Studio Closeup #23

Studio Closeup #23 is part of The Museum Series and centers around the old Racine Unified School District’s reading curriculum I was a part of in the 1970s. I’ve included some photos of the original reading material that I’ve been able to hunt down and procure thanks to the internet. I keep (hoard) some of the copies that I’ve been able to hunt down for reference copies only, but some have to be sacrificed to the art gods to make dioramas. I could make copies of the things I perform surgery on, but it would lack the authentic feel I obsess over.

There will be four dioramas total and one still from an old 1970’s filmstrip inside this piece. The filmstrip still is not from the book series proper; it’s from a National Geographic Filmstrip series from the late 1970’s. I mention this because there apparently WAS a filmstrip series that went with these books that I saw pictured in one of the teacher’s manuals that I’d give anything to hunt down and see in person. I check all my haunts every morning for this unicorn but so far no luck. I’ll keep trying though because you never know (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this quest before.) Instead, I’ve included a photo of the photo of what that filmstrip collection looked like in all its color coded glory.

The top and bottom borders of this piece I’ve made green instead of my typical linen white to emulate the bright green cover of the reading book that always stayed in my mind. That shade of green for the borders of the piece was also the color of my bedroom growing up. I had dark green carpet to go with that spring green color which was always a nice perk when playing with my Breyer model horses because I just saw my floor as one big green pasture for all of them.

Please enjoy and thank you for stopping by!

Title: The Museum Series - Jill and Lad (Pocketful of Sunshine)
Year: 2020
Media: Acrylic Paint, Paper Diorama, Filmstrip, Wood Panel
Total Dimension: 11” x 14”

Jill lad art
Jill lad diorama01
Inside Diorama #1
Jill lad diorama02
Inside Diorama #2
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Inside Diorama #3
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Inside Diorama #4
Jill lad filmstrip
Inside Filmstrip Image
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Original 1970's Reading Material #1
Jill lad book02
Original 1970's Reading Material #2
Jill lad filmstrip set
(the coveted filmstrip set)

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Music Mondays: Carolaoke Song #21

Well, here we all are in 2021. I'm sure many may agree that the "now times" are pretty disappointing. I have hope for 2021 don't get me wrong(!) I'm just saying that as the human race we're capable of so many awesome things and yet here we all are collectively experiencing a whole lot of downsides instead.

So what I like to do when I've visited the news in the morning and am completely leveled by it is spend the rest of the day visiting the times when and where humans were doing cool things. The 1970's and 1980's have been popular destinations for me lately of course because I was a kid (= fun) but more than that, the world was a much happier place then; a vibrantly colorful and musical time to grow up. It really was. Back then my parents played lots of music but they weren't into disco (aside from my mother's love for ABBA thankfully) and my dad hated The Bee Gees but somehow I discovered Xanadu. And in MY world it didn't get much better than an Andy Gibb lookalike and THE Olivia Newton-John singing and rollerskating inside a colorful orchestral inferno made possible by E.L.O. aka Electric Light Orchestra.

So for today's Carolaoke Song #21, I offer my rendition of one of the songs from that movie. Please enjoy my cover of Olivia Newton-John's "Magic". Here's to more "magic" for everyone in 2021.

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Studio Closeup #22

Today’s Studio Closeup is a new piece from The Museum Series I've been working on for a few years now. I say museum but I also consider zoos in that category as well with how they build the "exhibits" for living animals as opposed to "dioramas" for deceased ones. And this diorama really reminds me of the inside of the (living) bird aviary at the Milwaukee County Zoo. I remember spending a couple cold birthdays visiting Milwaukee County Zoo as a kid. What always blew my mind was walking from the arctic cold of February in Wisconsin and into a 72 degree tropical oasis complete with waterfalls, ponds, plants and all kinds of birds everywhere. All the birds were in this environment together but all out in the open (no cage bars whatsoever) and you were so close to all of them; totally euphoric. I mention this because I’m working on a 1970s Milwaukee County Zoo series, but I’m still currently trying to figure out how I’m going to include the animals AND the park details so they all flow and make sense if you were to view all the pieces together as a whole in a gallery. This flamingo diorama might be later incorporated into the 1970s Milwaukee County Zoo series instead of The Museum Series proper just as a fair warning. You have been informed. To be continued.

