Dave Brubeck’s Take Five



 Birthday Painting information at the end of this entry.


This Dave Brubeck a painting I started in February and finished in early May has finally found its way to ah home. I presented this most wonderful artwork to Timothy Buchholz, my Music Theory teacher and the assistant Professor of Music at the University of Wisconsin Marathon Campus.  This is a long story that started with me taking Professor Buchholz’s Music Theory class the fall semester in 2012. This was my first return to the University of Wisconsin system since I graduated with a Degree in Business Administration back in the Disco summer days of 1971.

I first met the Professor when I stopped by his office to see if he would allow me to audit his Theory class.  I actually studied for this meeting, and it came in handy when he asked me a couple of music questions. I never missed a class, and took all the tests.  I ended up with an A and was tie for the highest score on the Final exam.  But more important I learned I could still learn, and I meet one wonderful and dedicated Teacher. I took his class to get a better understanding of the theory behind music. Though out my life I have enjoyed taking things a part to see how they work. Well that class gave me a great start to understanding the fundamentals of the language that is music. When I finished his course late December I wanted to thank the Professor Buchholz for the wonderful experience I had being part of his Music Theory class.  I decided that the best way to show my appreciation was to paint a picture and present it to the music department.  I asked for his music suggestions, and he came up quickly with Dave Brubeck.

Well it was not until the late spring of this year that I was able to hand over this new version of Take Five. The simple reason, even though this second painting is smaller than my first attempt, was that Professor Buchhloz could not find an appropriate space big enough to hang the artwork. That changed this spring with the start of the remodeling of his Orchestra room. He said I would be invited back in the  fall to see Take Five hung in place.  He also mentioned that they would use colors from the painting to decorate the room, including taking a blue from the painting for the color of the drapes. Wow,  how cool is that having an entire large room in harmony with Take Five.




Scott Von Holzen


S_V_H Take Five 2014 final image



The great Dave Brubeck’s signature piece Take Five.  I started this work in December of 2013, and just finished it last week.  It was held up mostly because of two commission works that took priority.

You are looking at a work that evolved from its original ideas. What the original concept, creative plan, or art mission was I am sure of one goal of this artwork: I wanted to take the background from the obscure, supportive function, to where it dominated the artwork, with multiple layers of colors across stripping that covered the entire work.  Than I wanted to see if I could use the music to push back against the colors and visual impact that it was covering. Surprisingly,  I had to return to the background and repaint parts of it, to finally give the music the visual appearance I decided it needed. When I applied that yellow-green stripping,  on the second panel, this work finally began to come into focus.  On my sixteenth notes, I used a bright red to add the punch that comes at those points in the music’s flow.  That helped considerably to pull the viewer’s attention to the music, and away from the background. In the end the battle between background and music comes down to finding a balance.  I only know when it is there,  and it is obvious when it is not.

Just as a reminder below is my first Take Five from 2006.  You can see the freer style of painting.Take5_06

The Take Five from 2014 is a lot more structured, and I am beginning to wonder if maybe I should once again return to a more free hand style. My customer for the Japan work, liked this earlier style.  My vision for portraying music is to display its flow in an orderly form so that with a little effort, a viewer could see in the artwork the flow of the music that it represented. Although, few viewers will ever know where the music appears in these artworks. Even with the added help of words the way I choose them would not necessary clear up the mystery.

I will be presenting this artwork to a Professor of Music at the local University.  I plan on showing him exactly where the artwork appears in the music.  If I would not, I am sure he could find it if he took the time, but I am also sure he will still appreciated the artwork without knowing its exact location in the music. And that leads to this question: If few people know where any of these artworks show in the music, what is the need on my part to have such a precise depiction?

The first answer that comes to my mind, is that I portray the flow of the music fairly accurately, to separate my style from other methods of portraying music. Most of the artwork I have seen display music in an abstract way. I am guessing these artists see music as fluid subject. But I do not see music that way.

I have known sheet music since I was seven years old and learning how to play the accordion  I have also know its structure while playing an electric organ in a garage band, and later in college playing folk guitar and blues harp.  I knew that if I wanted to play music I needed to understand and follow the rules of notation that sheet music represented. That seems logical to me, so when it came to painting music I brought those inclinations about music with me.  Looking at music as an abstraction did not make sense. I decided If I am gong to spend weeks of my time painting a song, I wanted the artwork to represent that song, and only that song. Equally as important I wanted that artwork to appeal to the feelings of the viewer. Music has sound that appeals to emotions, and a performance can connect the viewer even more. Musical art is also visual that can be viewed, but it is taking that visual and creating an emotional impact that only the best of this art can do. That is why my music looks very little like sheet music. In order to try to create that ” viewer hook”  I had to abandon the rigid rules of notation, and its standard look. The flow of the music remains, but everything else is my choreography.  This allows me to create art in the abstract, but differently. That brings me to this conclusion.

