S_V_H Giant Steps Fourth Image

63.25″ in length by 30″ high

This artwork needs to be signed and dated to be finished.  I am waiting because I am working on possibly adding music.  For this blog entry I have darken the image to improve the shadows created by the painting.  The shadows are not as pronounced as I would like, and the artwork needs to be brighter, but for this discussion this is what I have.

I cannot underestimate three important Artistic techniques (I hate thinking of art in terms of techniques) that make this work special.   The first technique comes from an Artist Friend, Jeff Nelson, who commented on the interesting look of the emptiness in my artworks. For some reason I never thought that the open spaces between the music was that great, until he mentioned it.  In fact my works from 2018 show me bringing the music closer together, especially in the artwork Africa.  That should have also happened with Giant Steps.  It did not.

As explained in an earlier blog entry, the second change comes from moving from a straight up and down, rise and fall look (Africa),  to a more angled, swing to the left, than swing to the right look (So What).  I believe I over calculated the effects of all those different angles.  Since the frames where already built, to reach the ends,  I ended up with larger spacing between the music.   More openness allowed the shadows from the music to extend further, the third technique, the shadows. Those shadows seemed to come alive with motion because of the effect created by the back-en-forth angles of the music, and the wider spacing that allowed them to fade out.

I first became aware of the effects of shadows in 2017 with the Bach artwork, that followed So What.  I took that artwork to an Art and Framing shop in town, for a frame, thinking that framing the Bach might make my art more acceptable to interested buyers. I now have found out that framing does not help.  The owner did not have the frame I wanted, but he took an interest in the Bach work.  He found an empty wall and hung the Bach to take a picture.  That is when he mentioned the shadows on the wall created by the Bach music.  It was that moment I understood the value of those shadows.  I do not have a copy of that picture, but here is a picture of that Bach work now framed, without the shadows.  It is in a nice custom frame, and will remain framed for now.  Even out of the frame the shadows on the Bach would not  have the same effect as they do with Giant Steps.  The Bach music is straight up and down.  It is the different angles of the music on Giant Steps, and the use of even smaller canvases than So What, that allowed more of the music to be outside the frame.

This is an exciting project that is going to open other big doors to new ideas and techniques yet to come.  So it goes.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Giant Steps image 3

Well this image looks like an actual artwork in the making, now that I have connected the two sections.  Of interest, Barbara says that this artwork looks better in person than in a picture.  That difference may be its physical size (2 feet by 5 feet) and the limitations of a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object.  She also mentioned that she like the back-en-forth movement of the artwork, compare to the straight up-and-down of Africa, that sits next to Giant Steps.  I certainly agree with her.

I wonder why I did not see the break through tilting used in So What (blog header image) completed in 2017.  It could be  that I did not think the techniques used in So What would transfer to other music genres (So What the creative music from the Jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis).  That artwork made it easier to repeat that technique easier for this other great jazz masterpiece,  Giant Steps.

That limited thinking is now past.  I now see this new look as taking a giant step in disconnecting these paintings from sheet music, the foundation of this art’s style.  Reaching this thinking has taken a long time because of my connection with and understanding a music.  Though, I never  wanted to paint sheet music,  I did want to paint the uniqueness of the music in the flow.   That is where the sheet music showed me the way in 2006.  Now, no matter the genre of my next artwork there will be no turning back.  This tilt-this-way-and-that-way look, improves the music connection with the improve look of spontaneity and motion in the artwork. Overall,  I believe that this is a better look than the stiff, sheet music appearance of last years masterpieces.  I say that Barbara is right.

This artwork is far from done.  I plan on adding a number of small canvases as backdrops for the music.  This came about because of this artworks more relax design and the resulting spacing that did not take into account all the tilting.  What happen is that I ended up with a lot more space, between the music (Not such a bad thing I discovered). The plan for the extra canvases is that they will give the artwork more of a physical look,  while adding background interest.  I actually did the opposite with the spacing between the two sections.

In the past I would have brought the two sections closer together to close the emptiness between, or like with Africa adding a background canvas between the sections.  For this artwork I went the other way by leaving the middle space empty.  I actually increased the distance between sections, a few inches.  What I discovered was the drama created by the emptiness and the power of the shadows.  The shadowing created by the emptiness and the depth of the artwork,  greatly enhances the look of motion.  I have a new quest to figure out how to increase the shadowing.  Wow, that is interesting direction I never thought I would be going.

Scott Von Holzen





S_V_H Giant Steps 2nd image

This is Giant Steps still in pieces, but starting to look interesting.  In past projects my procedure was to first cut out all the round heads, and then space them together to find the length of the artwork.  I would than build the artwork in sections and mount them to the background, moving from left to right.  You can see this done recently in the artwork, The Tango first image.  The reason I built these artworks that way was to help build interest in this blog by giving the viewer progress bar images of my artworks .  The problem with doing it that way was I was creating each section and then stopping to install it, and then starting the process all over again, always interrupting the work flow.

I learned from Africa, that creating all the major parts of the music first, saves construction time.  Another advantage that I have seen with Giant Steps is that my enthusiasm, which is always greatest early in a project, lasts a little longer, knowing there will be more enjoyment with less frustration by laying everything out before installing.