Title: The Museum Series - Flamingo
Year: 2020
Media: Acrylic Paint, Paper Diorama, Wood Panel
Total Dimension: 8” x 8”

Flamingo whole art pc
Flamingo diorama

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Music Mondays: Carolaoke Song #20

Today’s Carolaoke song offering is a Brenda Lee tune. My parents played a lot of Brenda Lee when I was growing up and I always loved singing along to her songs. I liked the challenge. And I liked her voice because it was “spunky serious”. And she was a little rocker chick. My parents always told me she was super young (12!) when she started recording which fascinated me since I was around that age. It all seemed quite exhilarating and I secretly wanted to be a part of all that. I was excited to learn that she's also only 4’9”! As a member of the 5'0" and shrinking club, that's pretty rad. At any rate, here’s my rendition of Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry”. It sure felt good to be able to sing at this volume today that's all I'm going to say about that.

I've also included Brenda Lee's original version of "I'm Sorry" for reference. Please enjoy!

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Studio Closeup #21

Happy Holidays Everyone! For some reason, even though we’re all staying home and zooming with our loved ones (right? Right? RIGHT?) this season, I've noticed an angsty fervor in general coming from everyone and everything, including me. Is it because we’re all collectively losing our shit? I think the extroverts in the world are having the toughest time with this lockdown. They must feel about this lockdown how I feel about having to be at a party and mingle. Every single day, all day. For an entire year. I just had an anxiety attack thinking about that.

I’ve been giving all this a lot of thought. There are no sports, concerts, movies, restauranting etc; in person socializing of any kind right now especially at a time when we all gather together to celebrate what we celebrate. It goes against everything we’ve ever done during this time and it’s all very weird. I’m in the extreme introvert hermit category with the occasional burst of extrovert when needed - usually requiring three months to recover from (well, at least a week in complete silence.) In my 48th year around the sun, I finally understand this frustrating aspect about myself and even *I* am going a little kooky-nut-face at times. The usual outlets and coping mechanisms we turn to to release our pent-up shit has been totally cut off. And that’s dangerous. Unfortunately, the winter holidays are usually very stressful, but this year is really different and I don’t think anyone really knows what to do with all this. This is the first time EVER in all of our lifetimes that we all have had to celebrate the holidays this way and we’re all divided on what’s right or wrong these days and I think these things are definitely a large part of this overall feeling of anything but happiness. For me, it continues to be a challenge to even want to “celebrate” anything right now.

Today’s Studio Closeup is a blast from the past because I wasn’t able to get anything even remotely presentable to show you this week. I admit I got sucked into this swirling energy vortex and I’m just concentrating on keeping all my shit together.

This is a slide of artwork for the lyrics of a tune written during Sweet Jelly days entitled “Larger Than Life”. A song written about folks who make others feel small and intimidated. I wrote a lot of songs while working in a corporate setting during this time. It feels like 12 lifetimes ago when I revisit all of this. Very surreal at the very least. You will hear Lance Dobersek’s beautiful guitar work on this tune. My singing is, uh, I’d rather not have anyone hear it but it’s all about the journey! And let’s keep in mind these were recorded at practices mainly for us all to listen to getting ready for a live gig. It was also the super early days in our tiny rock world. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

Speaking of extrovert/introvert matters, in-between sets, I remember Aaron, Lance and I would scatter into opposite dark corners of the bars that we would play at during the set break, keeping a low profile hoping nobody would talk to us. Chad and Rob were usually really good at mingling. But I liken the three of us to androids powering down. I love singing and performing because you truly are in the moment of creating something, but that is also a complete overload for me and I'd rather play for 2-4 hours straight than take an intermission and have to get back to the place I was finally at at the end of the first set. Maybe that’s just me. 5-10 minutes to starting the second set, we’d all quietly gather at one table and get ready to pour it on again. Not sure how other bands take a break, but that’s how a band of visual artists do it. Quiet and stealthy-like.

Below, please enjoy a little bit of SWJ history between song and visual art. I’ve also included a quick snap of Aaron Johnson’s beautiful sheet music he assembled for all of us way back when.

And I really do hope everyone finds some peace this holiday season. Please keep well and stay strong everyone.

Song: Larger Than Life ~ Sweet Jelly 2001

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Visual art for the song "Larger Than Life" ~ Sweet Jelly 2001
Swj photo lyrics01
Sweet Jelly Nostalgia!

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