Like, a singer, group or a band,music can be changed to better represent the performer’s style. The the same goes with me. My artworks are never an exact show of any of the music, but more so my personnel interpretation of the music.That is what separates  my artworks from the mundane representation of notation you see in any sheet music.But because I keep that flow of the music my abstraction makes each work unique to the music it represents. That cannot be said about most musical art. Still the question remains should I loosen up my structure.  Maybe, not so much in the Style of Take Five 2006 or Take Five 2014, but somewhere else, between this and that, and yes and no. I wonder?

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Take Five image3


Take Five painting looks different physically from the last image, because I had to make big changes.  When I first mapped out this painting, I stopped at a low note, that I thought would work. That was back in December, and only a couple of days ago did  I realized an error.   I used the original mapping of this music to build the artwork.  I only discovered the mistake after I had already posted a second image of this work. The error was  that the music had come up longer than my artwork.

When I re-check my work I saw that I stop the painting short, and had left out the end of the musical phrase that I wanted to portray.  I had to add more which meant I had to draw it over.  I made my music smaller but that was not enough. Finally, I had to add three 5 inch by 5 inches canvases to place all the music.  Even though I had to completely rearrange the music it still work with the canvases.  Now with image three, I feel better for it is displaying the complete phrase of Take Five, that I wanted to depict.  The challenge to make the existing artwork work with the new music,  was an interesting problem that I solved, and it certainly added interest to this painting.

Next up, I am taking a break from Take Five to work on a commissioned project for the University of NorthEastern Missouri. The canvas is all together, so I expect some paint to go down tonight.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Take Five image2


Dave Brubeck Take Five consists of six canvases  about eighty inches in length by twenty-four inches high. What you are seeing is the finished background.  Next up I will be drawing in the music.

Here is the popular record version of Take Five, which of course,  is still my favorite version.  You can hear the music that I will be portraying starting at the 1:42 and ending at 1:50.  It is a lot of work for 8 seconds of Jazz. It is here where you get that surprising strong saxophone up and down sharp sound,  that adds such an emphasis to this back-en-forth characteristic, of this music. In this version, I must say, I was first attracted to the drum part in the middle of the song, where you hear the  sharp bangs of the snare drum (my guess)  quickly followed with a hard slap to the bass drum.  I am so lucky to have this opportunity to produce this artwork, for it does not get better than Take Five

I am donating this artwork to the University of Wisconsin Marathon Campus Music Department, and to my Professor of Music who, when quite young, got hooked on jazz listening to the vinyl version of Take Five.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Take Five image 1


Take Five, the classic music of Dave Brubeck. I originally, painted this work early in my music career, back in 2006. I have returned to it, to offer it as a second choice for the University of Wisconsin Marathon music department.  I first offered them Blue Rondo á La Turk last year, but because of a lack of room for such a large canvas there has been this long delay.  The hope of the Professor, back then,  was that some new remodeling would open up a wall, but that did not amount to as much change as first thought, and no good spot was found for the artwork.  So, when I recently received a new contact from the Music Department, apologizing for the placement delay, he asked if it would be possible for me to drop of the painting.  The Professor would keep it in his office, to help as a stimulus to update an area to accommodate the artwork. Over this last year, I have thought about the issues of finding wall space for large artworks.  So, what I have written back to the Music Department, is a new offer which will include this new Dave Brubeck work, that is a physically smaller artwork. The Professor will have the choice of either artwork.  My thinking is that the Take Five piece will be a lot easier to find a decent open wall for the artwork to hang.  But again, that will be the Professor’s choice.

I am working on the second image of Winter Allegro, with Take Five being worked on the side easels.   Nothing special going on with Take five, so far,  for I am still trying to get a feel for these canvases. I am keeping the look of Blue Rondo in my thoughts, for I thought that I might use a lot of the colors from that work, in this partner artwork.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Dave Brubeck Blue Rondo á la Turk Finalimage

BlueRondoFinal This is the Final Image of Blue Rondo á La Turk. These 8 canvases, that make up this work, contain a piece of the music, that when arranged, as you see in the images above, produce the flow that is Blue Rondo. This sectioning of the music gives me more creative options, enhancing the overall look and emotional impact to a greater extent than canvas based on one look.  Each piece can stand out, but still remain part of an even greater whole.  A universal theme, I do believe.

In the past the look of an artwork was fairly consistent even across multiple canvases.  For examples take a look at Thunder Road, Hallelujah, or Body and Soul, all from 2011.  This trend continued through 2012 with Four Seasons Autumn Allegro, completed in December and  pictured on the main page of the website.  This pieces  look of Blue Rondo first showed up in early march, of this year,  with The Pretender.  That trend showed its strength with 2012 Christmas painting, Let It Snow.


Take a look at the only other Dave Brubeck piece, Take Five,  from March of 2006, and you will see how far this art has changed. What a different 7 years can make.  According to the words of  Robert Frank, a photographer must have both a sense of Purpose and a sense of Passion. I cannot help but think that is the same philosophy that drives every creative person and what pushes this art. Everyday, I interact with people who have purpose but no passion, and regrettable that has become a learned and a reinforced behavior, in today’s disposable work place.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Dave Brubeck Blue Rondo á la Turk image 3

BlueRondo3Blue Rondo á La Turk, near finished, image 3   This artwork now consists of eight canvases. The eighth canvas is the 8 x 10 inch on the bottom right side, of the enlarged image.  I forgot that there were two slurs  used in this music.  You can see the second one in the upper right of the above image. The style of is this slur comes from Cy Twombly used in It’s a Man’s World.  While the added slur reminds me of the outstanding one from Hallelujah

This close up shows how my style changed while working on this work.  That happened after I watched a documentary on Gerhard Richter that shows how he applies his paint using, squeegee like, large L shaped frames.

In many of my past works I have used different sizes of pallet knives to drag the paint.  But seeing the documentary on Richter gave me a fresh approach to how I could improve my method of applying paint with a knife.  I tried this style first on the eighth canvas on Blue Rondo. I found that by taping off those parts of the canvas I did not want to change, made it easier to spread the paint in a similar style of Richter.

Using this application method I have now moved on to the Vivaldi work. Here I saw dramatically that the big difference from Richter, for me, was the use of tape. By taping, I found that I could then show a mixed of styles.  You can see this technique, better applied on the Vivaldi work, in the images below, from Blue Rondo.  I have now created my L shaped tools to replace the pallet knives. Their application advantages, and their lack of size limits, along with the taping, makes me think there is some interesting options ahead for me.


The following video I took with an iPhone.My Canon 7D  is in for repair with a power on issue. I did find the video, for some unknown issue,  impossible to edit using my Sony software, so I uploaded it as is.

I would like to present polished images and video on this blog, but the belief that this is a documentary site and not a vanity blog, gives me the leeway I need to actually keep up this effort. Even in this form this website requires hours of work for each blog entry.   I approach each of my artworks in a non compromising way each day, but that certainly does not extend to these pages. It is like I am writing on a deadline.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Dave Brubeck Blue Rondo á la Turk image 2

BlueRondo2 What you are seeing is the second image of a painting of two measures from Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo á La Turk. The change in style, that shows with this work, clearly works.  These two measures of music were found to fit an artwork around six feet in length. My goal.  This size allows more options to hang Blue Rondo at a different locations at the University.  After choosing the phrase from the music to paint, I than broke that down into pieces finding the right size canvas to fit each.  Next up I  connected those pieces, at an  exact sharing point, to best represent  this musical flow.  What you have now, is a better visual physical representation of those few moments, from this exceptional Jazz piece.

The overall feel of this Jazz piece, I do like.  I cannot help but use a lot of blues and deep greens.  The vertical red bars, which I mention in the video, still bother me, and will need more paint.  I have also done some work on the left beam, seen above as a drawing, but this morning I looked at the results and quickly decided that I had to think of something else.  What happens, with many decisions, is that they just pop into my head. Most of the time the decisions are correct, but sometimes like the effort with the beam, the paint looks bad.  I am looking for a new idea.  Tonight the small goal is the painting in the beams on Blue Rondo. I may then switch over to the Vivaldi work so I can apply what I have learned.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Dave Brubeck Blue Rondo á la Turk image 1


This artwork is just over six feet in length, consisting of six panels. It surprised me that I can paint a piece of music in that small amount of space.  Lucky, there are a couple of parts from this amazing music that allowed me hold down the final length of this work, but still fit a phrase.

This is a jazz piece  called Blue Rondo, so the color blue is a natural choice. Since this work is only two measures long, it would have been possible to place it all on a single canvas, but that look would have lacked interest.  What has energized this artist is the method of  breaking the music apart  into smaller pieces per each canvas, and then connecting all those canvases in an orderly flow.

This artwork comes from suggestions made by my Music teacher, professor Tim Buchholtz. When finished,  hopefully, I will be presenting it too him, as a gift to the Music Department of the University of Wisconsin Marathon campus.  It is my way showing appreciation to the school and the teacher that allowed me to take the fall semester class, Music 171 Music Theory 1.

This is an update from the image you see.  I am having issues placing the music, especially, on the last canvas. This is happening  because of the style change in how I  group the music.  In the past the music flowed evenly across a work, so  if I was having spacing problems, I could make up for such issues further down the artwork.  Now, that option is more limited by the decision to place the music in groups with each group placed on a single canvas.  After resolving the spacing issues, helped by reducing the size of my notes, I found I still had one more problem. This final issue was with the last canvas.  I found that I had to shorten up the stems for the notes, so everything would fit vertically, but in doing that the beams, for these notes, dropped considerably off  of the work.   Generally, I do not mind cutting off the music, like cropping a photograph to create  an  edge that adds drama and tension to a work, but this slicing was causing too much of the music to disappear.  To solve this problem, I added an eight inch by twenty-four inch canvas on the lower edge of the existing twenty by twenty-four inch canvas. This change to the artwork will appear in the next update.

Scott Von Holzen