Robert Witzack
Self-Portrait

Self-Portrait

What initially captured your imagination about the medium you use?

There was  a small wooden paint box around the house that belonged to my father. It had small tubes of old oil paint with wonderful colors, and though he had passed away when I was quite young, my mother and other family members told me how he had loved to draw and paint. Perhaps in the beginning my painting was seeking an experience of my father.

What types of things inspire you to create art?

I am inspired by what has the power or the magic to evoke a sense of passion whether it be beauty, grace, or mystery. It could be in the form of a human face or an old car. It could be an object of reverence. It doesn't have to be beautiful. It could be worn and weathered; for instance, "a face that history practiced on" as the words go from a song in Brecht's "Three Penny Opera" or a in a ruin that one can feel is full of stories, or an object that has touched or been touched by many lives.  

What life experiences have helped to shape you as an artist?

Foremost, the guidance and  encouragement of my teachers. Mrs Spicer in second grade, Father Lenahan in High School and Professor Scwalbach at U-Rock among several others. A field trip to the Chicago Art Institute. I have spent many solitary hours communing among rusted out cars in auto salvage yards- sketching. I have made pilgrimages to the Shrines of the Holy Land, and much later in life, spent a week in Paris.

Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion.

The process has evolved over many years. I have worked primarily in oils and have painted both realistic and abstract; both from my own inspiration and from a desire to re-create much admired works of personal art heroes. The work might have begun with an idea or sketch of my own devising or from a reproduced photo of a masterpiece. In the case of the former, the image gradually emerges into something that could hardly be imagined at the beginning stages. In the later, I started working from an illustration or two that I might find in an art history book. In that instance I already know what I want to achieve. It is the challenge to create a work which I see as my own homage to the original (whether- a Raphael or an Edward Hopper). It might be as exact as I can make it or a composite version that I have set out to do.

What plans do you have for the future direction of your art?

I plan to work, in future, with greater reliance on my inner guide for inspiration. I want to explore the spirit that brings us together as conscious beings. I want to look for illumination in  the mystery and wonder of what is universal and the work will seek to pay homage to that. I anticipate this as returning full circle.

To learn more about Robert's exhibition, CLICK HERE.

Jack Zellner

What initially captured your imagination about the medium you use?

I have worked in many mediums, but acrylic allows the artist to explore ones visual image on the canvas. The opaque and fast drying qualities of this medium lets the artist compose and react to the image with creative and many time unexpected results.

What types of things inspire you to create art?

Nature is a great motivator as well as the work of other artists.

What life experiences have helped to shape you as an artist?

My grandfather, an artist who attended the Royal School of Art in
Netherlands, taught me to draw and paint from the age of five. He would set up two canvases in the back yard of his Green Bay studio and we would create images. My professional life included art, design and
teaching which has always given me opportunities to explore new ways to push the visual image.

Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion.

I approach the blank canvas as an adventure — with no expectations. I selfishly enjoy the quiet introspection
of my intuitive self as an image is created on the canvas. Lines become spaces, areas become colors, groups of visual activities become composition. Its kind of wonderful.

To learn more about Jack's exhibition at Raven's Wish, click here.

Sophie Hansen

What initially captured your imagination about the medium you use?  Actually, I don’t use a ‘one-and-only’ medium. I would say that I mainly use acrylics and oils; however, I also have used watercolors, pencil, and crayon. Originally, I drew fanatically, with the archetypical 2HB pencil. I remember at one point I holed myself up in my room for hours on end, perfecting a realistic profile of a character’s face. That habit has carried on. I still spend 3-5 hours working on a single piece, when I have the time. I can lose almost a full day structuring one painting.

What types of things inspire you to create art?  Books, music, and my own imagination are motivations to create. Representing movement and life through art. When I hear a composition of sound, read, or even people-watch, I find myself constructing an imagined image, an interconnecting web of color, composition, and design derived from the external stimuli. I process the concept with other things I’ve thought or heard, and try to pull it all together into a single piece. I like seeing if I can “draw” viewers into a different universe. My artwork is an attempt to dramatize ideas and make them stand out as an oddity in a world of things already seen and known. 

What life experiences have helped to shape you as an artist? I was (and still am) homeschooled, which means I have a lot of free time to explore and research topics on my own. This freedom is great for creative ideas to grow and root themselves. My brother is a great musician, and his work inspires me to paint more--I might hear a mood through his playing, and then I'll  use it for idea-generating. I was also very fond of building fantastical worlds in my childhood, with my own characters, places, rules, etc. I revisit these worlds on occasion and use them as inspiration when I have nothing else of interest to use as subject matter.

Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion. Typically, I’ll have a scrap of thought in my head--a note in a song, an odd color, a curious design, or a character--and then tinker with it on paper. I’ll make a couple of small sketches, create texture, and lay down color; fooling around with it until I know what I want. I’ll flesh out the picture’s composition on another sheet, to edit and readjust. I use this as the ‘blueprint’ for the main work. Then, I’ll take a canvas or paper and carve out a form. After that, color is added. Each step is like a filter; the idea rehashes itself, over and over, to completion. Sometimes, the picture looks completely different from what I had in mind originally.

What plans do you have for the future direction of your art? In the future, I’m hoping to perfect my craft and technique in the various mediums mentioned above, especially pencil. I would like to delve more closely into graffiti-style art, as well as fantasy art--the design and brilliant color of those genres intrigue me. I enjoy learning about fiction illustrators and their pieces, and am working towards becoming a graphic designer or illustrator myself.

Alicia Reid

What initially captured your imagination about the medium you use? Acrylic paints, mediums, and gels are my current obsession. Texture fascinates me and I’m attracted to the tactile qualities of glass bead gel, light moulding paste, soft gel gloss, and fiber paste.

What types of things inspire you to create art? Travel, hiking, and other outdoor experiences often influence my work. I strive to be open to inspiration from any source…the sky, a movie, poetry, dreams.

What life experiences have helped to shape you as an artist? As a former instrumental music educator, nature education coordinator, and geography instructor, I’m connected to the art I create through these experiences.

Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion. After the initial idea for a piece, I’ll create a series of sketches, each more detailed. Lately I’ve also relied on value sketches to emphasize my placement of lights and darks. I usually paint in those darkest areas first, then identify areas to apply texture and text as the painting builds.

What plans do you have for the future direction of your art? My current work is much more connected to reality than is typical for me. I’ve an idea for a series of abstract minimalist seascapes, and sequence of map-related collage pieces linked to some of my favorite novels over the years.

Visit Alicia's Online Store

Brian Hartmann

I don't wait to get inspired by something, I just do it. I'm always taking pictures of places and things I come in contact with.  I get an idea in my head and I look for it.   

My choice of subject matter really varies.   The subject must have good form ,lots of color, and lead your eye around the piece. A well done piece tells a good story about that artist's life.  

Every since I could hold a crayon, I was always doodling. As I got older, my loving parents and family also encouraged me to do more. I took drawing and painting classes , ceramics, and even photographyin high school. I was introduced to watercolors my junior year.  Mrs. Worth was a patient woman but she keep challenging me to do more with this medium. That additional support from her helped me become the artist I am.

Before I start painting, I know what the finished product will look like when it's done.  I only have two dedicated days per week to work on pieces, so it can take up to three months for me to finish one.  I start in one spot and the brush tells me where to go next. I always try to paint what I see, not what I know. 

When I am done, I study the piece to see if I need to add more colors,  shadows or highlights. I have a couple of really trusting friends that get to look and tell me what they think before I show it to the public.

My paintings are a window to an inner world that no one has access to.  I want people to look at my work and have an "AHHHHA"  moment and make a personal connection.

I'm not sure where my art is headed next, but I look forward to the opportunities it leads me to.   Whatever lies ahead, I want to grow as a individual on a professional level while still enjoying what I do.      

CLICK HERE to view biography and online gallery.

Gifting Art to People You Hardly Know

For the client who gave you an excellent business referral, or for your spouse’s third cousin (twice removed) who’s getting married next month, wading in a sea of art can be overwhelming.  How do you pick something out that is memorable, genuine, and personal for someone you hardly know?  

Deciding WHAT you are trying to convey is always a great place to start.  Are you expressing gratitude, friendship, appreciation, or celebration?  Once you define the tone you’re ready to delve deeper!

DEFINE THE PURPOSE FOR THE ART

  • Do they like functional objects or decorative ones, or both? 
  • What kind of space do they have to work with in their home or office?    
  • How might the piece be displayed…on the wall, an easel, a shelf?

LOOK FOR CLUES

  • What is their décor style? contemporary, rustic, shabby chic?
  • Do they have a favorite color? 
  • What are their interests?  Gardening?  Fishing?  Cooking?

