Tag Archives: Art

The New Rock Stars Left Dark Blobs

Audrey helps

Audrey helps Tristan and Nikayla with paint during afternoon art fun.

Where does creativity, or talent for art, come from?

I can’t say that I have much insight, to be honest. While I fancy myself a sort of writer, and I enjoy taking photos and think I’m OK at it, I’m otherwise not artistically gifted. I have not acted since my sophomore year of college, I play and can read only two notes (bass clef top G and A, and that’s my repertoire, baby), and, beyond a limited talent for designing publications, I can’t visually produce any original artwork at all. This white man can’t jump and also can’t draw.

Yet, there is some art talent in the gene pool. My kids each played some musical instrument in school, and my oldest daughter has done quite a lot of interesting visual things.

My personal art history is a bit more embarrassing. I recall once in 8th grade art class that we painted, and I, having no talent, attempted for unknown reasons to render an image of a giraffe. It looked terrible, like some talentless 6-year-old’s attempt. It didn’t help that some of the cute girls in that class teased me about it, with 13-year-old subtly, art class lines like, “I don’t know what to paint. Joe, what do you think … a giraffe?” Titter titter.

If I had magic powers, I would have melted myself away in 8th grade art class—but it’s a good thing none of us have such magic powers at age 13 or most of us would not have seen 14.

Anyway, there was art going on today at my house. Miss Nikayla Sebers and Master Tristan Sebers were having grandparent day today. Audrey took Nikayla to dance class in the morning, and I took Mr. T on a bike ride. We met before noon, packed a picnic lunch, and then walked through “the deep dark woods” on a bike/hike trail next to a nice city park in Marion. After park play and then a quiet interlude at our house (they watched “The Gruffalo,” the walk in the woods must have been inspiring) it was art time.

Audrey had purchased an inexpensive “paint on rocks” kit, so that is what they did. There were no inhibitions and no teen angst about what they created, which is how it should be. In the end, all their rocks looked like they were blobbed with brown or deep purple—colors that are a result of simply swishing around other random paint colors.


An art rock, by Tristan.

But, they were creating, and they were proud. Nikayla held up a rock with a dark blobby paint surface (not that different from the dark rock surface it had started with) and proudly commanded—“take a picture of my rock, grandpa.” So, I did.

Tristan paints.

Tristan paints on a rock.

I do think Nikayla might have some artistic talent. She used window markers recently to illustrate on our sliding glass deck door what is recognizably a cat. On a paper, she drew a circle with a curly mane and glasses for Audrey—and everyone in the family who has seen it recognizes who the messy-maned visage represents. As Nikayla said when she ceremoniously and formally presented the picture to her grandmother—“here, grandma, I drew your husband for you.”

Nikaya paints

Not 100 percent sure, this could be Tristan, but I think it’s NIkayla painting.

Well, I’m flattered. An image of me is in the family art collection on the fridge. And I look a lot better than a giraffe.


“Hey grandpa, take a picture of my rock,” Nikayla says.



The brown cat might look like it’s on the floor of the deck but it’s on the glass of the door. It’s washable marker made for window writing, but it’s been there for a few days.


Portrait of the author, by his granddaughter, on the kitchen art gallery.




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My Profile is in the Art Mix

Denver Faces

Detail of Helmick artwork from Denver, similar to what is planned in Cedar Rapids. From Helmick.com site.

Will I be immortalized in metal in the new federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids?

It’s not likely.

Today, I went to the downtown farmer’s market in Cedar Rapids. One of the booths we passed early on was for Helmick Sculpture. Ralph Helmick is creating a 40-foot-tall hanging metal sculpture for our new courthouse, similar, I think, to one he did in a federal courthouse in Denver.

His assistants are collecting profile images of Cedar Rapids area residents, and 12 of the profiles will be chosen to represent a jury in the sculpture.

The photographer at the booth said they were long on women and short on men, and the family group I was with encouraged Ben to sit. He agreed after I said I would do it if he would do it, so we both signed releases and had our profiles shot.


Ben gets his profile shot for possible use in metal in new federal courthouse.

I suspect he might stand a better chance. He has a stronger profile—a better chin, for example, and an interesting hair line. My beard doesn’t help clarify my profile.

But, we’ll see. I’m sure hundreds of residents will be in the pool for this federal jury.

I’ve been by the new courthouse several times this summer on rides along the Cedar River Trail. The security barriers were a bit of a concern the morning of RAGBRAI—Eldon and Brigid ride trikes that barely squeezed through. It will be interesting to see the courthouse when it’s done, and the idea of the Helmick Sculpture seems appropriate.

The courthouse isn’t the only new public building taking shape. The new library is rising in the area of the farmer’s market. I’m not sure Cedar Rapids has seen this much public facility construction since the Great Depression. It takes a flood to raise a city.

My profile

LIke Ben, I had my profile shot, but this is by Theresa and I didn’t hold my hand to my chin for the formal picture, either. Anyway, I think my profile is a bit fuzzy for art.

Anyway, the market was fun. We were there at 9 a.m., which is a bit earlier than usual, and that’s a good idea. The crowds were not as packed then as they are an hour later, when we usually arrive. And there is much more produce available now. We purchased some nice tomatoes and sweet corn for a family noon dinner.

The lunch featured brats and hotdogs grilled outside, and I finished by noon. This was good, because at 12:30 rain started falling, and from then until about 1:30, it rained cats and dogs.

The on-line news sites say there are power outages and downed trees due to the storm. When the rain hit, it HIT. Still, rain is a rare and precious thing in this drought-ravaged land, so I can’t say I was too sad to see the storm. I would grill out more often if it would bring rain.

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Waiting for Godot: An Interlude With Art By Busse

Art by library

Detail of sculpture near Busse Library. It's called something like "triangle dango," but I think of it as the giant ceramic tooth.

We were waiting. First, I was waiting for one student because I misjudged how quickly I could bicycle up the back hill at MMU and arrive at Busse library.

Then, I was waiting for Safety and Security to show up because the building was locked—I had forgotten that the library is not on extended hours yet that it will have once the semesters launches.

That, blog friends, was pointless wait numero uno. It was pointless because, forgetful moment numero dos, I had forgotten, until I saw the key in the kindly security guard’s hand, that I already have a key that sure looks a lot like that. Oh. Whoops.

Then, student 1 showed up, right on time. But, the meeting was to be with two students, so we hung out in the library atrium with the giant ceramic tooth.

After close to 10 minutes, we decided the second student was a no show, so I used my magic key and we entered the world of a darkened library.

Then, when we got to the basement, we noted that one door had light showing beneath it.

You guessed it. Student number two was patiently whiling away the time toiling alone in the newspaper office in the bowels of the library, wondering why Joe and the other student were late.

Waiting for Godot.

Except it didn’t go on forever. Whatever. I’m not at my best with unplanned delays, I get antsy and anxious. The worse part of any project, for me, is the search for the right tool. It’s there somewhere, and I feel all the cells of my body aging as I fretfully search for the right wrench or the Philips-head screwdriver or the wire cutter–whatever.

Sure, I could be more organized. I suppose it would be hard not to be more organized than the near total chaos of my life.

But then I wouldn’t get to hang out with the art by the library.

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The Art of Oblivion


We've all seen her. Downloaded from http://www.alexgross.com/paintings/two/oblivion.html

Just saw a blog post by Medoly Godfred in “Write in Color” on artist Alex Gross.

Well, cool. Check out his disturbing, but thought-provoking images.

Finally, check this out.  First image from Nikon D3100 that Audrey and I bought yesterday.  Somehow, I think, more flower photos are to come!

The living room

Photo of my living room, first time I hit shutter button of camera. Audrey was right, computer does have card reader 🙂

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Warning: PG-13 Outdoor Art Gallery

Graffiti under Collins Road

Some of the graffiti under Collins Road on the Cedar River trail.

I was a bit wild and crazy today—rode my bike in oppressive afternoon heat, as I describe on my other blog.

During the ride, I stopped twice to take a few graffiti photos. There’s a fair amount visible from several points in the Cedar River Trail through Cedar Rapids—most notably in the underpass under Collins Road, which I think of as the “other” CR Art Gallery.


The mark of the "magician?"

Message to police

Someone likes law enforcement?

At that informal art gallery, the more accessible the spot with graffiti is, the more likely it is to be simple text, and often the most ribald of text—instructions to dial a phone number for “a good time,” for instance, or a desire to have sexual intercourse with others or for them to have sexual intercourse with you expressed in an old Anglo-Saxon four-letter word. As you can see, sometimes four letters is too many to manage. Is the person who wants to “fuc cops” fond of law enforcement officers because he/she wants to copulate with them? Or does he/she just wish others to show support for law enforcement through the exchange of sexual favors? Or did the sneaky artists realize the only way to get her graffiti into my blog was to leave out a letter?

