Abstract Collage

I bought several pieces recently from an artist named Janet Ahrens. She is an Iowa artist that starts by making her own paper. She adds squares made of various materials, such as porcelain, tile, rock, or plastic. Found objects, usually twigs, may also be used. She puts them in very deep frames, but not shadow boxes. Some are titled, but most are not. She does not like to put titles into her work, because she does not want to put her interpretation on it. This way, the viewer is allowed to come up with their own interpretations.


I see abstracted landscapes and cityscapes. I love the juxtaposition of the natural with the man made and the irony of the coarse material that is man made, but looks natural. The framing of the piece also intrigues me. There is a mat around the field, but the art doesn’t fit inside it. She purposely places part of it outside the allotted space. To me, this is representative of the creativity of humanity, refusing to stay within their self-imposed bounds. It also shows the wild forces of nature, where such bounds are irrelevant.


I purposely arranged the pieces in an order that followed this sort of irreverence. The pieces are placed so that they form a definite grouping. They are aligned along the center, but not on any edge. The distance between the top and bottom of each piece was kept the same to give more structure.


I hope to see more of Ms. Ahrens art in the future.


The Importance of Supporting Your Artists

I found out the other day that one of the artists that I have bought from in the past is reducing their output. This is for the simple fact that they can’t make enough money being an artist to make ends meet. Being an art collector and fan of this particular artist, I feel this as a loss. Art is part of our culture. When we look back at the times of history, we look at the books, the paintings, the murals, the letters, the sculptures, the music, and the dance. We don’t look (generally) at the bank statements. The world is driven by the creative types.

I can’t name the first commanding officer for Fort Des Moines. I certainly can’t name his second in command. These are people that were fantastically successful in their career. Let’s be honest, here. I doubt anyone who would read this post cares who they are, what they did, or what effects that had. These are people who, in effect, founded the capital of my State. But everyone knows Grant Woods. Everyone knows one of his students, Jackson Pollack. Is it because the Army is that much less important than the arts? To be honest, my answer is yes.

It isn’t that the military is unimportant. They are vital to the health and safety of our culture. The arts ARE that culture. The protectors are always less important than the protected. The vault is not as valuable as the items inside. Members of the military are honored for their sacrifice, and rightly so. What better way to honor them than to glory the freedom and culture that they risk their lives defending?

Support the artists you buy from. Promote them to your friends and family. Buy consistently from them.

Landscape Painter Video

This is a video from YouTube by a videographer by the name of RustyScupperton. His real name is John Thornton, and he is an artist from Pennsylvania. He has done many videos about the arts and artists in the area. In particular, he profiles people from the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts, which is one of the premier art schools in the country.

This video tied in so well to my “What I look for in Landscapes” post, I thought that I just had to post it. The artist describes his ideas of landscape and how he uses techniques to teach his students. I love hearing those ideas from artists. I also like how the video looks at the details of the painting.

When I initially look at the paintings, I see what I’m sure everyone else does. Interesting landscapes, interesting colors, and well rendered. But look at the clouds, how well they are done. You can see shadows, not just under the trees, but IN the trees, in the bushes, and on the sides of the hills. You can almost feel where the clouds are. When he zooms into the canvas, you see his brush strokes and the layers of paint. It is fabulous. If I were there and could afford them, these would definitely be works I would want in my collection.

If you are interested in more art videos of this type, I suggest doing a search on YouTube for RustyScupperton. He has hundreds of videos.

Art on the Prairie

I went to an art show in Perry, Iowa this weekend. According to the web site, there are over 100 artists, musicians, and poets. There are 6 buildings, each having several artists. Musicians are in all of the venues. I had worried that this would detract from the art or the talking would detract from the music. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. The music was a nice accompaniment for looking at the art. If you wanted to just listen to the music, it had a nice concert feel to it. Overall, it was much nicer than I had expected.

