S_V_H Please Come Home for Christmas_ project complete

•12/19/2020 • Comments Off on 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

•12/12/2020 • Comments Off on 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 Woodstock final image & 2020 Christmas painting

•11/18/2020 • Comments Off on S_V_H Woodstock final image & 2020 Christmas painting

This is my completed image of the artwork Woodstock.   Alongside of the artwork, I have an image showing the hanging frame for these free canvas artworks.  The round magnets on each side of the top of the frame are used to hold the artwork in place.  The other image is a closeup of the advanced stereo amplifier system that powers the music.

I will let the video tell the rest of the story of Woodstock from my home office studio being a stranger in a strange land.

The lesson I learned from Woodstock (mentioned in the video) is that placing the words on the top layer, instead of the bottom, may make it easier to read them even after scrapping.   I plan on testing this idea on the final Christmas painting.

Fifteen Years of Christmas paintings:
2006   Joy to the world
2007   Winter Wonderland
2008   Sleigh Ride
2009 White Christmas
2010   What Child is This
2011   The Christmas Song
2012   Let it Snow
2013    You Raise Me Up
2014   A Great Big Sled
2015   Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
2016   Ave Maria
2017   Silver Bells
2018   Rockin’ Around the Christmas
2019   Happy Xmas (the War is Over)
2020   Please Come Home for Christmas (the final painting of this Series)

Here is one of many versions of this year’s Christmas song sung by Martina McBride:

I picked this music for its connection with the Blues.  There are few to none other popular Christmas songs in that genre, and this is the best.   This version from the David Letterman’s final Christmas show puts this music over the top with Darlene Love’s Gospel influence.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Woodstock artwork with frame

•11/17/2020 • 1 Comment

This latest image shows the frame that allows me to wall hang artworks from 72 to 76 inches by three feet in height. This frame also contains the artwork’s sound system, and the magnets that are used to attach the artwork. On the left side is my new 20 watt stereo system, and the four-inch speaker boxes.  The quality of the sound has improved from previous systems where I started with a sound box for stuffed animals and a built in 0.5watt speaker.  Today’s system comes from the enormous improvements made by my first custom sound setup.  That stereo system used one-dollar and ninety-five cents three-inch speakers and a 2 watt stereo amp.

I believe the 20watt amplifier and my speaker choices are now good-to-go.  When I first added sound to these artworks getting them up and running was the concern.  This is my second 20watt system, which is a lot more complicated than my previous amplifiers, and considering all the soldering, everything went as planned, almost routine.  That means I now have the time to turn my attention to improving the enclosures that hold the speakers.  If I give their build a little more attention to detail, I think this can be a shortcut to improving the sound even more. 

Current 20Watt Stereo System with on/off switch

I have finished and signed the artwork Woodstock.  I will discuss this project, include a video, and talk about my last Christmas painting in my next blog entry.

Scott Von Holzen

Woodstock Image 4

•11/11/2020 • Comments Off on Woodstock Image 4

This image shows the artwork project, Woodstock, with most of the add-on’s in place, and the artwork in a near finished look.  I have left all my temporary pieces of numbered tapes to record this moment that shows the system used to locate and place the beaming and all the other add-ons such as slurs, ties, incidentals, eighth note flags, and as a guide for the dotted notes.   Every one of these artworks builds on a past artwork’s style, but their construction needs vary from each other.   This photo may help future projects as I move from mistake to mistake and problem to problem.

Looking at the above photograph and then turning around to the artwork, the difference is striking.  The photo lacks the third-dimension, which then allows the background to dominate the artwork in a kaleidoscope of movement, shapes and colors.  Looking at the life-sized original artwork, the music physically stands out, creating a better balance with the background.  This allows to music to capture the viewer with its own up and down, and back ‘en forth animation.

Applying the music is the last major part of completing this project.  This will take several days.  When completed I will post a video.

Woodstock the artwork,  I define as fragile, makes showing it difficult. It is touchy to even move.  To display my artworks in public has always been a priority.   This work complicates show options.

I have done approximately 15 public viewings of this art using art shows and exhibitions since we moved with the first local show in the spring of 2017,  and ending early 2020 at the Hopkins Art Center.  The results are not mixed, with a heavy lean of expenses, token feedback,  no interest, no inspiration, no new opportunities,  little motivation to repeat, and little incentive to continue applying.  My take away from Art Fairs and group exhibitions is that they reset every year, and even if you are successful (your own definition) in time, even those offerings that where once positive will fade. 

That means if I would attend 100 more Art Fairs and group exhibitions, this art would eventually return me to where I started with nothing accomplished other than wasted time and monies.  Artists who create for the public art market for a time may attend more success, but again that too will eventually wind down for each year the local art market does a redo.  Knowing that, and even after repeated attempts, I have dropped one display opportunity after another.  A conclusion may be this art is not ready for the public art market, at less not for now.  For now, my now comprises two important and final (I have no other plans to show until they contain COVID), shows where I will display for the first time multiple artworks.