THINK OUTSIDE THE OBVIOUS

Just because someone loves commercial fishing doesn’t mean you need to buy them a 3-foot sculpture of a sturgeon!  Here are a few examples of how to translate your observations into something a little less literal:    

  • For someone passionate about environmental issues, consider repurposed art, such as a pair of earrings forged from a piece of recycled roofing copper;
  • Someone who is expressive or fashion-forward would love a uniquely designed scarf that can’t be purchased from any major retail store;
  • A food-lover or frequent entertainer might enjoy a fused glass serving bowl that generates a lot of interest and conversation from his or her guests;
  • And that guy who loves to fish?  Consider a nautical painting, a sculpture made from driftwood, or a bar of homemade soap to keep in the tacklebox. 

TIPS:

  • Try to avoid buying art without seeing it in person first.  Things can look very different in a photograph or JPEG, and you can’t always pick up on nuances or textures the way you can in person.
  • If you receive artist information or documentation with the piece you’re purchasing, remember to give that with the art.  Even if the recipient doesn’t want to someday sell the art, s/he will feel much more connected to it by knowing more about the artist.

Gifting is a lot like art—it’s so much more than just a physical exchange.  It’s an expression and way to communicate without words. 

The gift recipient in your life is sure to be honored by the thought and time you put into finding unique artwork.   Gifts that have meaning are the best kind to receive—and also to give! 

 
Masks: An Evolving, Artful Perspective

How can masks inspire us?  

Across most cultures, masks depict mystery.  They are a cryptic expression, an artistic intention, glorified for all to see.  Essentially, regardless of their cultural context or purpose, a mask is a means of concealing one’s identity and assuming a different one.

The act of masking ourselves translates fluently into the art of imagination, or of transcendence.  Creating a mask is one way to celebrate the co-creation of life.  Our definition of self, and therefore our outlook, evolves with each new experience.

Just as the mask is born at the hands of its creator, creativity can be developed and nurtured in our lives.  Anything we do to perpetuate the art of imagination helps us embrace and celebrate this evolving creation of self into our lives and the world around us.   Here are a few simple ways to nurture this new perspective in your life!  

Be Brave

"Creating and then wearing a mask allows us to expose parts of ourselves we are not usually willing to embrace in everyday life."  --Nicole Burns, Art Therapist

OK, so we can’t exactly wear a Venetian Mask to the grocery store, or to work—at least not without unintended consequences.  However, we can live expressively through an artistic prop! 

Wear a statement piece, such as a vibrant scarf or an otherwise unique piece of wearable art.  By stretching just beyond your everyday comfort zone, you can embrace something dormant and feel just a little more alive!   

 

Repurpose the Ordinary

The above mask was made out of plastic bottles.  Part of living a more artful life is seeing the artistic possibilities of everyday objects.  It’s the small bits and pieces of thought and color and that weave into the fabric of an artful existence.  

In order to transcend our ordinary lives into something extraordinary, we must approach it with new eyes.  Only then can we channel our intentions into something more profound.  

Collect Small Moments

As you journey through each day, watch for small findings that give you joy, a living collection of items with which you can design quiet moments of intention. 

Imagine you are decorating a mask with artifacts that represent the past, present, or future YOU.  If you are watching for these small moments throughout your everyday life, you will start to experience things differently—more artfully!

 

Be Anonymous

Whether it be a walk in the woods or just people-watching at the mall, find time to revel in the freedom of not being known, seen, or accountable to anyone. 

Some of our most creative thoughts or deepest desires can only be accessed under the cloak of anonymity when we don’t have to regard how others feel or consider their needs.   

Fail to Disclose

 "You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it. It's hard to find   that inner creative voice if you're ... not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting."       --American existential  psychologist Rollo May

There is an artistry to not overstating things, to leaving some things to the imagination.  For many artistic people, solitude is essential for letting seeds of thought and intention grow into creative expression.

By resisting the temptation to over-engage, we give our thoughts time to germinate. These conscious retreats can fuel our everyday lives with a richer existence, which is the driving purpose behind living a more artful life!  

Historical Perspective:

  • A brief review of the history of masks reveals that, in Europe alone, they have served as a means of either expressing something unpalatable, or transcending one’s experience to something extraordinary.
  • The Masquerade Ball began as part of Europe’s carnival season in the 14th and 15th centuries
  • Villagers started using them to welcome kings and queens arriving in their city
  • Venetian aristocracy then started using masks for anonymity during carnival celebrations, which consisted of decadence, gluttony and a large amount of lust 
  • In 18th Century England, the “night of sin” was transformed into a pompous fashion frenzy that graced some of the finest ball rooms in the world
  •  In 1771, Sweden’s king Gustav III was assassinated during a masquerade ball when a disgruntled, masked nobleman “do-si-doed” close enough to him on the dance floor to serve the fatal blow. After that, the masquerade ball was associated with an ultimate night of risk, inspiring operas and plays alike