There were two artists I follow there, so I made sure to talk to them. The first is Cindy Skeie, who is a macrophotographer. I normally don’t buy any photography, but she does some really good work. I had her sign and date the picture I bought, which makes it a little more unique. I really like how she frames her work and presents it. She can be found at www.skeiescapes.com. I bought her calendar entitled “What the…”. Very cool pictures and reasonably priced at $15.

The other is Joseph Murray, who unfortunately doesn’t have a web site. He does really good landscapes, bird paintings, and rural scenes. He uses a very cool process of water color with acryllic in a layered format. The whole process gives a great light effect. He is doing a one man show down in Jefferson, IA at the end of November/early December. I hope to collect more from him after the first of the year.

There were quite a few fiber artists at the show, which is really unique for the shows that I have been to. There were a couple what I would call traditional quilts. They were pretty good. The ones I thought were the coolest were the applique quilts that used the fiber and sewing as a medium for expressing an idea, whether it was landscapes, portraits, and even abstracts. Some of them even dyed their own fabric and one made their own thread! Awesome stuff.

Here is where I get on my soap box a little. Art is a business. You have customers (at least potential customers) walking around. Please, if you are going to the show to display your work, interact with your customers. They want to talk to you. Those artists that were friendly, talkative, and seemed to be genuinely be excited about being there were generally doing pretty good in sales. Those that were sitting there, working on something or (worse) reading had no one in their booth. Look, I’ve done booth duty at conventions. It is mind numbing. Having the same conversation over and over is no fun. But, honestly, that is what I as a customer want. Art is emotional. Art is about connections. Art is as much about the artist as the piece itself.

Overall, a pretty good show. I’d suggest it for anyone in the area.

Art Collecting Book I Picked Up

I went to the Weisman Art gallery recently on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. It is a great art museum with a large variety of art and artists. While there, I bought a book called the Art of Buying Art by Paige West. It is a pretty book with a lot of color photographs of various art and artists. There is a lot of good information in it, but not enough to justify the $40 price tag. I’d pick it up on Amazon for less.

It did have a lot of really good ideas for the beginning art collector. The one I am starting immediately is keeping a collector’s journal. This is a journal of what shows you are attending, what caught your eye, what you did not like, and names of artists you were interested in. Sketches or even pictures should be put into it so you remember what you saw. I thought this was an awesome idea. I’ll be repurposing an old sketch book to do just that.

I’ve seen artists keep art journals, but had not thought of that for myself as a collector. Good stuff.

Interesting Video About Art Collecting

This is a very interesting video I found on Youtube. It is one of the videos I used to come up with my own rules for collecting art. Some are even the same, or based on the same premise.

Another movie that I have recommended to others is Herb and Dorothy. It is a documentary about the Vogels, who somehow amassed a collection of contemporary art worth many millions on the salaries of a postal worker and a librarian. It is a great movie for anyone interested in art or collecting art.

An Awesome Glass Artist

Most artists that use glass have a certain sameness to their work. One thing I look for in art is a uniqueness about the works. It isn’t enough to me for the art to be good. It has to be in some way different. Not just different from other artists, but different from other works from that particular artist. You may (and should) have your own specific style. I certainly want to be able to identify you from a crowd of similar artists. However, I want whatever I am buying from you to be unique. This is one reason I don’t buy prints and photography in general. Glass and ceramic works tend to have a certain sameness to me, which means they don’t excite me as much as other media.

Then, I met Tony Cray. A self-described pyro with a passion, Tony makes glass art. Granted, these are still items like bowls, vases, and the like, but Tony has a method that I can really appreciate. First, he colors his own glass. Second, he has his own designs, so no two pieces are exactly alike. This is awesome, to me. Another big plus is Mr. Cray has a really cool (or should I say hot) web site that shows all the steps in his process. When it comes to glass, while the end product has to look really good, it is really all about process. In Mr. Cray’s case, he is almost a conceptual artist in this regard. Once the art is complete, he’s passed the point of when he is done. The process is over, now it is a matter of tweaking it, improving it, and doing it again. That’s something I can really appreciate.

I suggest checking out his web site at www.tonycray.com.