Artist Date: Hopkins Center for the Arts – March 17, 2018


“Waterscape I” by Denise Presnell-Weidner

I visited Hopkins Center for the Arts three times over the past week: once for an art class, another time for an Empty Bowls fundraiser, and finally to reexamine just one piece of artwork that caught my eye. Though hundreds of other pieces lined the halls as part of The North Show: Arts in Harmony, “Waterscape I” captured my curiosity and compelled my return to the exhibit. Here’s why…

Technique: Layers
Waterscape I” looks like a lot of the abstract and expressionist pieces I tend to like: full of color and reminiscent of the natural world. But I knew there was something special about this piece, a different level of dimensionality. After further study, I figured it out: it was essentially two pieces of art, one layered on top of the other. On the bottom? Linen colored from corner to corner with the rich hues of oil pastel. On the top? A solid sheet of clear plexiglass painted with flecks of orange and blue complementing the scene below.

Artist: Denise Presnell-Weidner
This is the artist who created “Waterscape I” (and earned third place honors in the North Show’s Mixed Media category, by the way). My Google search revealed that Presnell-Weidner is an art professor who recently retired from Lakeland University in Sheboygan, Wis. After viewing more of her work online, I was pleased to learn that she’s having a solo exhibition in Hopkins next winter!

Assignment: “Tapestry”
As I continue to dabble in “contemplative collage,” the concept of “tapestry” has been playing on the edges of my mind. To be more specific, I’ve been dwelling on the kind of metaphorical tapestry as described in Corrie Ten Boom’s famous poem “Life Is But a Weaving.” Now I know exactly how I plan to tackle this notion of tapestry in my art: by employing some layers just as Presnell-Weidner did with “Waterscape I”—I look forward to depicting the “upper” and “underside” of God’s “canvas” using a method similar to hers. With yet another new idea on my list, my assignments are really starting to pile up—I hope to share more finished products soon!


Conclusions on Collage


The beginnings of “Consider” & “Wither”

It’s been a week since my husband and I attended a collages class together. Since then I’ve had some time to process the experience and to experiment on my own. Here are some of my key observations and learnings from the past several days…

Artists aren’t necessarily teachers
That’s apparent no matter their talent. I would even wager to guess that the more talent they have, the less effective they are in the classroom; perhaps they’ve achieved success by a certain standard, so works of another creative bent or caliber might not be seen as worthwhile or up to par. Don’t get me wrong, they’re often the right people from whom to learn new techniques. However, these aren’t always the people who are generous with applause or encouragement, no matter how far we rookies have come in applying ourselves or how unique our views on and expressions of the world. That’s my perception of artists turned art instructors these days anyway; I might sing a different tune after I attend another class.

I don’t like to wait
The techniques we learned in class took some patience. First, there was waiting for background paint to dry, then the substance we used to do image transfers. After all that, we had to rub and wipe, then rub and wipe some more and again and again to release the paper upon which the image transfer originated. This kind of start-stop-start-stop approach to art seems to prevent entrance into my best creative zone. In all honesty, I detest it.

I dig contemplative collage
So here’s the bottom line… Though the methods we learned in class are probably seen as more prestigious or professional, I have a fondness for good old-fashioned paper collage: taking images from old magazines and other sources, cutting them apart, and creating a whole new scene with the bits and pieces.

Over the past few days, I’ve started two collages: one currently titled “Consider” and inspired by Luke 12:27, and the other currently titled “Wither” and inspired by Isaiah 40:8. I love starting with something to contemplate, then turning it around in my heart and mind while hunting for images that seem to resonate with it. In other words, this kind of art-making gets me into “the zone.” This is where I find joy and meaning. This is a how I expect I’ll continue to grow and learn most as an artist and human being.

Empty Bowls & Blackout Poems

In my continued quest to claim the identity of “artist,” the past few days have provided a couple more opportunities to discover and grow and imagine…


“Emergence” (2017) & “Sensory Sampler” (2018) from Empty Bowls

Empty Bowls
It’s my absolutely favorite fundraiser: Empty Bowls. No matter the amount of their donations, all guests receive all-you-can-eat soup and bread provided by local restaurants and other food-savvy organizations (my favorite soup from this year’s menu came from a nearby nursing home), but the best prize for each person there is a handmade bowl to take home! Middle and high school students, churches, professional artisans, and citizens of all talents and backgrounds contribute to the supply. The whole effort benefits local food shelves.

For the past two years, I have attended Empty Bowls with my friend Judy. It was by her inspiration that I turned my attention toward the more unusual and less conventional bowls. Of all the bowls I’ve collected from the event over the years, these pieces mean the most to me and seem to embody so much personality.

