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Choralfest Painting (The Process: Season 2 Episode 2)

Choralfest Painting (The Process: Season 2 Episode 2)

Get a tour of the planning behind this multi-figure painting and the unexpected twists along the way.  Oil paint, surprise models, research, and non-gold dust all blend in this ever-evolving design.  Learn more about the making of this promotional illustration for the 2018 WELS West Regional Choral Festival in this episode of The Process.




I painted this birch forest for my wife.  She loves the quiet encounters one can have while hiking or camping.  I hope this little grove of birches with it's golden floor provides a daily reminder of moments she has lost herself in the splendor of God's creation.install1web install2web

Self Portrait Painting

Self Portrait Painting


It's been 10 years since my last oil self portrait.  Considering that Van Gogh's entire painting career only lasted 5 years...I figured I'm due.  Watch the painting emerge from darkness in this short timelapse. selfportoilsummer2015web

Henri Matisse 1905 Andr? Derain 1880-1954 Purchased 1958


"Silent Film" by Seth Bauer-available on cdbaby and itunes "Where You Are Now" and "Stinger" by The Divers

Plum Painting

Plum Painting


P1010003web P1010004web P1010005web P1010006web A little plum fell off the tree far too early in the summer. I picked it up and spent a fine morning with it in the studio. Here's a condensed view of the making of this little painting.

"Where You Are Now" and "Stinger" by The Divers

"Masterpieces" by Seth Bauer. Available on itunes and cdbaby.

Bread of Life

Bread of Life


Wheat archThis is an illustration to accompany Michael Zarling's upcoming post in Bread for Beggars.  It's a pretty straightforward remix of the central portion of my St. Croix mural.  Click this post  for video, commentary, and process photos related to that project. While the original mural incorporates a wide range of symbolism, this piece needed to focus on Jesus as the Bread of Life.  As Confessional Lutherans we hold the means of grace as central to our relationship with God (namely Baptism, The Lord's Supper, God's Word).  We believe that in these sacraments God comes to us in grace and love.  Worship is an opportunity to visit with and be visited by God himself.  The "Bread of Life" image emphasizes Jesus' seeming paradox of victory in his willing sacrifice.  He is shown in a moment and posture of utter defeat, but simultaneously glorious and radiant.  His substitution on our behalf was THE turning point for all of humanity, even as it was his utter defeat...temporarily.  I have designed the image to evoke this both-at-once mystery.  Stalks of wheat surround him referring to the Lord's Supper and the life-giving meal of the Gospel message.  Those stalks of wheat radiate from and direct our attention to the ancient scroll from which he seems to emerge.  That scroll represents the Word of God and is inscribed with Hebrew text of the protoevangelium-the first promise of a Savior.  Some people have asked whether the number of wheat stalks is symbolic.  I'm built for visual symbolism rather than logical or rational parallels, so the answer is no.  Think more on the timeless nature of "daily bread" and the eternal implications of such a daily need.  Besides "The Bread of Life"  Jesus is also referred to as "The Word".  The original St. Croix painting also includes symbolism related to Jesus as "the Vine" and "the Living Water".

The St. Croix mural is shown below.  It's 15 feet wide and with textured paint, gold leaf, super vibrant colors, and good really should be seen in person.


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Jane and Terry wedding painting

Jane and Terry wedding painting


Watch the making of this unique wedding portrait.  Oil paint on hardwood in colors from the bride's bouquet and dress.IMG_20150710_120842324_HDR IMG_20150716_163614591_TOP IMG_20150716_152946582_HDRT&J web

Making the Hermann Fire Hydrant

Making the Hermann Fire Hydrant

Armed with enamel paint, an approved concept, and some rocks to keep my stuff from blowing away...I embarked on a journey of transformation.  Fire hydrants all over downtown New Ulm were prepared for a variety of artists with a pale yellow priming.  I was told the colored disc facing the street, in my case green, is to be untouched as it indicates available water pressure.  While rummaging through my paint supplies, I re-found a can of silvery enamel auto paint from the 1960s.  It provided a nice neutral tone with a metallic sheen. (click here to see another painting incorporating this silver) The metallic sheen would lead well into my subject, New Ulm's favorite hammered copper defender of freedom, Hermann the German.  If you don't know about his story, it's pretty interesting stuff.  Imagine George Washington combined with Braveheart taking a stand against the Roman army's advance into northern Europe.  He kicked Rome's butt all around the Teutoborg forest around the same time 12-year-old Jesus was schooling the scholars in the Jerusalem temple.  Look him up.

After allowing the silver to dry for a day, I loaded up my bike bucket with containers of primary colors and a #8 Filbert bristle brush.  It was time to establish the drawing.  I decided, for no particular reason, to do this first stage in red.  It's fun being an artist-sometimes its just that simple.  My drawing is more than just outlines of features.  I made blocks of shadow using a technique known as value reduction.  Rather than lines, I wanted informed blobs.

Note:  There are very few closeup images of Hermann the German's face available on the internet.  Maybe only 1.

Note:  Painting from a reference photo on a smartphone is a good idea... unless you painting outside.

After lunch that fire hydrant was silver and red and I thought that made it look a little like the classic Japanese sci-fi hero, Ultraman.  Cool.  But not right.  I mixed yellow paint with blue and arrived at green.  Green was a good idea because it counteracts red and reminds us of Herman's lovely sage-colored patina.  I only brought green and a small nylon filbert with bristles about the size and shape of my small fingernail.  It seemed to me that the red should peek through, but the green should establish a tone.  Vertical stripes provided a nice solution that also refer to traditional engraving methods.  Bonus historical allusion.  If the red indicated shadows, the green would stretch over shadow and midtones.  Some red would show through and so would the silver.  It was getting exciting.

Having an appointment with the KEYC news crew on Monday,  I decided to take the weekend off.  They would want footage of painting happening.  So I saved some painting for the camera.  I arrived in time to set up and start painting the super dark areas with black stripes.  This was like adding the bass to the choir.  The black lines gave a stronger sense of depth and clarity.  Nice.

The KEYC footage and interview happened during the black paint.  Check this link for the story:  Also during this time I had a great conversation with former student, current director of programming at the Grand Center for Arts & Culture, Joseph Steinbach.

Note:  This project was full of pleasant conversations.

Finally, it was time to add the white highlights.  For a very long time I've enjoyed adding the final highlights.  A drawing or painting can go from good to great with a few carefully placed touches of brightness.  When I look at the pre-highlight photos they look dull to me.  Adding those bits of white is like the melody finally joining the choir.  Lovely.


A fire hydrant is an awkward shape to paint.  Fitting a subject to it is fun but challenging.  I was surprised by how many New Ulm-ers didn't know Hermann's face...even from the reference photo!  Maybe this hydrant will become another image in our collective heritage.  For those who just can't get it, I left his name on the top of his helmet (and mine too).  Overall, I enjoyed the chance encounters with friends and strangers.  Growing up in New Ulm, I remember loving the little metal motorcycle bouncy rides just a few steps away from this fire hydrant.  Some kid is going to grow up remembering this weird face on the fire hydrant.  I hope it doesn't make any nightmares.  Hail Hydrant!



IMG_20150724_140816152_HDRIMG_20150723_151148648 IMG_20150723_155409533_HDR IMG_20150724_110650692  Hermanredgreenredgreen3qtrIMG_20150727_164728830_HDRfacecropwith referencesignaturefinal hermanfinal profileKEYC screenshot

New Life Luther's Seal finals

New Life Luther's Seal finals

  This is a Luther's Seal customized to incorporate aspects of New Life Lutheran Church in Shoreview, MN.  I was commissioned to create a commemorative artwork for the 25th anniversary of this mission congregation.  I've included some close ups for those of you who glory in brush strokes and texture!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI started this project with a design in homage to Alphonse Mucha and ended up a sort of impressionist collection of strokes and colors in a steampunk structure.  Overall, I'm pleased.  As the artist, you would think I know where an artwork is going.  However, every project convinces me that I can't tell the future.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Prodigal Son Departs

The Prodigal Son Departs


A short video in which paint is applied to canvas.

"The Prodigal Son Departs"

A quick painting (alla prima) for good health. Bright colors and bold strokes help me relish the simple fun of the paint itself.

Music: "Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive" by Koiné.

Artwork for Koiné single "In Christ Alone"

Artwork for Koiné single "In Christ Alone"



"Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied;

For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—

Here in the death of Christ I live.”

Koiné has just released a new single "In Christ Alone" and it features a cropped portion of this triptych painting from my portfolio.  I made this for the ELS Lutheran Youth Association as a portable triptych to use at youth conventions.  Pastor Don Moldstad called me and asked me to make something about the size of a suitcase that could be opened and set up on a table.  It would lend a liturgical focus to a makeshift worship space such as a gymnasium conference room or auditorium.

After I finished the artwork Timothy Pietsch designed and built the folding frame.



This piece is loaded with symbolism so it seems wise to offer some interpretation.

It is in Christ alone that we have a solution to our greatest problems.  Our greatest enemies are laid waste by our hero, our Savior, our Christ.  This artwork addresses Jesus’ relationship with our sin.

Sin is symbolized in this piece by a visual reference to Adam and Eve's fall.  Devoured apple cores integrated into Jesus' halo represent a multitude of sins we not only commit, but fully relish.  There is more than one bite out of these sin-symbols and from God's perspective they represent a major problem for humanity.

However, there is another layer of symbolism in the apple cores.  Satan, the accuser, tends to point to our sins and accost our conscience.  Because of Jesus we neither ignore our sin nor fool ourselves into thinking we can handle it on our own.  These sins are now pure white...made clean in Jesus’ holiness.  They ride both on Jesus' back and are oriented along his halo. The contrast of human depravity and Jesus' holy sacrifice on our behalf is encapsulated in this symbolic arrangement.   

The sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion reassure Christians of the great gift of salvation. Both sacraments were initiated and sanctioned by Jesus and are shown flowing from his side.

 Paint color and handling also serve a purpose.  Jesus is painted here with vertical brushstrokes to indicate His vertical connection between heaven and earth.  Jesus, the God-Man, opens the door to immortality for us mortals.  One of the thieves (on Jesus' left) is painted with horizontal marks indicating a preoccupation with earthly matters.  The other thief (on Jesus' right) seemed to refuse to be painted.  After several attempts I decided to leave it as a simple outline.  I've come to understand this in contrast to the other thief's worldly disposition.  This thief (notice he's at Jesus' right hand) confessed his faith and anticipation for heaven.  His concerns were not so worldly.

The gold leaf denotes a spectacular event worthy of our full attention and praise.  The green outline is a symbol of the new life resulting for us as a result of Jesus' work.

The words, "Do You Know What I Have Done To You?"  come from the upper room on Maunday Thursday after Jesus washed his disciples' feet.  I used the New King James Version because it is commonly used in ELS services.  These words serve as a shorthand reminder of both Jesus' complete substitution and perfect example for us.  In his holy life of humiliation, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection we have assurance of salvation and a model for our own lives.


No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand;

Till He returns or calls me home—

Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Learn more about the Koiné ministry, keep up with their news and support them at