That reminds me of another enjoyment when doing a puzzle, and you are down to the last few pieces. Your emotions begin to rise knowing that where the few remaining puzzle pieces fit is becoming increasingly obvious.  Your pace quickens to insert the final pieces.  With the final puzzle piece locked in place, a momentary joy lifts your spirits for only than does the image of the puzzle come into focus.  That is the same feeling I had when finishing Africa.  For a few minutes, I did not feel exhausted with the project, but felt joy in seeing the completed artwork. The only difference between the two (and this is not cheating) I had already know where all the puzzle pieces fit.

Scott Von Holzen


S_V_H Giant Steps image 1

This first image of Giant Steps shows the pieces that I have made so far for this artwork. Once painted and glue together I can than map out the music flow to make sure everything fits on the two 60 inch by six-inch frames.  I will connect the frames one above the other, after attaching all the music.

The importance Giant Steps by John Coltrane, I knew, but it wasn’t until I watched the video on Giant Steps “The most feared song in jazz,” that I had the incentive to paint it.  Since this video also involves a lot of discussion of music theory,  I found that attractive.  What finally convinced me to do Giant Steps was how well  Africa’s rectangle format worked for that music.

The rectangle format allows me to create larger works with more music while keep the artwork length reasonable, under eight feet (longer lengths makes storage an issue).  Using the rectangle format, with two frames for the music instead of one long frame,  cuts the length of Giant Steps down from over ten to five feet.  Even though the stacking of the music was new, I felt disappointment with Africa.  Stylistically there was only small differences with Africa from the other 2018 artworks, like Vogue, or the Turkish March.  The answer to that was the rediscovery of So What.  Finding the video on John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and at the same time taking a second look at a forgotten artwork, I found the new direction I was looking for after Africa.

So What was my birthday painting in the summer of 2017.  This Miles Davis artwork had its first showing at The Art in the Park Art Craft Fair in Appleton, the day before my birthday.

I took the larger, and different looking So What to the Art fair as a statement piece.  So What was Art Fair priced at $800.00, but was never noticed that day.   At that time I thought the musical style of So What would only work with solo Jazz music, and no other genre. This was clear with my next painting, Chaconne,  by the Classical Composer J S Bach, that came out of no where because of a print request from a customer in China.  The Bach music was Classical in style, and much more complicated than So What so it was never considered.  Chaconne turned out to be an exceptional work with it own wonderful Classical music look, that set the example for what was to follow.  So What, then ended up in storage as “so what.”

Lately,  we needed a longer, but narrow artwork to decorate a wall. Since So What’s colors worked for that room, and because it was at the front of the stack artworks,  it came out of storage.  To refresh this blog header I also switched that image to So What. Than came the video on Giant Steps. Because So What’s Jazz style worked well, it became my plan to use it as the template for the John Coltrane Jazz piece.  What  I am doing is  my own Back to the Future move with Giant Steps, with the hope, this time, of using this look in future projects.  Looking back I regret the time lost in not exploring the possibilities of  So What.  Giant Steps will take So What forward using as its theme the first 14 seconds of this music:

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H In The Mood final image

Acrylic on three canvases, 40.5 inches in length x 17.5 inches in height.

In The Mood  is  finished. This is an upbeat jazz music, so I used different shades  of yellow, red, and multiple blues to add to the feeling of   movement. For the flow of the music the first coat I painted a light magenta. I than lightly painted the music with a gold color pick from the brass instruments.  I also used a light gray for the Mondrian squares, and to represent the suit color of the band  on the vertical shafts.

In the middle, out-of-place, I placed three notes that represent the lower bass music.  To separate them from the rest of the music flow, I reduced their height  and used darker colors, to represent the lower tones.

This is also the first painting where the aluminum frame defines the size of the artwork. The  three canvases are than used to fill in the spaces inside the frame, and to more importantly offer support for the flow of the music. The metal frame makes it a lot easier to work with different heights of canvases. That flexibility is nice, and framing the artwork may be a direction to follow.  My problems with using more aluminum is finding lengths with few flaws,  the increased complexity, and issues in making sure everything ends up looking square.

I can judge my feelings for an artwork by a glance, and am happy with the results of this one.  This painting is more fluid in its movement,  and is less musical looking, when compared to the recent artwork,  I will always love You.  That artwork I feel has a structure that is too rigid like notation. This change in thinking means that I am looking to paint artworks  that are less notational, and far less sheet musical, looking.

With the death of Tom Petty, next up I am going to paint one of his great classics, Running Down a Dream.

Scott Von Holzen








S_V_H In The Mood image 2

Glen Miller made In The Mood a classic as an instrumental, but I also like this vocal version by the Andrews Sisters. The Andrews Sisters sound makes me think of the time when my parents where young, rock & roll was still a few years away, and  the middle class American was beginning to prosper like never before. Of course my generation helped to changed all that.

