S_V_H Shenandoah final image

Shenandoah ≈ L58″ x H37″ D4″
In Studio image of Shenandoah
Five minutes of rambling, hands in my pockets, discussion of the music box Shenandoah, and playing the cover music.

My worksheet for this minor project has a start date of March 10. That seems like a long time. I realized that some of that timeline was used for preparing for two small new shows, picture below, including converting artworks to music boxes. Both events came from the efforts of members of EmptyWallsArt, an organization to find alternative ways to promote art.

For the Elmaro show I needed to dig out from storage older smaller size artworks that better fit their space and customer price range. On the left side is Like a Rock dated 2018. A favorite of mind is on the right: The Water is Wide, another traditional folk song, dated 2017. Both works were converted to music boxes. In the middle is an early 2018 music box of Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

Elmaro Winery Trempealeau Wis. along the gorgeous Wisconsin Mississippi river valley

For the other April show hanging I arrived late losing wall space to the other members of EmptyWallsArt. I hung only two of the three works. The nearer is the 2019 project Over the Rainbow. This artwork was converted to a Music Box. The update to Over the Rainbow was completed around January 29th and posted only on Instagram. Hung too low to the right of Rainbow, is the wonderful Frank Gehry styled major 2022 work Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. This is the same artwork that was well staged at 1802 Gallery in La Crosse early in the year.


The Forage a local banquet and meeting business

Going Deeper:

This is the second of a three music box series where I purchase a Vincent Van Gogh print and create an artwork around it.

Since this project is not a major work, I am powering the Shenandoah music box with two 3 inch speakers and a 2 watt stereo system. This smaller stereo is half the cost, and easier to build and configure compared to the 20 watt stereo which I use for all major works. The trade off with 2 watts of power is considerable. I have no need nor is there a volume control with the 2 watt system. The maximum volume from this system is barely above average conversation. Actually, whenever I show my music boxes, I am asked or suggested that the volume be soft.

That reminds me of the saying “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” which I researched and found it not attributed to any one person. My take on that saying probably comes from the music of Meat Loaf, and his song Everything Louder Than Everything Else.

Because the music box’s 2 watt system does not have the power to fill a small room if needed, I will adjust the individual sound of the instruments and their nuances so that the sound of the music box is clear and balanced. This concern over the softer volume has led me to create simpler arrangements for a 2 watt system to prevent muddiness.

After thoughts:

I am seriously thinking of doing another different series of Amazon wall art prints converted into artworks for EmptyWalls. I did not get any positive reviews or even any comments about my first Van Gogh artwork, Everglow. That intrigued me. To continue sticking it to the art establishment (they don’t care. So this is silly. I am going ahead anyway). My plan, if I choose to do, is to keep these music boxes small and cheap, and wait for a reaction, if ever any, from anywhere, to be shared with the world. Although, this may take some patience and time. I must take into consideration my opening video line: “Hello I am the unknown, unknown artist……………..”

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Shenandoah image 2

This image shows the final canvas background and the layout of the flow of the musical notes.

This image is to test to see that all the music will fit in the space of this background. What I expected fits and the spilling over of the music is part of the design. Different from the first image, the two sections of this artwork are now offset. The background shape is typical of my later works, minus the Amazon canvas print. I would like to see less of this type of background, but I have lots of extra canvases to use up, and they offer a firm backside for these artworks in order to store them upright. Also, the length of this final artwork should be under five feet. This size is a lot easier to travel with, and a good size for some upcoming shows where large works are unnecessary.

Next up is the pretty and ascetically pleasing painterly part. I am going to take the bluish colors from the commercial Van Gogh print Almond Blossom Tree, and create a cover version of the Van Gogh painting out of the three primed canvases. Although the Amazon print of the Almond Blossom 1890 is darker than the online image from the Van Gogh Museum, it has more contrast. Being a photographer, good contrast appeals to me. Even the online image from the Van Gogh Museum would certainly not match the actual artwork seen in person.

Here is a version of this traditional folk song by the United States Air Force Band:

This song’s attraction to me is its harmony and the reflective mood of the music, and not the words. In fact, I made up my own words to go with my cover music. How I will use them, or not, in this artwork is still unclear to me.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Shenandoah

This first image is the layout for the music box Shenandoah.. In the lower middle is an Amazon purchased print, 16 by 24 inches. This is the second in a three artwork series featuring a commercial reproduction of a Vincent Van Gogh print. Why am I doing this? That is another story. On both sides of the print are the speaker boxes. The larger top canvas, I will probably paint a cover of the Van Gogh print.

From early January 2006 to today, March 2023, all my music artworks have been personnel. Everyone of them represents an extension of who I am. I share this understanding with all the other music lovers who cherish a deeply held secret that wraps around them everywhere, everyhow, and every meaning of why, their music.

Shenandoah is a traditional folk song dating from the early 1800s. Here is the reason, or actually here is the sound, of an emotionally moving rhythm, a scrupulous harmony, and a nostalgic melody, that even without the words or ornamentation, ozes to the surface the deepest, most hidden emotions. Few to no songs written today come close. Shenandoah is in the elite class of great American songs.

