When a piece of art changes meaning, or interpretation.

Dissecting Union v. Liberty  utilizes a cotton flag on a field of orange oil paint.

Dissecting Union v. Liberty utilizes a cotton flag on a field of orange oil paint.

I created this painting, Dissecting Union v. Liberty, in the spring of 2015. President Barack Obama was still in office. President Donald Trump was yet to announce his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential Election. The original concept I developed for the 2004 AIGA Get Out the Vote poster campaign.

Dissecting Union v. Liberty  oil paint and cotton fabric 50 x 74 inches

Dissecting Union v. Liberty
oil paint and cotton fabric
50 x 74 inches

The concept was derived from George Washington's farewell address, which is introduced by The National Archives: "In his farewell Presidential address, George Washington advised American citizens to view themselves as a cohesive unit and avoid political parties and issued a special warning to be wary of attachments and entanglements with other nations."

Washington wrote (likely with the help of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton): "...that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other."

My intent was to celebrate my liberty and freedom of speech by "dissecting" the elements of our our national symbol. Then, reshaping them into a form that separates them individually, but positions them in position to lean on each other. The idea for the viewer to imagine moving one element, and the entire field having to shift its form. 

As I write this in 2017, Donald Trump is our President, and our country is in open debate about our flag, our anthem, how to respect it, and how to respect each other. While my original concept was to celebrate our freedoms and our liberties and our expressive individualism, I feel the tone of our Country has shifted, and now the feeling of this painting is one of a country torn apart by parties and no longer that cohesive symbol I was trying to reshape in celebration. 

Pull away a star, or a stripe of white or red and see this formation tumble down. 

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: