t really change, they only reset back to zero each year.   Art Fairs tend to have lots of potential  browsers, but I have had only a few buyers and they existed only in their moment in my tent.  Art Fairs therefore are like the movie Ground Hog day.  That is the reason I wish to abandon Art Fairs.  I do not feel Art Fairs and those buyers will ever connect me to the larger world of high Contemporary Art.   Ironically, Art Fairs that can do that are only the large Gallery supported Art Fairs.

Currently, I have no connections to any large Galleries so that leaves me with the option that started this blog post:  participating in Call-for-Artists exhibits.  These exhibits open the door to another group of supporters that don’t go to Art Fairs, and only occasionally go to Art exhibitions if they are a supporting member.  The difference between Art Fair browsers and  “Call to Artist” Art exhibition supporters is the level of interest in today’s Art.  Buyers interested in contemporary Art attend  Art exhibitions. Art Fair goers are browsers interested in craft works and a lot interested in connecting to an artwork.  Even if some Art exhibit attendees see only an investment,  there will always be a few others that buy Art because they believe.  Even though they are much fewer in numbers than Art Fair goers, and at times are difficult to deal with, they do, at less in spirit, support the Arts.  Maybe not with their money, (let’s be real here) but certainly with their words and their egos.  This than offers a small opening to greater opportunities as long as I can self-support this Art.  Since I can I can therefore play the juror game knowing that Art exhibitions, can offer doors that may open out to a wider audiences and bigger opportunities.  Unlike Art Fairs, there are no doors, only my tent opening, to a closet I never wanted to be in.

And, if I make the 29 Annual Midwest Seasons Prospectus  show, praise Jesus,  you never know what new opportunity may be ahead.  I need to stay focused, participate, and continue to make all those small changes. When everything is added up, I may be surprised by the doors I walked through, and the doors I open on my own.  It all starts with baby steps, baby.

Scott Von Holzen

 

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Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree image 1

To my surprise, Rockin’ Around the Christmas tree, is my thirteenth Christmas time painting. That is a lot of artwork time spent in the later part of the year, when I am not into Christmas music at Christmas time.  Instead I prefer an occasional Christmas song in the summer time.  For me Christmas music in July, is a diversion away from in-the-moment pop music, or when I am drowning in boredom from my own, aging playlists.  Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, sung by Brenda Lee, represents one of those great Summer Christmas songs, that will lift your spirit, and cool your temperature.

This artwork consists of two eight by sixteen inch canvasses, in a metal frame with a pearl colored background that does not portray well in the image. The music will be mostly in a Cobalt blue that worked well in the 2016 Christmas painting, Ave Maria.  A canvas image of this artwork will appear in this years Christmas card.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Silver Bells final image

Silver Bells this years Christmas artwork and the canvas print for my 2017 Christmas card is finished.  This work turned out to be a more  demanding and creative Christmas painting, than earlier years. Past Christmas artworks I kept the look and style predictable and functional to save time and stress because of the obvious deadline. Of course. Silver Bells did not turn out that way.

The result will be the same with this artwork as with the past Christmas works, which is that Silver Bells will become the newest member of my Christmas Club artworks soon to be quickly forgotten after the Holidays.

For now Silver Bells is where my art is at. It’s major influence is my earlier work, Runnin’ Down a Dream. You see that in the wide stems, and in the mix of colors.  Typical with my Christmas artworks I made use of metal paints, but even more so with Silver Bells.  I like their bright shiny Christmas look. Interesting,  I did a little practice glazing of the blue strips on the stems.  That doesn’t show well in the image, but this is something I will try again, and could be a possible step forward.

The words Ring and ring of course kinda throws this artwork in a different perception direction.   My original choice  was Silver Bells, but I decided to shake the tree instead.

That is it for Silver Bells. Next up something fun and different, that I know,  once I figure out what that would be.

Actually, I know exactly what I am going to paint. I am going back to my rock ‘n roll roots, with Bob Seger’s great Like a Rock:

 

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Silver Bells image 1

Silver Bells is this years Christmas Painting. My original plan was to produce a mini-Christmas artwork probably about one foot in length.  I ended up choosing a larger 8 inch by 24 inch in length canvas,  with no clear reason other than I forgot my original plan.

Using a larger canvas with such a small amount of music, better suited for a mini artwork, cause me to look for ways to fill up some space. Well, as you can see, with much effort, I covered the background using large pieces of wood.  Because of their length and size of all this extra wood, I had issues with keeping a balanced look. What I did to balance the work, with the third group of two notes,  I turned the stems  down instead of the more normal up. Than with the fourth two note group, I turned my tie, that boxy object covering the notes, also down, instead of doing a more normal above the music curve wood piece. I would have not done any of this if I had stuck with the original plan, but here I am. To move on to the fun parts of this music, I am going to cover all those large plain-looking pieces of wood with a lot of  strips and shapes. When finished Silver Bells will be a bright, colorful, and undeniable another unmarketable Christmas painting.

Here is a Classic 1950’s version of Silver Bells, with Bob Hope as a mischievous Santa Clause, and that includes a dated insensitive action at 1:18, Ho! Ho!

I  angled the stems of the music back-en-forth as a symbol for a ringing bell.  Originally, I was going with Silver Bells  for the artworks words, but  realized that I had another sentence I could use : “Ring-a-ling,  hear them ring.”  The words Ring, ring, balance nicely, and are more fun visually, so that is the direction I am heading.

Scott

S_V_H Ave Maria Final Image

avemariafinalThe 2016 Christmas painting, Ave Maria,  is finished.  Here is this years Christmas Cards sent out to those who have purchased a painting,  and to recognize those who have supported this art in the past year.

cardbb

What I have learned from Ave Maria is that I could paint a smaller artwork, and still keep the “look” of a larger painting.

Here is another version of Ave Maria by Vladimir Vivilov\ Giulio Caccini

Starting with this years Christmas painting, and soon adding the rest of the Christmas paintings that I have painted over the years, I will be donating any sales of these works to Charity.  You will soon find these paintings listed at my Etsy Store. I will be posting details on Etsy in the coming months.

 

Scott