The first show will be a two person exhibition at the Center for the Visual Arts in Wausau,  this coming May.  The second show will also be a two people at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin.  Because of the Covid shutdown, I am waiting for rescheduling information.  My heart tells me both shows will end the same with little to show.  That does not alter my intentions to present two professional exhibitions that will display a brief history of this art and its music.  I know the value of this art. My task is to keep on explaining and displaying.  That keeps me keeping on the look for the next best opportunity.   No other choice exists.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Woodstock image 3

•11/05/2020 • Comments Off on S_V_H Woodstock image 3

Woodstock image 3 shows the music in place.   Different from the last work I did widened the music stems which allows me to attach my musical notes, incidentals, ties, and slurs to those stems.  This is consistent with my style before I left my studio for my current home office studio.  The wider stems have the benefit of more glue in contact with the canvas, allowing for a stronger bond.  I realized when moving my last unstretched artwork that any amount of twisting of the canvas can loosen pieces.  Maintaining the attaching of the music to unsupported canvas remains a concern.  These artworks present an uniqueness not seen in art.  Their freedom from a support, that has been a fundamental part of painting for over 500 years,  enhances that.

Next up, I will add all my embellishments for interest.  Finally, I have a decent rendition of the music Woodstock, and since I am not hurried to start another project, I would like to experiment with the instrumentation.  The complicated software I use for the arrangement requires me to switch my concentration away from art to the mechanics of music production.  My ability to process only one artwork at a time, also relates to my arrangements of the music.  That is why I try to complete the music before I build the artwork.  It all comes down to focus and success that moves me from one point to the next, one foot in front of the other, through one door and knocking on the next.

Scott Von Holzen



S_V_H Woodstock 2nd image

•10/25/2020 • Comments Off on S_V_H Woodstock 2nd image
Woodstock first image

This second image shows the results of the scratch-off technique of the top layer.  I have mixed feelings.  I would have liked the words on the background layer to show better, to connect the viewer to the music.  To accomplish that, I realized I would need to remove too much of the top layer, losing much of the scraped look.   Also, because the words where casually applied their inconsistent look makes identifying them harder.  For comparison, here again is the original background of this artwork.  The words are there.  Whether anyone can find them and then read them only matters to me.   For now, they exist, and their colors show, and at this learning stage of this technique everything is subject to change with next artwork.

Next I will being cutting out 125 pieces of wood for my music stems.  I already cut out my poker chips note heads twice for this work.  The first size was 1 5/8 inches, which were too big.  I will save them for another project.  I returned to the drill press and cut another batch, this time sized at 1 1/2 inches.  They are all sanded and painted brown.  The stems will be stained and then painted.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Woodstock first image & a little J S Bach

•10/22/2020 • Comments Off on S_V_H Woodstock first image & a little J S Bach

This first image of Woodstock shows the painted background for the foundation of my scratch-off technique.   This first step differs in appearance from my last three artworks that also used this style method.   The purpose of the scratching off the top layer of paint is to expose parts of the backgrounds, which creates an unique and unpredictable (not boring) contrast with the music.  I could have chosen any abstract background style, but did not with my past three works.  They shared a style with Where to have all the Flowers Gone.  I changed this trend with Woodstock.  For this artwork, I had an option the others lacked,  lyrics.  Instead of painting a silly nothing image for the background, I painted the lyrics that are part of the music.

This idea of removing paint to expose more than another layer of paint originates with my Bach Menuet.   For that work I glued a copy of Bach’s handwritten music to the background of the canvas and then scraped off the final topcoat to expose the sheet music.   This same idea works with the lyrics from Woodstock.  When revealed the words add color and connection to the music and the artwork.

To paint so many words, I looked first to Jean Michel Basquiat’s handling of words (he used a lot of them in many of his artworks).  Here is an example of his style from Artnet.   He used oil sticks (oil paint in the form of a crayon) to write out his words.  I do not have any oil sticks, so as in the past I brushed in the lyrics with the bar set at legibility.


I finished the J S Bach work, Prelude, in September.  What I had not completed was the audio and the mount for the artwork. Prelude is the first work that uses the new 20watt amplifier and speaker system, whose construction and configuration took time. It was up and running only after receiving some replacement parts delayed in shipping.  When they arrived, I mounted them on a board I attached to a custom-built aluminum frame that holds the speakers, amplifier and to which I could attach and remove the artwork. Here is my YouTube video of my arrangement of J S Bach Cello Suite No.1 The Prelude mounted on the frame.

