S_V_H After The Gold Rush Final Art image

•02/07/2021 • 2 Comments

36 inches in height by 72 inches.

This is the finished artwork for After the Gold Rush art project.  Before starting the artwork, I first created an arrangement of the music.  I then sampled it as seen in this artwork.  To complete this project, I will work with my arrangement to create the soundtrack.  I have already purchased the mechanical license for this music, which of course is still under copyright.  I have the metal frame from Woodstock, so I will only need to put the stereo amplifier together, and then install the soundtrack.  Once all that is complete I will post a video of my arrangement

For this artwork, I wanted to make the music as large as possible.  I did that but ended up with both the top and bottom lengths being 32 notes.  That left little spacing between the notes.  That raised a long time concern about fitting my music in a restricted amount of space. 

This has been an issue from the beginning of this art.  That is why I would first set the music out on the canvas on a table before attaching it.  Since I am still in a small temporary studio, the only table large enough for this artwork is the ping-pong table on the lower floor.  Because of the softness of the top layer caused by the scratch technique, and not wanting the distress of moving the canvas with the music attached, I decided against using a table.  I felt I could better align and assemble the music with the canvas safely attached to a  six-foot by four-foot stretched canvas on the easel.  I had tested these same steps on the previous and smaller Christmas painting. 

I taped a string along the top of the easel so I knew exactly where to place the top of the note’s stems.  In this way, my arrangement had the correct up and down.   Then excited to make sure all the notes fitted before the glue dried, I quickly attached the music, which comprised four sample sections.  This well-documented concern caused me to forget to place the middle sections on different planes from the end pieces.  I simply forgot to run another string.  When I had finished, the top section I soon realized this error.  I was beyond the time where I could safely remove any of the music without tearing away the top layer of paint.  At first, I thought I would have to do the bottom layer also in one straight line, as I have done with most of my artworks over the years.  This time I choose not to continue down that well-worn path.  I move the bottom to two middle sections, one up and one down, and added some words along the artwork bottom to fill in as interest.  

This video tells the rest of the story:

As I am writing this, I have sandwiched up this artwork and others between cardboard for safe travel.  I have begun the slow removal of my temporary artist studio from a room that makes a better home office.

This is my 649th blog post.  As I have mentioned one goal of the blog was to match the number of letters Vincent Van Gogh sent to his brother Theo Van Gogh, 651. 

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H After the Gold Rush Image 2

•01/30/2021 • 1 Comment

Wow! I am still shocked by the look after I do a scratch-off.  I know the results are, by now, predictable, and yet the scratching brings so much movement and life to the artwork, that it still amazes me.  This method keeps proving that it works, although that also still surprises me.   Of course with each project, some results I cannot control and those are not surprising.

This artwork had the issue with a lot of tiny breaks in the topcoat before scratching.  These little cracks in the surface paint have existed from work to work, although in this project they seemed excessive. That is something I would like to see less off.  I have an idea that the use of too much water when applying the topcoat may be causing more of these tiny cracks to be appearing.  In some areas in the middle, I did not like the placement of the words, so I painted them over which did fill cracks.   Then later, when I took a pallet knife to the topcoat, those thicker paint areas proved to be rubber-like and difficult to get any smooth flowing scratching.  You can see a few spots across the middle that the pallet knife resulted in the unexpected pulling of the paint. Thicker topcoats did not seem to be an issue in the past, but this time the extra coats were applied after the original topcoat had dried.  I did see that slightly curved horizontal lines created with a narrow head pallet knife, instead of using zig-zagging worked better for this artwork.  Finally, For the most part, I liked the effect of the background layer that shows through. This time I used a small roller to apply the background colors.  This technique is reminiscent of earlier artworks.  This look certainly may work for a future topcoat.

Here is what the background image for After the Gold Rush looks like:

The words I use and how I use them are different from others.  Again, I did not think it was worth my time to finely define the look of the lettering like I have consistently done in the past (from 2011).  The saving of Time and my changing approach to creating artworks (no longer relying on a craft approach to gain Artwork World respect) means the words and how they are used defines this art.  How they have crafted (I hide my craft), or how pretty they are adds no other virtue.  Like fine craftmanship, other artworks that display words, use words as a prop to shield their lack of originality.  In this art, the words, the art, and the music are bound together, with each enhancing the other.  That is a big difference.   And besides, after scratching what’s left is for you to figure out.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H After the Gold Rush image 1

•01/24/2021 • Comments Off on S_V_H After the Gold Rush image 1

This is the first image of After the Gold Rush. Nothing special here. All I am doing is giving the base layer some interesting color instead of leaving a blank sheet of white. Lately, all of my first images have been this type of entry level art. This image will soon disappear under the top coat until I take a pallet knife and scrap away at top layer.