It’s odd to me how an old term for sex implies dislike, when most terms for sex are more of the come-hither variety.

Anyway, I’m getting away from outdoor art. Two of the photos are of steam lines near the Quaker Oats plant, but most come from the Collins Road Underpass Art Museum. I realize graffiti can depreciate a place and make it look “cheap,” and I’m glad graffiti isn’t all that common in Cedar Rapids, nonetheless, some of these kids have some talent.

Common signature

"Tink." Does it mean something or just a nom de pint? Common mark under Collins Road.

And who is “tink?”

Theological graffiti

Theological edit to a graffiti message.

Colorful graffiti

Spray paint comes in vibrant, vivid colors.

Steam line

Some marks on a steam line near Quaker Oats.

Bexy Birch.

Hmmm. Not sure what a "Bexy Birch" is. I'll have to ask the MMU CJ faculty, apparently.

Down by the tracks.

Railroad tracks attract graffiti like trailer parks draw tornadoes.

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Leftist Art For The Home, Courtesy Of Amanda

The Sheller children

A combination of painting and collage, the Sheller children gallery, created by Amanda . Amanda, Jonathan, Theresa, Katy, Deanna and Benjamin.

For many years, my oldest child Amanda has enjoyed doodling, and we’ve been entertained by the resulting images.

Well, we southpaws are supposed to be artistic, but somehow the drawing gene totally skipped my right brain, while it appears to be fairly strong in Amanda’s. Over the years, she’s drawn many interesting things. Earlier, I posted a Christmas card she drew for an on-line Hallmark Cards contest, and she’s done fairly well in those contests.

When she went to college, she became the cartoonist for “The Simpsonian,” crafting both editorial cartoons and a comic strip.

Besides the witty cartoons and related artwork, she’s done other things, such as collage style pieces, often incorporating drawings.

Audrey has asked for and received several artistic favors now and then. When she was manager of The Birthplace at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Amanda was the artist for a booklet given to siblings of new babies. Amanda’s art has graced more than one school project of Audrey’s at Mount Mercy University and is a feature of “the spa,” as Audrey’s comfortable, comfy office is sometimes called.

Young Amanda in cartoon form

The first home decoration by Amanda--the illicit garage drawing. I think she doodled some similar images in ink on our deck railing, but that medium, exposed to weather, has not preserved these early examples of artes Amandicus. Her old school lecture notes are fun to find, because they are often decorated with self and other drawings. She didn't often fix her hair this way, by the way, but her cartoon avatar usually did.

We are lucky enough to have several Amanda art galleries in our home. The first was a bit of illicit art penned on the wall of the garage when Amanda was in high school.

Later, she personalized (at Audrey’s request) our main hallway bathroom with beach-themed art (that features, in one corner, a hairy, bearded, glasses-wearing gentleman being menaced by a shark—one could interpret it as a caricature of one of Amanda’s ancestors. An immediate ancestor.).

We’ve had to touch up the mural now and then, but have preserved it through bathroom repaintings.

Not long ago, Christmas 2009, I think, Amanda crafted framed portraits of herself and her five siblings, which hang in our living room.

We completed a kitchen project last year—had a sliding glass door installed, and Audrey recovered and painted the walls. To dress up the room, and, I presume, to emphasize it’s cozy “grandparents’” kitchen hominess, Audrey asked Amanda to draw some kitchen—appropriate art.

Well, the art, shipped recently from Norwich, England, has been framed and hung. I enjoy it very much. (See YouTube video below, and I’ll put the images in a Facebook gallery, too) It’s colorful and witty. I am no artist or art expert, but I think they are very attractive. And, I think one thing that makes Amanda’s art entertaining to me is that she’s a character artist—that is, her pictures have expression and personality. The people seem to be engaged in something, there are always little scenes going on. It’s fun that way.

Even when I’m being stalked by a shark …


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A Very Short Faux Haiku Blog Post

Tristan rhymes
with piston and
this is no coincidence

OK, OK, it’s not much, and not even structurally really haiku. I just got done playing with the cute little ball of energy, and also, after engorging myself on chili and pumpkin bars, was bounced on by his 2-year-old sister.

“Nikayla” should rhyme with “piston” too-and she does, even if her name doesn’t.

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