You can see in image two the influence of Mondrian that I talked about in the earlier blog entry.  I like directly using the style ideas of other artists to shake up my style, to connect to the past, and to learn from them.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H In The Mood


In the Mood, is a big band classic from Glen Miller & his Orchestra. This song topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1940.  I remember playing my Mom’s 33 1/3 albums on the console record player when I was young. That is when I first heard big band music, of Glen Miller, and Tommy Dorsey.  We moved a lot back than so all those albums are now long gone, but I did not lose my appreciation for the sound of big brass.

In college, in the 1960’s,  I listened to one of my favorite albums by Blood Sweat & Tears, made all the more enjoyable by their use of brass instruments.  I remember In The Mood resurfacing as a single released by Bette Midler in 1974.  All through my musical life, probably from my Mom,  I have enjoyed the music of Frank Sinatra. What especially appealed to me where his songs that featured big band brass  His album Live at the Sands released 1966 and made into audio DVD in 2003, is still a favorite of mine today. However,  my decision to paint In The Mood came from a different direction.

My artworks have always provided me with entertainment, that is up to the point that I begin to tire of them.  When that happens, and it always does, I than push to complete the work. My last artwork, I Will Always Love You, took forever to finish. That extra time needed to complete that work exhausted my want to use that same style for my next project.  Finding a new direction started from a casual mention, in an art video series I was watching, of an old favorite artist of mine,  Mondrian.

Thinking about Mondrian,  I pulled from my bookshelf,  one of my earliest art books: 125 Paintings from the Museum of Modern Art.  With the copyright year of 1973,  that book was pivotal in the early development of my passion for art.

The Mondrian’s artwork,  titled Broadway Boggie Woogie,  appears on page 39,

That image than brought to mind my visit to the Museum of Modern Art,  with my good friend Tom, where we explored all six floors of the museum in record time.  I saw a lot of the paintings that day that I recalled from the book.  I than checked the photos from that trip. To my surprise I had not taken a lot of pictures of the artworks, but there was an image of Broadway Boogie Woogie. No portrait with me, but that I took the photo confirms that on that day I had searched for it knowing it was a favorite from the art book.

Here is that photograph of Broadway Boogie Woogie,  taken in the fall of 2015 at MoMa in New York City:

After the finishing of my last artwork, and knowing I needed a fresh approach, the Mondrian artwork offered possibilities.  The title, Broadway Boogie Woogie, caught my curiosity so I search boogie woogie to learn about this music genre that originated in the 1920’s. It was not long after listening to a few examples that I came across one of the big boogie woogie hits, In The Mood.  I now had my next art project of a long remembered song, with a fresh approach from a favorite painting from an old art book.

Scott Von Holzen


S_V_H So What final Image

L70.25″ x H12″ x D 2.5″

So What, a Jazz artwork using Miles Davis as its theme was actually finished a few days ago. This is my 2017 Birthday painting.  My past plan was to finish Birthday paintings on my Birthday.  What changed was that I wanted to take this work to an Art Fair in Appleton.

On Sunday I showed So What and 11 other paintings,  and one nicely framed and matted print. The print was the only item sold yesterday, and although that sale helped, I certainly came of short of covering expenses.  Of course the purpose of attending any Art Fair was to have artworks out in the public view. My reasoning is that no matter what I do and how I good I present my artworks on-line, all those images are two-dimensional.  Actually seeing So What, like many of my newest works, you are viewing are three-dimensional artworks.  The depth in these artworks can make all the difference.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Miles Davis, So What, image 2

The idea for the style of this artwork comes from Jackson Pollock’s painting Blue Poles. His painting is about 6 feet in height and about 16 feet in length. By using the look of Pollock’s blue poles I have finally broken the from-the-beginning tradition of always having perfect vertical shafts for my music.

Jackson Pollock


There are eight blue poles in the Jackson work, but So What has eighteen notes.  To make the number differences work I made my first and last notes vertical.  I then used two notes to match the angle of each blue pole.  I did stay consistent with the back-en-forth motion of his poles, even through their rhythmic look I thought I could improve on.

The effect of not keeping everything vertical was to enhance the sense of motion across the canvas.  That technique may have possibilities beyond motion attempts that I have used in the past.  I knew this painting years ago.  I should have tried Pollock’s idea then, although today’s timing could be better. Lately, I have found ways to loosen up many of my self-inflicted restrictions, that I hung to from the past. Finally, I even did some experimenting, once again,  with splattering paint.  I found out, once again,  that for now, that technique does not work. Baby steps.


Scott Von Holzen



S_V_H SO What image 1

This is my 2017 Birthday painting:  So What. This artwork theme comes from Miles Davis album Kind of Blue. I have linked a live version of this music.  This early television video of Miles Davis is strangely different from how it would be done now. Today, everything needs to be short, not so deep,  and in the moment to not lose the audience’s attention.  Back in 1959 that moment lasted for over nine minutes:

So What,  consists of 9 canvases for a length 70 inches.   The  largest canvases are only eight by ten inches.  I am looking at this artwork to be a directional changed.  Once again, I am on the move with the inspiration being Jackson Pollock and his abstract painting Blue Poles.

Scott Von Holzen