Up next I will prep the background so I can apply the top coat of paint, which for this artwork will be Cerulean Blue Deep. Once the final coat dries the fun part (and mess) begins as I will then scrap of the Cerulean to review what is beneath.

S_V_H The Song Woodstock intro

•10/07/2020 • 2 Comments

Joni Mitchell wrote the song: Woodstock,  which will be the subject of the next musical portrait.

By the time I finish an artwork that can take a month or more, I have lost much of my earlier interest and am ready to move on.   Thankful for a break it can take days to find and select the next piece of music to portray.  Then it takes added time to convince myself that the chosen music is worth the effort.  How I work is from project to project:  I focused until I finish an artwork,  and only then do I consider what to do next.

Once I have chosen my next subject, I arrange the music.  That was a lot easier before I added sound.   Without sound or words, what I did was pick a phrase or a sentence from the music as a start point and follow that to an obvious end point.  If the music included words I then had to choose carefully not only the words (Copywrite concerns on my part), but I had to make sure I still had a good start and end point.  Now days with added sound,  I create arrangements.  What that means is I pick short sections from different parts of the music’s notation, change them to connect,  and then together I create a pleasant flow of the music I am portraying.  This takes days with many revisions.  Eventually, I find an arrangement that sounds good to my ear.  I then move on to the artwork, using my arrangement as my guide to building the artwork.

That is where I am at with this first blog entry about the Woodstock project. There is no first image of the artwork (The start date of his project is September 26th).   Instead, I am offering a late revision of the music that I arranged for this artwork and that I will use as my guide to cut out, sand, prime, and paint what will be the notation parts for this project.

This is my current arrangement of the project Woodstock that comes from the music of Joni Mitchell:

In 1970 while in college in Madison the version of Woodstock I knew was by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. This song was on their album Déjà vu, a favorite album of mine. Their music confirmed my taste preference for the melodic style of Rock music

I discovered my rock n’ roll style when the Beatles came to America, as a sophomore in a rural high school farming town. I was a Beatles rock ‘n roll guy: great melodies and lyrics, at moderate volume, without any distortion. I had little to no interest in the groundbreaking hard rock style of Led Zeppelin. Obviously, my musical tastes expanded in college. I grew to like The Who, buying their album Live at Leedes, and Cream buying their two disc album Wheels of Fire. Still, The Beatles’ influenced continued into the eighties as I favored Madonna and the Funky sound of Prince, instead of Van Halen, whose music hits resurface with the passing of Eddie Van Halen.

Why then did I not arrange the version of Woodstock from my past? It was because recently when I listened to Joni Mitchell’s Folk rockin’ version of Woodstock; it caught my interest. I knew it would be a better fit for my current limited arrangement abilities, and it would be an acknowledgement of my early years appreciation for Folk music. Folk music later paralleled my preference for rock ‘n roll and grew from the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary, to Joni Mitchell, who I often mixed up with another favorite of mine, Judy Collins. I believe the album Déjà vu contains several other songs that are artwork worthy of future projects for the Sixties time in my life. This one is a thank you to Joni Mitchell, and her lyrics about my lasting memory of the Woodstock Rock Festival.

Finally, unrelated to the music, I have a comment about this blog site. Starting early in its existence, I made up a goal to post the same number of letters Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo Van Gogh. That total is a challenging 658. After ten years of blogging, this post will bring me to 637. I am only twenty-one away.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Bach Cello Suite No.1in G Major, the Prélude, BWV 1007 Final Image

•09/21/2020 • 1 Comment

Here is the not-yet-ready for prime-time arrangement of Bach’s Prelude from his first cello suite:

(Audio updated 9-23)

This music sounds better in the software I used to arrange it, which is StudioOne version 5.  The section where the drums come in on the WAV file is dull compare to the original software file.  I am still in the early learning stages of this software.  I will make improvements, and updating this file, over the next few days before installing this stereo system in the artwork.

I am delaying the video for this artwork because I am having technical issues with a new 20 watt stereo system I will use for this artwork.  That is a large upgrade from my previous system which was also stereo but only 2 watt per channel.  By going to a 20 watt amplifier I can use speakers that produce a higher quality of audio reproduction to better match the value of these artworks.

The drums in this music comes from a song In The Air Tonight at the 3 minute 16 seconds mark.

My arrangement of this classic Bach music (even after I have perfected the WAV file) would not appeal to most J S Bach admirers.  I understand that, and they are right, but I am an artist, and if I am to be an artist, you gotta break down barriers, push through, upset, question, and challenge the viewer to see and hear differently, and not necessarily the way I do, just different enough to turn the knob, and step through the next unknown door as a shared experience.

I will have more about this artwork in a future video, including the playing of the final audio file.

Scott Von Holzen