S_V_H Over the Rainbow 2019 Final image

Over the Rainbow 2019 is finished.  Rainbow painted in the style of Giant Steps has that improvisational look that originally I thought would only work with Jazz artworks such as Giant Steps and So What.  Rainbow shows that this jazzy more relaxed style of the music does adapt to the ballad,  and will probably work with other music genres, including Classical.  Another benefit of the music styled more casually, is that this than solves a longtime issue, of how to portray motion in a static artwork.

Over the years I have tried different ways to simulate motion in the artworks.  I even researched motion that was important to the art and social movement Futurism.   Good examples of my best earlier attempt at motion can be seen in a number of the Vivaldi Four Season’s artworks.

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons Autumn Allegro. Length 15 feet.

For the Vivaldi Artwork Autumn to try to simulate motion I added a smaller circle inside the larger musical circle.  The illusion I wanted was that of a spinning ball inside the larger circle moving clockwise across the artwork.  The results were always mixed.  Other examples of this technique can be found in artworks from 2012 until 2015 when I finally abandon the idea with the switch to raised wood for the music.

As mentioned before the idea to allow the music to go off vertical comes from the artwork Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock.   An interesting critique of this artwork comes from the site jackson-pollock.com. “According to art historian Dennis Phillips,……… Because we look for the poles and miss much of the rest, the name is simply too distracting.”  Phillips is right for  I saw the poles as musical notes and the background as just that.  That is probably why there are no other mentioned Pollock’s with similar poles.


In summary, there are two big changes that occurred in Rainbow and earlier in Giant Steps.  The first is that I have moved away from longer than wider artworks, that were standard since the beginnings of this art, to a more squared look with the music now stacked in sections.   A practical reason for this move is the difficulty in storing these long delicate, with multiple parts, artworks.   Actually, no matter their length, my artworks these last few years, I have found,  can only be stored safely when laid down.  The other even bigger change, that also goes back to the beginnings of this art, was to drop the consistent upright stance of the music which, of course, resulted in making these new artworks look less static.

One troubling issue that lingers still, and affected Rainbow, was how to paint or not paint the canvases. There was even a moment that I thought about leaving them all white (my Robert Ryman moment).  Rainbow is just the latest artwork where I have questioned what purpose the canvases served, besides support for the music.   I escaped back to reality by deciding to paint only the two center canvases in an outer space type Rothko look.  I then added a variety of canvas-covered round wood pieces (I like circles having nothing to do with the music for their disruptive effect) for interest, and to connect the painted canvases to the other four covered by canvas prints.


Finally, I should mention the blue piece of wood with a relaxed handwritten word, why, repeated five times.  For this version of Over the Rainbow, instead of choosing Judy Garland’s version of the music, I chose Keith Jarrett’s jazzier performance and stunning ending. This artwork’s music is “If happy little blue-birds fly beyond the rain-bow why oh why can’t I?” These words are all sung by Judy Garland without any slow down until she sings the last word I.  All those extra whys is because of Keith Jarrett performance of those same last few notes,  where he slows down dramatically, drawn each note out.  On the first why he almost seems to pause.  At that first why is where I decided to add the extra whys, for fun, and to channel a tribute to Jean Michael Basquiat, and his painting that includes five Moses.

I am still planning on adding the red music button for the music to Over the Rainbow.  When I am finished I will post a video.

Scott Von Holzen


S_V_H Over the Rainbow 2

Over the Rainbow is nearing completion.  This size of this artwork is about sixty-one inches by thirty-nine inches in height.  Giant Steps is on the easel next to Rainbow and the similarities are obvious. Giant Steps already has a Classic look, compared to Rainbow, that has a playful look.  One striking difference is the larger size of the music on Rainbow stands out as a dramatic and moving difference.  I still need to add the words, “why can’t I,” and will do that with a twist.  Hand drawing words are always time-consuming to do and require a lot of attention to detail but this is a well travel road for me.   My other task left with this artwork, I created, and now will have to solve.