Shenandoah – United States Air Force Band

Here is the actual version of Shenandoah that first caught my attention. Where the Air Force band vocal version is the best I have heard, here is the best instrumental of Shenandoah.

I started developing the cover music for this music box on March 10th using the notation software Notion 6. When the artwork is finished, I will then transfer this draft to the software, Studio One, to complete the final audio. Since this music is out of copyright, here is the entire draft music box music for Shenandoah.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H You were on My Mind scrapping demo

Well, I thought it was time to do a video demonstration of my scrapping technique that I first used in early April 2020 on the project I Will. I’m writing this many days after I made this video, and have continued to scrap here and there to further my graffitiing of this musical portrait.

I have since the beginning of this art in 2006 used words to reinforce the artwork’s connection to the music I was portraying. My thinking is that the copyright people are touchy with the use of lyrics, so to not to offend I felt it was necessary to select words found in common language from the lyrics. That, of course, then diminished their impact. Still, I felt the words, much like the up and down flow, represented what I was portraying. By being selective in my words, I found I could create the added possibility of different meanings.

Recently, I have added more words to my artworks for a different purpose. I do this by breaking up sentences or phrases into smaller pieces and placing them randomly all about the canvas, like graffiti on a wall. Then, to negate their value as words, what do I do? I scrapped them away. It is the words’ presence, not their meaning is what I am after. It is like the artwork. I am not painting sheet music. I am portraying an up and down flow from the music.

By graffitiing the words, I am borrowing a technique used by Jean-Michel Basquiat where he would paint over words, as if so to say ignore them. I changed my mind. I agree with that. This is a continuation of a fundamental part of this art, whose principal theme has always been to portray music like a portrait painter: yea, it kinda looks like him, but it isn’t actually him, it’s a portrait.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H You were on My Mind image 1

This is the background image. Again, as in the past, nothing fancy or creative. My goal was to cover up the white primer paint with colors that fit together. The final top layer of paint will again cover up this high school abstraction. Later, after scrapping the top layer of paint, a higher abstraction painting will appear.

This image shows my graffiti words from the song, and the two layers of Prussian Blue topcoat. I learned from Play that Song, out-of-frustration in trying to cover the entire base coat, to let some of the base show through adding interest and depth. This next image shows the results of taking a small pallet knife and scrapping away the Prussian paint to reveal the base layer. The scrapping across the graffiti scrabbles the words’ presence while intensifying the abstraction. The use of a small scrapper creates narrow lines that display the action of the artist’s hand (Jackson Pollock without the dripping)

Starting with the first music painting back in early 2006, I had to deal with what to do with the background canvas. From the beginning, I had straightforward ideas of how I was going to apply the up and down movement of the music the artwork was portraying. What I did not have was what to do with the background. Since I did not want to paint sheet music. I knew I would not paint in the five lines and four spaces that make up a music bar line staff. What I came up with was to paint background rectangles that had the basic shape of a staff but more so resembled the artwork style of Mark Rothko. Here is an image of an early music artwork and a masterpiece by Rothko.

Over the years, my backgrounds became less Rothko looking and more generic. Probably out of the repeating need to apply pretty paint to blank canvas, to form a foundation for the music, and/or maybe to add some value to the artwork. Here is an example of a well used horizontal abstraction style using a roller.

American Pie 2008

A latest new background style came about when I constructed my own squeegees and practiced the technique developed by Gerhard Richter. This large Bach work BWV 1065 from 2014 is an example of my squeegee efforts.

I used those background styles and many others less unique for my backgrounds over the years. For each new painting, I had the same goal to fill in the canvas behind the music. It was not until early 2020 that I developed the idea of scrapping paint. Now, in later 2021, and with this latest scrapped work, I believe I am close to replicating this technique consistently. To this day, I am surprised with each first scrap of the pallet knife that what I am actually doing actually works.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Where have All the Flowers Gone Final Image


36″ Length x 26″ Height x 3″ Depth

I have finished the artwork for the music, Where have all the Flowers Gone.   I am going with a short title of, Flowers because the words on the artwork say it all.  I want to explain why my little circles of music are all white.  They are that way because the flowers are all missing from the artwork.  That should then be a convincing incentive for the Pablo center to have a local florist create an arrangement of flowers to display with the artwork.  The floral and art reception is March 18th through the 22nd.


I am thinking that I heard this 1962 version on the radio sung by Peter Paul and Mary:

Although I have finished this artwork,  the audio addition is not.   I am waiting for parts. Once done, I will post a video.

There are two things different with this artwork that most viewers will miss.  The most important change is that the stems are flat but wide.  The extra width of the stems allows me to better adhere them to the frame.  Also, the shorter stem height makes them less vulnerable to be twisted loose when being carried or shipped to an exhibition.  Of lesser importance, on the top section, the second and the fifth stems have no connection to their extensions.  I like this idea and plan to carry this forward from now on.  I also taped all the stems for each section together.  This allowed me to paint images across multiple stems, before mounting them.


Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Where have all the Flowers Gone image1

This is my first image of the classic Folk song, Where have all the Flowers Gone.  This music is one of my Greatest Musical Hits, the Early Years.   I am guessing, but I believe it was the Kingston Trio version of this song that created that connection.   Here is a video from 1966 of The Kingston Trio on the Andy Williams show singing Where have all the Flowers gone:

This is a 1960s live video of Pete Seeger, who wrote the song, that starts at one minute forty seconds:

Finally, this is the 1986 live version of Where have all the Flowers Gone, by Peter Paul and Mary. This group’s musical diversity, through the sixties, kept alive my interest in Folk music even as my musical tastes turned to the Beatles and rock n’ roll music.

There are a lot of good reasons to paint Where have all the Flowers Gone, but in reality, it was this email that finally motivated me to set aside the time for this project:



Pablo Center at the Confluence is seeking visual artists and floral designers to participate in Pablo Center’s group exhibit: Fabulous Florals & Fine Art. This popular annual exhibit will run March 18-22, 2020. Fabulous Florals & Fine Arts is a five-day exhibit paring visual art with floral interpretations of each art piece. We invite visual artists to submit images of their completed work for jury. Artists may submit up to three artworks. After artwork has been selected, images of the artwork will be sent to floral designers and will be the inspiration of their floral design. Selected works of art will be on exhibit at Pablo Center in the James Hansen Gallery.  APPLICATION DEADLINE IS JANUARY 11, 2020.”

This well-attended, and colorful exhibition,  comes at a good time in our Wisconsin winter.  I have submitted the last two years,  and both times I have received kind email rejections.  This year I am stepping it up.  I have kept this work small. The artwork will be full of colorful plant looking shapes, and for the first time, I will include playable music.  This artwork will also have an ironic title, Where Have All the Flowers Gone.  The color of the music, only white,  says where have all the flowers gone.  The florist will provide that answer.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H The Water is Wide image Final image

I have cross over to the other side,  by finishing The Water is Wide. This little acrylic painting consists of two canvases, aluminum and wood, and is about 38 inches in length by 17 inches.  Musically this is a simple song. I can confirm its simplicity for I practice it on the piano, violin, guitar, and saxophone.  That is what is deceiving about this music. It is so easy to play, anyone can do it, which is strangely deceiving.  Anyone playing or listening to The Water is Wide will be surprisingly rewarded by the melody.   This is a piano version by Michael Logozar:

With the lyrics,  the exceptionalism of this music is complete.  Here is a live version with Jewel, the Indigo girls and Sarah Mclachlan:

Because of the style of the music I thought a small painting, with a limited color pallet would work best. I kept my blues to two colors for the background. From the lyrics I choose white,  and a mixed brown to represent the colors of the music and the row-boat.

This  artwork has turned out to be a nice surprise, that reconfirmed that these paintings……bla..bla…..bla… music.  I do not know how to end that sentence.  After 10 years of painting music I still don’t have the answer that best describes this art and its relationship to a lot of pretty darn good music.  I still working on the enlightenment phase.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H The Water is Wide image 1

This Scottish folk song The Water is Wide has origins that are hundreds of years old.  Pete Seeger first popularized the song in the Folk music era.  This is a live celebration version of The Water is Wide,  sung by  Emmylou Harris,  for Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday:


The Water is Wide first came to my attention from this wonderful cello version by Steven Sharp Nelson:


This little artwork’s two canvases along with metal and wood pieces is just over thirty-seven inches, and continues  the look of the music  flowing outside the canvas framing.  These smaller works are marketable,  quicker to produce and are a good for experimenting.  They are worth doing, although their smaller physical size difference does have a visual impact.  What does not change,  no mater the size of the artwork,  is the level of importance of the music chosen for each painting. The differences in sizes comes from the design of the music that can make it easier to portray on a smaller artworks.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Burgundy Shoes Final Image

burgundy_finalBurgundy Shoes, from the Music of Patty Griffin, is finished,  and I believe this artwork represents in a charming way a beautiful musical story.  You can listen to the music from the painting which starts at the 1:16 second and continues to 1:33 seconds.

Here is Burgundy Shoes in its temporarily holding spot, in my Daughters home, for now I have no better safe place to store it. My new Studio is still weeks away from being completed.

burgundy_1I really do not have much more to say about this work. It is strange my transformation with a finished artwork. It is like all my emotions that where the reason I chose the music, and why I put my best effort into creating a new musical artwork, suddenly vanish.  While the painting is a work in progress my relationship is in the first person. Than when I declare it finish, the connection between me and the artwork changes to the third person.  I view all my finished artworks is as if some other artist had created the work. I have said this several times before, each of these artworks take on a life of their own.  They will become a long-lasting narrative about one piece of Music.  While for me each of these experiences, while barely a footnote in their lives, gives value to my days. I than have the wonderful opportunity to look back at a long forgotten artwork and say, wow, I did that. I like that feeling. Yea,  I do.

Music First

Scott Von Holzen