Because I need an arrangement before I plan out a new artwork, here it is:

Later I will upgrade this music in my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software. After finishing the artwork, I will build the stereo system and install the music with the completed artwork.

Here is a YouTube video of After the Gold Rush sung by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt, on the David Letterman show. When I first heard this cover on Spotify, I know that someday I would paint this music. It then became a matter of catching me in the mood. That is why I don’t do commission work.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H After the Gold Rush and print offers

•01/14/2021 • Comments Off on S_V_H After the Gold Rush and print offers

The melody, After the Gold Rush, is a classic rock project from the music of Neil Young.   The lyrics tell a disjointed (poetic?) story I find hard to follow. Although the meaning of the words are cloudy , the strength of the melody pulls the song together. This style of this music is country/folk rock ‘n’ roll, with a touch of Gospel.   The results are lyrics that are haunting, although I don’t know why.  For example “Thinkin’ about what a friend had said, I was hopin’ it was a lie” and “All in a dream, all in a dream, and I was lyin’ in a burned out basement ,” which makes no sense to me, but sounds intriguing.  Finally, maybe it is an environment warning, as suggested by others, “Look at mother nature on the run in the nineteen seventies/twentieth century/twenty-first”…..”Flyin’ mother nature’s silver seed, To a new home in the sun.”

Here is a live version from 1993:

Each new project’s preparations start with picking out a piece of music to paint. I do not have a set system that picks the music. Many times it is hearing a song that reflects my current mood or enthusiasm. For example, if I think it’s time to create a Mozart project, I would listen to Mozart until I found a phrase, or a section of music that I thought was catchy and that had a good start and ending point. I would then search for the sheet music to see the flow of the music. If I found the movement of the music interesting, I would then put together different canvas options, before making my final decision. That standard procedure worked for many years until I started creating my own arrangements of the music. My focus now becomes the entire piece of music.

Today, my project path starts with first writing my sheet music arrangement of the music and then figuring out how to apply it to canvas. The final decision is hard, for to proceed can easily consume a month and more of my time. Only then does the physical part of building the artwork begin. For this next project, After the Gold Rush, I have already written a basic one-minute piano arrangement. The next days I will spend making improvements to my melody and the flow of the artwork, before starting production.


I have upgraded both of my print sales sites to offer over 170 Artworks from 2006 through 2020. For the last couple of years, I have focused all my time on moving from one project to the next. This resulted in little updating of my print sales sites. After finishing this year’s last Christmas artwork, I used the next couple of weeks updating not only my print sales sites but also my main website.

I am offering on my Etsy Print Store a $10.00 off coupon through February along with free shipping (USA only) for any of my prints. At checkout, apply the coupon code, blog10. This coupon may work outside the United States but without the free shipping option.  For my Amazon site, I will offer individual item discounts, which is more complicated to set up than Etsy. Discounts on Amazon are coming in time.

My Etsy and Amazon prints sales sites have sold prints consistently and have provided a small amount of net income over the years.  What they have not done, along with my main website, is to create any buyer’s interest. In comparison, the many public exhibitions I have applied and showed in over the years, have also created no buyer’s interest and have fallen far short on covering expenses. With all that in mind, I have now decided to no longer register for any group exhibitions (all those that require admission fees). To keep this art on public view, I am increasing my efforts to improve my sales with my two prints sales sites that actually provide a small income. That then brings me to my last Etsy store: ArtInMusicPaintings, that I created to sell the original artworks.

This second Etsy store I created in 2013 to sell the artworks. Right now I have put that store on vacation for all of my artworks are currently in storage that allows no access.   Since its founding, this site has sold 14 artworks with the last being December 2017.   My ability to market these original works through Etsy has changed over the years. 

The price of shipping a large box has increased over the years as UPS changed their pricing based not on weight so much as size.   Etsy pushes hard for all of its stores to offer free shipping, but that does not work with most of my artworks that are over four feet in length. These artworks are large and lately they have grown even more fragile to handle, which makes shipping safely nearly impossible without a considerable amount of expense. Besides some packaged artworks would be over the UPS dimensions limits and then would have to go by freight.   The current Etsy push and store marketing support is focused on free shipping. Trying to sell higher valued artworks on Etsy with free shipping would require me to increase artwork prices considerably for who knows where in the USA an artwork would have to be delivered to. I do not have to offer free shipping, but I cannot help but think if I would keep this store on Etsy I would still try to keep shipping under one hundred dollars, raise artwork prices another one hundred, and eat the difference in shipping cost where needed. I have reached the point that I do not want to deal with shipping artworks. That leaves me almost without options to sell.

Here is the Etsy link

Scott Von Holzen

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