S_V_H Embraceable You Final Image

embraceableYou_FinalEmbraceable you is finished. This painting comes from a Jazz Standard piece written  by George Gershwin in 1928.   This artwork consists of four canvas panels over sixty-four inches in length, and is larger than I had originally planed. What changed this artworks dimensions was my decision to add extra words, and then increase their size.  To make room for the larger font I needed to use larger canvases, which then required me to enlarge the music.

In the original plan I wanted to keep this artwork on the smaller size because of this music’s absence of drama (no slurs or ties, no flags, or beams), but my focus  changed from the music to the words to at least add some interest. That changed in direction created  a problem, absent if I would have used smaller canvases, of what to do with all that space between the music.  After a couple of, what I would consider,  tired attempts at stripping I realized I had nothing. That is when I turned to the painting, I Won’t Dance, a Jerome Kern Jazz Standard from the same time period as Embraceable you.  I Won’t Dance uses Art Deco treatments to mirror the times, and I thought a similar look might work with Embraceable.


To start with I added narrow gold and blue striping across the entire work. That gave it the Art Deco look which did greatly improved the interest and the character of Embraceable.  I then repainted some of the original stripping to improve the contrast, and to blend better with the music.

I actually had to learn like this work. It fell out of favor early in its development, probably because of the changes I made to the original plan.  It got worse when I  questioned the colors used for the music.  I felt my color choices, chosen for their feminine look, where to close in tone which made the music appeared to have a plastic  look.  It was not until I added the Art Deco touches that I realized that the music worked fine with the new look of background.  In the final image you see how everything came together.

My feelings for this artwork have certainly changed a lot since I first chose this music.  I now think Embraceable You does achieved an interesting,  and unique look, that I like. This painting should feel very good about itself, getting out of me, what it needed.


Scott Von Holzen






S_V_H Embraceable You image1


Embraceable You is larger painting consisting of four canvas panels measuring sixty-four inches by about twenty-four inches high.

Here are three different videos showing different styles for Embraceable You. Many of my artworks try to do the same thing by displaying different looks from one panel to the next.  I do this on purpose to better show the versatility that is in the music.  By using variety in looks I can, in this one way,  then push this art way beyond the limitations of sheet music. That has always been my goal since I started painting music. Music has no limitations, and so should not this art.

First,  is an upbeat version of Embraceable You from the 1943 movie Girl Crazy sung by a young Judy Garland.

Now,  compare that performance of Embraceable You with this one by Wynton Marsalis at the 1989 Newport Jazz Festival

And here is, I believe,  the 1947 Bluesy recording of Embraceable You, Commodore 7520B, sung my Billie Holiday that made it into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

This may seem obvious, but an important point that most music,  like this one piece, can have multiple interpretations.

Surprisingly in image 1 you are seeing a  style change in this artwork. What created this change was my decision in how I was going to handle the lower parts of the first two canvases.   These two canvases contain the main words chosen for this artwork, and I had a concern that the stripping I had along the bottom of both panels would not allow the words to stand out. The easiest solution, one that I have used in the past, was to darken the background where the words where to appear.  That is what I tried with a darker green.  What I found myself doing, though,  was backing off the color to allow the under stripping to stay visible. I decided to go against a solid block look I original thought that I needed for the words.

When I removed a small strip of tape, that I had forgotten along the lower edge, the original stripping remained.  At first I thought that this mistake needed to be over painted,  and then  I saw a new opportunity to finish the background in a different way.  I could still do the stripping, similar to what I have done in the past,  but now I would apply a transparent layer across the entire painting.  By taping sections before hand,  I found then I could keep the uniqueness of each panel, but create a result that brings all four canvases together as a single artwork, representing a single piece of music.

Finding a way to pull this work altogether was an early concern for me because of this music. My stripping, for this painting,  consisted of the two end panels having a similar coloring,  and the second and third panel each portraying a unique look.  This kind of diversity is a common technique I have used before, such as in Heavens’ Wall, but for this music something did not feel right.

To try to resolve these misgivings I did try ideas to shade or draw in some curves and lines to break up the background stripping, like in Heaven’s Wall,  but I washed off all of my attempts.  It was not until I pulled that small piece of tape, that I saw my answer. In a way, I am reversing the look of the background. Now, instead of trying to cover up, or break up, sections of the stripping, I apply tape to cover up some of the original stripping, and then paint over the entire background with a  transparent color  I accomplished the goal of pulling all four panels together, removing my misgivings.  This then is new look for my backgrounds that may  allow me to involve away from the experimental Cubist and Futurists ideas of line and shading.

This blog entry has taken some extra time, so here is Embraceable You with the music flow in place.


Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Fine and Mellow Final Image


Fine and Mellow is finally finished. For its size this painting took forever to complete. Well  at less it felt that way.  I must admit things drag on way longer after I heard of the death of B. B King.  At that moment I could not stop spinning the Blues. Since Fine and Mellow is a Billie Holiday Blues song, with a great video, and B. B. King is the Blues, the Blues kept flowing through me. It is if it was hard for me to let go. I could not move on. Surely, during this time the death of my favorite Uncle, Walter, and our cat, Roxy, must have played a part. And yet there must come that moment, that we all understand, that Life is for the Living.  So this is it. After I post the blog entry, I am returning my music choice back to Quick Mix on Pandora, letting everything go including letting B. B. King fall back in place with the other 99 channels on Pandora.

