Monday, April 16, 2018

Sprouting Black Aztec Corn

Years ago I was visiting an indoor winter farmer's market in the small gymnasium of a former old brick school building. One of the vendors was selling corn meal made from Black Aztec Corn and Bloody Butcher corn. He had a couple of the seeds that the corn meal was ground from and he let me have some when I told him about my series of sprouting seeds. I went home and wrapped a few of them in a wet paper towel to help them wake up. A few days later I took the first photographs that would influence this painting.

2000 years ago, it is believed that the Aztec civilization grew a similar variety to the corn that I used as my inspiration. This corn is a hybrid of the ancient Aztec corn. It began showing up in seed inventories in the late 1800's. This variety of corn can be eaten like sweet corn when it reaches it's milk stage and the kernels are still light in color. As it matures the corn begins to turn shades of deep blue, purple and black. Growers say that when it is harvested in its maturity is makes a nice corn meal.

Sprouting Black Aztec Corn
Oil on Canvas
24 H x 48 W x 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Painting Classes

In September I moved into my new studio space on the 3rd floor of the Cherry Building in the NewBo District of Cedar Rapids. Moving into that space has afforded me the opportunity to lead several two hour painting sessions for up to 5 young painters. It has been so much fun! I love, love, LOVE being able to teach your blossoming artists how to paint.

Each of the sessions follow a general pattern. After everyone gets settled into their spot, they start by sketching out their ideas on a piece of paper. It's just a quick 15 minute or less sketch to work out shapes and sizes or get some tips on how to draw a figure or animal before they put it down on the canvas. Each painter gets to work on their own idea. The small class size allows enough time to guide each painter through the challenges they might face in making what they see in their imaginations come to life on the canvas. There is a lot of time to answer individual questions and do demos with each painter if they want the personalized help. 

When their ideas are finalized we talk about color schemes for the entire painting. Once the background color or style is chosen I encourage them to cover the entire canvas with paint before they begin painting the subject.

While the background paint dries we have a little snack, usually popcorn, look out the windows and chit chat. It seems like there is always something good to look at during class. Sometimes it's a stunning sunset, sometimes its an entire parade!

Next we begin painting the subject. I have a variety of brush sizes for the children to use to be able execute their ideas to the best of their ability. I usually try to keep them aware of how much time is left so that they can be sure to get all of their composition onto the canvas before they leave. It's great when the kids can get up and look at each other's work and offer suggestions. While they are working on their composition we talk about how to make the colors more vibrant by building up layers of paint. I also share tips on how to correct mistakes or how to work with them by turning them into something new. Sometimes the mistake is actually an exciting opportunity.

Finally, you return to pick up your child and their new work of art.
The mess? You get to leave that here!

To find out about the upcoming dates for classes e-mail me at or look for the Planting Seeds, Cultivating Art page on Facebook @plantingseedscultivatingart.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

New Studio, New Classes

I am renting a new studio space in the Cherry Building in the New Bohemia District in Cedar Rapids, IA. I haven't even been in it for a month and already I notice a huge difference in the flow of my work time. It's not huge, but it's more space than I had at home.

With this new space comes an opportunity for a new venture. I now have the space to offer some kids art classes and maybe even some for adults. 

My goal for the classes is to give children a chance to explore painting for a couple of hours and leave the mess behind. It won't be a step by step class, but rather a chance for them to put their ideas on canvas while getting some help with the details. I'll help them plan out their composition, talk about filling the canvas, do some demos when necessary, and encourage them to turn mistakes into opportunities. Art is one place, outside of athletics, where persistence can yield rewards. It can teach you to push through frustrating moments, challenge you to think outside of the box and ultimately create something to be proud of. 

Flier with dates coming soon. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Studio Shot with Sprouting Bean

The light was so gorgeous this evening and everything outside my window is so lush. It was a perfect summer evening.

I am trying to finish this painting up. It is so close, but still just not quite there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Two in the Works

One is getting closer, one is just beginning, both are keeping me up late into the night. 
One is on 100+ year old barn wood, one is on 100+ year old slate roofing tile, both are fun to paint on.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pumpkin Seed 2016

Sprouting Pumpkin Seed
10 1/4 H x 6 1/4 W x 1 D"
Oil Paint on Wood

I finished the first version of this painting of the pumpkin seed in 2012. It was even on display in a gallery for a while, but it didn't sell. I was happy to bring it home and hang it on my wall, but admittedly, I never really fell in love with it. I remember struggling when I worked on it, but I also remember feeling good when it was done. The thing I noticed over the years though, was that every time I was considering entering a show and I would look over at my finished work, I never felt this one was good enough to enter. It looked bland and it didn't feel alive. It took way to long to realize that I should just try again. While I was waiting for my recent commission to dry, I plucked this off the wall and gave it a second shot. 


Originally I didn't want to frame it, but it just didn't feel right hanging as a slab of wood. I added a rather raw, weathered frame. The block of wood that the painting is on is just slightly off square, and the frame adds even more awareness to the angle, but this feels natural to me. I used the block of wood as I had found it, without cutting any edges because I didn't want freshly cut sides contrasting too much with the rest of the weathered surfaces. I also felt that since the size of the wood was such a good fit for the image it would be most authentic in it's true found state. This feels good to me. This feels like how I garden. Most of the time gardening does not yield uniform shiny, smooth, sexy produce.  It's dirty and imperfect in so many ways because there is so much that is out of your control. So it feels natural to me that my work that is inspired so directly by my love for growing whole, healthy food is also imperfect. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Back To Seeds

While the varnish dries on the commission I get to start anew on this sprouted bean. I am giddy.