I’ve also taken to naming the bowls I bring home: “Emergence” (2017) by R.W. and “Sensory Sampler” (2018) by Olivia. This year’s find is glazed in a beautiful turquoise color, plus I like Olivia’s experimentation with a different texture on each side of the bowl: brick pattern, fish scales, basket weave, and diamond shapes. As for “Emergence,” I admire it and its mysterious maker so much that I was compelled to write a poem last year:

By Barbara Farland
I imagine a sitting, zitty, and somber teen
Resigned to the day’s assignment
To sculpt a bowl from clump of clay

Young fingers coil
Thumbs tug and nudge
The damp media into resemblance of prescribed form

Lumpy sides
Lopsided bottom
Endear me to it
So obviously amateur and thoughtless and rushed

Now as mine
I name it


Its rough sides reach up in jagged uncertain stretches
Reminiscent of the awkwardness of its maker
Ever oblivious to my appreciation
And prayers for his soul
His sense of contribution
His eventual awakening
And emergence of spirit

Empty Bowls events are held all over the United States. Find one near you to eat good soup, to support a great cause, and to see and take home some phenomenal art!


Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon & my own blackout poem “Mission”

Blackout Poems
A couple weeks ago, I shared my appreciation for Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. On Wednesday, I picked up his book Newspaper Blackout from the library and read it from front to back in less than an hour. It’s a super quick and super fun read!

Here’s how the gist of the book is described on the back cover: “Armed with a daily newspaper and a permanent marker, he constructs through deconstruction—eliminating the words he doesn’t need to create a new art form: Newspaper Blackout poetry.”

Through this deconstructive method, Kleon came up with a variety of free-verse poems that are sometimes lovely, sometimes humorous, and always clever. But they’re so much more than the words—each piece is also an interesting work of visual art.

I was reminded that I already tried this approach of “poetry-writing meets art-making” through the “28 to Make” class on (see photo for my creation of “Mission”). But after reading Kleon’s book, I’m itching to make a little more blackout poetry of my own, but instead of newspaper clippings, I think I’m going to go the altered-book route. Now if I could only find that cool little purple book I bought a few years ago for this very purpose!

Any weekend plans? Mine will include another date with my husband, this time with our taking in the “Crazy About Collages” class at Hopkins Center for the Arts. More on that later!

Artist Date: Weisman Museum – March 3, 2018

Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis

Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis

Last Saturday, my husband and I went not only on a “date date,” but also on an “artist date,” as Julia Cameron defines it in her famous book The Artist’s Way. Our date destination was the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

The objective of an artist date? To receive, says Cameron—to open one’s self “to insight, inspiration, guidance” and to nurture one’s “creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion…”

I’m finding it difficult to sum up the many ways that my experience with the Weisman exhibits spoke to my inner artist; after all, I took two pages of copious notes and no less than 25 unique photos. But there’s no time like the present to create a simple and somewhat systematic way to encapsulate the highlights of such excursions. For now, I’ll try to share my #1 top finds when it comes to a “new-to-me” techniques, terms, artwork and artists. Perhaps I’ll also include ideas inspired by my artist dates that I want to try or topics that I want to learn more about—I’ll call this part my “assignment.”

Without further ado, here are my favorite takeaways from the Weisman:

Technique: Pixelation
“Pixelated Bromide” by Richard Barlow involved taking a sepia photograph and using  36,000 spangles to replicate the image in humongous shiny golden form; the piece measures more than 10 feet tall and almost 20 feet wide, and it’s best to stand back about 30 feet to see the picture take shape. How fun would it be to emulate Barlow’s method in both small and large scale with a little help from Photoshop!

Term: “Synchromy”
It was in reading about “Cañon Synchromy (Orange)” by Stanton Macdonald-Wright that this cool word came to my awareness. It’s defined as “a symphony produced with color.” To Macdonald-Wright, that meant creating “color harmonies around a central color,” in this case, orange. A leaflet about the piece offers a short bio on him crediting him as “the founder of synchromism, an art movement that emphasizes the importance of color.” Fancy that!

Artwork: “Green Woods” by B.J.O. Nordfeldt
The colors are vibrant. The depiction of a tall forest of trees is whimsical but recognizable. I fell in love with this oil painting immediately. Despite its so-called simplicity and playfulness, “Green Woods” carries a multi-dimensional quality that pulls me deeper into the woodsy scene’s center.

Artist: Marsden Hartley
There were about half a dozen works by Hartley that caught my eye for their richness. I also noticed his various techniques and subject matter, from vibrant still lifes to foreboding oceanic landscapes to light Southwestern scenes. His “Painting No. 2” also captured my attention. Embedded in it are numerous spiritual symbols related to his transcendental beliefs. I do not share in those beliefs, but I resonate with faith and spirituality offering much inspiration and energy in the quest to make art.

Assignment: A “synchromous” pixelation of an abstract
There’s a lot to try and I’m tempted to merge a couple of my learnings into one “synchromous” (I’m not sure if this is truly the right adjective) pixelated piece of art. I feel inspired to load an abstract painting like “Green Woods” into Photoshop to see what kind of pixelated instructions it reveals. I’m eager to experiment with the materials at hand—fiber and magazines in particular—to see what emerges.




“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)

“Psalm 104” (Mixed Media)“Psalm 104”
Barbara Farland
Mixed Media, 2018

From Psalm 104:1-5, 10-13:

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.He makes winds his messengers; flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.

He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.