Fine and Mellow, consists of three canvases about 20 inches by 50 inches in length. All during this painting, I have had  my concerns, after watching Billie Holiday sing this song with such great accompaniment, that I would have a hard time capturing that music. Of course, as always, I have to remind myself. I know that every painting starts out as if it is all about the music, but they all end up in some way a tribute to the music, but more so, an artwork that stands on its own merits. Sometimes I wonder  if the music is my excuse to paint another painting.

Looking at Fine and Mellow, it looks its best when the lights are lower which allows the background to stay dark. The brighter colors of the music are still there, but all those blues, in the background, take on more depth with the lights turned down. Surprisingly, What stands out with this work is the background. For a change I let the music flow float behind the background layers.  What caused this change in thinking was that the artwork looked boring compared to the black and white video. The stripping across the music woke this painting up.  At first I striped only the music flow, but that changed, and by letting the music blend more with a background, this painting found its own way to stand out from my other works.

This is a second final image, that I finished this morning. I added a lot more stripping across most of the major parts of the music, causing the background seep a lot more to the surface, and finally creating the look I wanted from the start.


The nice parts of this painting are my use of the color yellow and those shades of green. The words I consider to be well done, in how they blend into the background, an important part in helping to define the feelings of this painting. But the winning aspect of this artwork, and the biggest improvement is without doubt the strong emphasize given to the background stripping. All those different colors and shapes in the stripping greatly effected the mood of the entire artwork  with the added feature of filling in empty spaces with interest.

In the video you see this back-en-forth between Billie and the musicians. One of the goals of this artwork was to recreate that movement with the contrast of the background with the music. Like in the video, everything has to come together to succeed, and hopefully that is also happens in this artwork.

To end this blog entry and this special Time with Billie’s Fine and Mellow, how about spending a few last minutes with the Blues and B. B. King,  singing “When It All Comes Down (I’ll Still be Around)


Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Fine and Mellow image3


Fine and Mellow has been slowly coming together. The words for this artwork are, ‘love so fine.’  Billie’s words are, “He’s so fine and mellow.”  I have filled, with a few extra pieces of music, that colorful bowl on the far right, that ties the music.  Also, I would have liked the music flow, the circles, to have been larger to fill more of the background space. I did enlarge the  music from my original plans, but that had it limits.  What I have done since this image above, is in the spaces between the music, I have added extra stripping. Hopefully this adds interest, and improves the feel of a dark, imaginative, smokey bluesy atmosphere, of this artwork.

The pace of this artwork has been so slow, because much of my free time, my artist time,  has lately been consumed by practice, not my drawing skills, but expanding my musical skills. My artistic focus is music. Music to listen to, music to be painted, and now music to be played, on the piano, the alto saxophone, the violin, and the blues guitar.

The violin  is new to me, this last spring. I eventually see it playing Classical music.  The alto saxophone, also new a month or so ago, it is my Jazz instrument.  The blues guitar, came out of nowhere when I heard of the death of B. B. King.  I did play the folk guitar in college, so I have some history with the guitar, but playing the Blues, where all American music begins, will be my newest experience with music. The Last instrument is the piano. I have played a little keyboard, on an off for years, starting at the age of 7 years with the accordion.  My thinking is the piano is to key to understanding music theory, and is the instrument that, for me, brings everything about music together. The piano plays it all from B. B. King to Vivaldi.

Fine and Mellow is near completion, for I really do not know what else I can do with this painting. I would like to do more with it, but I am not sure what.  That means, pretty much as is,  I will have a final image out in a couple of days.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Fine and Mellow image2

fine&Mellow_3This second image of Fine & Mellow shows the music, painted using brighter colors, to separate it from the background. Different from my original thinking, this painting is not going to be a visual of a black and white video.  Instead the colors in this artwork are my emotional reaction to the video: the contrast of light and dark, and what I am seeing and hearing in the back-en-forth between the sounds from the musicians, and Billie Holiday’s voice. It turns out that a darker lower contrast artwork was just a first reaction to watching the video for the first time.

My first big color move came from the words  “He wears high draped paints_ Stripes are really yellow,”  which shows in the stripping of the beams.  Actually knowing my art,  how could I have left out bright yellow out of this artwork. That logical move changed everything.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Fine and Mellow image1

Fine and Mellow words and music by Billie Holiday.  This performance on live TV in 1957 was all I needed to convince me to paint this music. In this video  Billie Holiday sings Fine and Mellow  accompanied by Ben Webster, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, all on tenor saxophone, Vic Dickenson on trombone, Gerry Mulligan playing the baritone saxophone, Roy Eldridge and Doc Cheatham both on trumpet, Danny Barker on  guitar, Milt Hinton plays double bass, while Mal Waldron is on piano and Osie Johnson plays the drums. These are a lot of great jazz musicians all backing up Billie Holiday.



This early image of Fine and Mellow shows the original medium magenta stripping, after the first re-taping where I reduced the strip size by a half, to try to tone down its impact on the background. This thinning of the line helped, but the strip was simply not dark enough to fit the mood of the video.  In a change from many of my earlier works I decided to paint both the top and bottom white strip in shades of dark purple. Seeing how the purple appeared to work out, I once again re-taped the magenta strips and painted over them with a purple wash, which finally resulted in the background the mood I was looking for.

fine&Mellow_2Up next is the music. For the music my original thoughts where to use brighter colors to contrast with the background. Now, I am thinking differently. This is a rare black and white video of Billie Holiday singing a blues song, so to keep with the atmosphere of that music I have decided against any sharp separation of the music from the background.  Instead, I am going to try to create the effect of the music moving back-en-forth into the background,  and then swinging back out to the forefront of the artwork.

Scott Von Holzen