Mississippi River Festival: Lasting Shadows at Dusk - A recent commission

Mississippi River Festival: Lasting Shadows at Dusk oil on canvas 40 x 30 inches

Mississippi River Festival: Lasting Shadows at Dusk
oil on canvas
40 x 30 inches

I was recently commissioned to paint an image of the Southern Illinois University (SIUE) Mississippi River Festival as a recognition gift given to Steve Jankowski for his service to the SIUE Alumni Association. The gift was given by the members of the board, as a gesture of their gratitude. I was honored to have been approached, and had a blast painting this one. My favorite part of the painting are the lasting shadows presented at dusk - maybe a perfect metaphor for a retirement by a gentleman who has made a lasting impression on the University in my backyard.

Click here to purchase a signed, limited-edition print for $100.00.
50% of the sale will be donated to the SIUE Alumni Association Scholarship Program.

Click here for more about commissioning Steve Hartman.

Butternut Squash Bisque – A recipe open to creative expression.


I make this soup every other year for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, and every year I creatively change the recipe. It's become a standard course for the dinner, but never have I made it the same way twice. Each year, as with many things I cook, a recipe may be handy, or at arms reach in my cookbook collection, but never followed to the “teaspoon,” as it were. For Thanksgiving this year, I’m sharing it here with you, but I highly recommend you loosely follow this recipe, and add your own bit of creativity along the way. I’ll try and give you a few suggestions that I’ve used along the way.

Steve Hartman’s Butternut Squash Bisque.

1/2 Stick of Butter
2 medium leeks, white parts only, washed well and rough chopped
1 cup of rough chopped celery
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded, roughly chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into 1 inch cubes
4 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of brandy (optional)
1/2 cup of heavy cream Salt and white pepper, to taste

In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Before I met my vegetarian wife, I would have added a few chopped strips of my homemade bacon here. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, ginger and jalapeño pepper and sauté approximately 15 minutes to wilt the veggies with some salt and white pepper. Stir in the squash and stock and bring to a boil. Add the brandy, cover and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes, or until squash and other veggies are very soft.

Let cool slightly. At this point, I use a hand-held immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth. You can use a blender, but work in batches. The soup purée is now ready for the cream. Stir in the cream and heat through, but do not let it boil again. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into individual bowls or cups. Serves 6-8 friends or family members easily. Garnish with a little crème fraîche or sour cream, and maybe a sprinkle of Italian parsley or cilantro.

Let me know your twist on this recipe!

#socialques Vanilla Coke - Submission for the AIGA St. Louis Design Week Dot Show


Each year, the St. Louis Chapter of AIGA, The Professional Association for Design, organizes a massive week-long event - St. Louis Design Week. As part of the festivities, an art party with a cause is held to raise funds for great area causes. This year (2014) they have organized The Dot Show – showcasing and selling art objects created by area designers and artists. 

The Dot Show is being held in conjunction with St. Louis' 250th Anniversary. Artists and designers are asked to commemorate their favorite or most inspirational location in the St. Louis area.

Being an Illinois native, growing up and living just east of St. Louis my entire life, I chose to showcase a memory of my first boyhood town - Venice, Illinois. Although our family moved from Venice to Edwardsville, Illinois in 1974 (I was four years old), I still have great memories of Venice. One being John's Drive-In - where my Mom would buy me a Vanilla Coke and a huge stick Jolly Rancher. What was she thinking of letting me drink Coke at age four! This is probably why I'm bald. My piece follows along with my #socialques series of art pieces. 

The Dot Show art will be sold in a silent auction to raise funds for the AIGA St. Louis student efforts. You can come try and outbid me for my own piece on September 22, 2014 at the Regional Arts Commission at 6128 Delmar BLVD, University City, MO 63112.

Exploring new creative methods - learning patience matters.

While I'm not planning on becoming the next new stop-motion animator, I did get the opportunity to experience the process this past weekend at the second annual Design Family Reunion in Santa Fe, New Mexico. What I learned had less to do about creativity, but more about patience, planning and perseverance. 

It's only a seven second film, but it took at least one hour to conceive and plan and shoot then render this "draft" of a movie. My guess to make this clip "perfect," it would take me a full day…which I would gladly sign up for.

I was able to work under the tutelage of the amazing illustrator Chis Sickles of Rednose Studio. His process is not traditionally stop motion, rather no motion at all. However, his style is captured using photography of meticulously manufactured characters, very much like those stop motion film models. Think the forthcoming movie, The Box Trolls, or Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

With such gorgeously modeled characters in our palette to work with, all of the focus was on the process of creating the stop motion clip. Planning a concept was the easy part. Executing the concept was the tedious learning lesson of what ultimately is lost in the creative process today – patience. 

In our highly digitally influenced communications world of today, the idea of patience is lost. On both ends of the client/agency relationship. What should be embraced from both sides is the idea that a little patience can be the ingredient to more effective communications. I understand that "first to market" is a key ingredient to winning in the said marketplace, but "last to communication strategy and execution" deflates a would-be winning campaign.

What we all can do to add a little patience and planning to our jobs to make our creative output stronger and more effective. 

Here is the clip - that could have used a little more patience:

#socialques: A series of social media influenced works of art.

#socialques is a new typographic series that I am working on that mixes image with hand-pressed, letterpress typography and handwritten words. The words come from my interaction with friends online via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each work becomes an artifact of that interaction.

The work begins with a found image from a moment in my daily life. I take a quick photo with my iPhone. I use the Tiltshift Generator app to alter the digital capture into a higher contrast, zero saturation (black and white) photo. Using my Instagram account, I share the image, including Facebook and Twitter with my caption, "Looking for one word comments on this image. #art." Then the poetry begins. 

So far, comments have ranged from 20-60 words per image. During this first round of requests, eleven in all, they began to drop in quantity of responses. Maybe because my friends were getting tired of my weekend long posts, only asking for comments. Some comments were poignant and deep, some were literal, some were humorous and snarky. Regardless of what they were, I used them all in the end. Who doesn't want a piece of art with the words beer, streetlightzilla or vagina imbedded? It's all part of the social experience…at least in my circles.

What does this all mean? That's up to you. Leave a comment below, and tell me what #socialques means. You can use more than one word this time.