What I need to do is to connect the four outside canvases (covered with digital canvas images) with the two inner canvases that I painted.  In Giant Steps I had this same issue, but reversed, with the painted canvases on the outside.  Giant steps had the advantage that my painted canvases and the digital images on the other canvases were similar in design and color.  From a slight distance, it is hard to see the difference between them.  In this image of Rainbow, the difference between the digital images and the painted ones is obvious.  Somehow I need to change the look of these six canvases in such a way that they connect with each other.  Or not, and I could just call it Art.  But that would not be, this Art, where harmony is part of the visual experience.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Over the Rainbow 1st image

This is the first image of 2019’s version of Over the Rainbow.  What the image shows are the pieces (not yet attached) that I made since starting this project on the 9th of February. I am just short of three weeks into this project.  My thinking is that in three weeks it would have been nice to almost be finished with this work, but of course I am still a week away from that.  I hope.  A big difference with my style, and that of other abstract painters, is  I do not create these artworks  in-the-moment.  They are all well thought out and planned ahead, because of their difficulty to build. Even though I do learn from the past,  each project is a new adventure in design, problem solving and recovery from mistakes.  I have made this art this way since I began.  Beyond a few commission works there have been no deadlines to meet, although I have met them all.  I am no longer going to do any common commission works, that means, for now, my time is mine, for all that is worth.

My first all music painting was Over the Rainbow.  This is my second painting of that music done a few months later in July of 2006.  This may also be one of the first artworks where I used an inch and on-half depth canvas with the unique size of twenty inches by sixty inches.  Before this my standard artwork was a two foot by four-foot on a seven-eights depth canvas.  I remember taking Rainbow to a family gathering at my father’s home soon after I had finished it.  I do not remember any comments from anyone. I do remember why I took it which was because this song meant a lot to me. 

I grew up being fascinated by the movie Wizard of Oz, which way back than,  aired once a year, around Christmas time.  As a kid I remember being strongly moved by how the movie started out in black and white and then switched to color.  Color television was new to me back than, with Disney Wonderful World of Color being a favorite program of mine.  Here is a picture of Judy Garland on the sheet music for Over the Rainbow, I bought for the artworks  from a sheet music store in Wausau now long closed.

Although I never understood the reasons why, or have forgotten them, I always felt that my Mother cared about Judy Garland.  Maybe it was because of the lost of the middle sister, Bernadine from alcohol abuse, which, along with substance abuse, also took the life of Judy Garland four years earlier.  It may have been that Mom saw in both their struggle to find happiness. I will never know.

I do not have a lot of memories of Bernadine, mostly because I was young when she lived near by.  I can see her face, her short hair, thin but shapely body, and thought her voice, in comparison to Moms,  sounded deeper,  sharper, stronger.  I am also seeing and hearing Judy Garland when describing Bernadine, which surprises me. 

After we left Ashland, I do not remember seeing Bernadine or even having any memories of her for many years until 1973.  That summer, Up North at the cottage, I received a phone call that Bernadine had died.  I found Mom and Dad who were out to dinner at a local golf club.  I believe I asked to speak with Mom, but do not remember Moms reaction.  My last memory of Bernadine was at her funeral in 1973, when, by accident, I saw the closing of the coffin (Jack, Bernadine’s husband,  died years later also from alcohol abuse).  The story of the tragedies of Mom, Bernadine, and Judy Garland, contain for me many uncertainties and missing details,  but I have grown up over the years believing that the song Over the Rainbow, and the story of the Wizard of OZ, is part of their story, also.  Back than I may not have understood all of this watching the Wizard of Oz, but what has always been true for me, was the impact of that movie going from black and white to color.  I cannot but today feel that like the switch to color in the Wizard of OZ, Mom, Bernadine, and Judy Garland  live on in me because of this music speaks to their times.  That is why I am painting Over the Rainbow again.  No black and white to be seen.  This artwork will be colorful which tells me that in this artwork, this time, their stories will have a happy ending. They only need to click their heels together three times, and I can do that for them.


Here is Over the Rainbow sung by Judy Garland from the 1939 movie Wizard of Oz:

When you look at the 2006 version of Over the Rainbow, there are no rainbow colors. I think, now, that was artsy of me.  The music I used for that painting,  and which Judy sings is “Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” In the artwork I painted the two words “you dare.” For this artwork  I have chosen the words, “why can’t I,” which comes at the last few measures of  Keith Jarrett’s emotional piano performance of Over the Rainbow. 

Here is Keith Jarrett, Over the Rainbow live in Tokyo:

Lastly,  I should mention that after finishing the first artwork of Over the Rainbow my original plan was to paint a new version of this music every six-months to track my style changes.  I painted only two, both in that same year, 2006.  So it goes.  


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