Tag Archives: Art

Goodbye to Many Years of Whimsical Art


Seaside image from bathroom wall. Art by Amanda Moscou.

When she was in her final years of high school, my oldest child started drawing entertaining figures. We moved just before her junior year of high school, and she decorated our house, sometimes in hidden ways, with entertaining cartoons. Our old deck, replaced several years ago, had one of her figures drawn in the wood, with the caption “Theresa did it.” Theresa was one of her younger sisters—and her art was distinctive. Nobody in the family believed that Theresa did it.

Anyway, my wife, when she was ready to repaint the hallways bathroom one summer not long after we moved into the house, asked Amanda, the oldest daughter, if she would decorate the wall with some figures. In a band all the way around the small room, about 1/3 of the way up the wall and about 18 inches high, Amanda drew a fanciful beach scene. There were pirates, snack kiosks, sand castles, swimmers, mermaids. In one corner of the room, she drew a figure that looked a lot like her father, being attacked by a shark.

The images were whimsical, fun and entertaining to look at. Even the one of me being pursued by a predator.

Through several repaints of the room, my wife was able to keep that strip intact, although the pictures were becoming worn. But part of a wall had to be removed this summer for pipe repairs, and we decided to wallpaper it once we had patched the wall.

So the bathroom art, after more than 15 years,  has been covered. I did make many images of the walls, however, and prepared this video.

Amanda, I hope you don’t mind that I’m displaying your art. It was grand to have it all those years, and this way it’s partly preserved. Thanks for those images.


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England Day 2: Art and Dead People


Daughter and grandson on our cemetery walk.

After leaving the grandchildren off at school, my daughter suggested a walk through a cemetery.

We’ve been there before, but not this year. It’s a pleasant place to walk, an old cemetery with fading gravestones, at least the part we walked in. I understand it has modern areas, too, but this old part is part burial ground, part urban nature preserve, and it’s a peaceful, interesting place for a stroll.

At one point, my toddler grandson wanted me to pick him up so he could bat his hands at low-hanging leaves on trees. He has an infectious chortle, and we heard it sounding out a bit in the quiet among the dead. It was a good place to be alive.


Another view of the cemetery.

Following the cemetery stroll, we decided to walk across town. Rain was in the forecast today, but not until later in the afternoon, and we gambled we could cross the distance to the rail station and return before the rain set it. It felt very muggy today, but was a bit cooler than yesterday, so it was a nice day for a walk.


Art in the church.

Along the way, when we got downtown, an old church used as a civic center was advertising an art exhibit/sale, so we went in. It was nice to see the church, even if it being filled with contemporary art felt a little dissonant. Much of the art was several hundred pounds in price, which was one discouragement—and also was bulky enough that fitting it into a carry-on could be an issue, so we merely viewed the art and church and then moved on.

The walk across town felt like several miles, to me. I’m hoping it was good cross training for RAGBRAI—and being comfortable walking some distance isn’t just cross training, it’s also training, since RAGBRAI can involve a fair amount of walking, too.

We have a bold plan—we are to care for the grandchildren this weekend while our daughter and son-in-law enjoy a weekend alone in London. The walk today was so that our daughter could get her train ticket.

We also stopped at a bike shop downtown where I arranged to rent a bicycle for next week and also purchased a biking map of Norwich.


One display in the church was a table set as “The Last Brexit Supper,” which was not exactly pro-Brexit.

Lunch was at a falafel eatery downtown—my daughter got us a group platter that could have fed four or five. The three of us, plus the toddler, gave it the old college try, but we ended up with a significant take-home box of leftovers, too. The platter was falafel and pita sandwich veggie fixings, including nice humus. It was filling and delicious.

We arrived still dry back at my daughter’s house about 2 in the afternoon, and I skipped the walk to school to pick up granddaughters so I could nap. I’m struggling a little to say awake right now, but the sunny walk today hopefully helped reset my bio clock, so I may not be blogging at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. Knock on wood.

So today featured a long walk in a pleasant English city, including art and a cemetery stroll, a great lunch and the promise of future adventures—biking in the UK!

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California Day 2: The March for Art and Burritos


At San Francisco Museum of Modern Art–Andy Warhol flowers and cows.

My feet and legs regretted the second day of our California adventures, but not the rest of me, and the use probably did my feet and legs some good. It was a great day.

Our daughter in law went to work Friday and had an evening engagement, and our son had to work from home on this Friday, so part of the plan for the day was for my wife and I to spend some time away from the apartment on a walk about the neighborhood.

I know from reports online that Friday was a stormy day in Iowa. It wasn’t in San Francisco. The morning was cool, but bright and sunny, blending into an afternoon that was, for an Iowan, still a little chilly at times, but at other times required my jacket to be carried rather than worn. To paraphrase a line from “Miss Congeniality,” in San Francisco, May 24, 2019, was the perfect date because it was not too hot and not too cold, all you needed was a light jacket.

On our late morning stroll, we walked down towards the bay, and instead of walking by the Giants’ ballpark, which we had done the first night, we turned in the opposite direction and strolled towards shipping docks. It was again pleasant to be beside that ocean inlet. We enjoyed the sights and took our time, me stopping to make images of many flowers in bloom.


Day lily in small park by children’s hospital.

We played a game we sometimes play with grandchildren on a walk. At each intersection, we alternated who got to choose what direction to go in. Turns out, if you want to get lost in San Francisco, it’s a pretty effective strategy.

Not that we ever got all that lost. The big things—a children’s hospital, for instance, or a building I don’t know the purpose of that has what looks like a giant fungus growing on it, the top half being some sort of oval—where there to confirm we hadn’t really wandered out of the neighborhood.

And we enjoyed a quick stroll through an unexpected, small park by the hospital.

After we found the apartment again, we hung out for a while during a work meeting that was still going on in the next room via Jon’s computer. Still, we had timed our reappearance well; it was not long before Jon was done.

Lunch? It was mid afternoon by then, and Jon had made us a filling breakfast, but we were getting a bit hungry. Jon suggested a walk to the SF Museum of Modern Art, partly because he said there was a decent burrito place nearby.

And so, we were off. I am not sure how far it was to the museum—walking distance, but longish walking distance, well over a mile through probably under two. I was ready for the burrito by the time we found the place, and it was good.

Just before 3 p.m., we arrived at the museum, which closes at 5. They have an Andy Warhol exhibit going on, and we got tickets to see that as well as the general museum. Because the Warhol tickets had a time on them, we started there.

I’m no expert on modern art. I was aware of Warhol, in a general way, through a few of his most famous images, such as the Campbell Soup ones, but I was no aware of the range of his work. Although I still would not call myself a Warhol fan boy, I was impressed.

As is normal with modern art, my impression of the rest was a mixed. Sometimes, the oddly monotone rectangles or urinal placed on its side seem to stretch the bounds of what I do think of as art into the ridiculous. Then again, there was plenty to see, all of it interesting, much of it done with some thought and skill.

The San Francisco MOMA is a good place to spend the latter half of an afternoon. Not only was most of the exhibits worth seeing, but the building itself had interesting quirks—I thought the stairways themselves and a few of the halls were almost works of art.

The most interesting exhibit, besides Warhol, was a “Snap and Share” one about how mail was used to share photographs in the era before social media.

The walk back to the apartment felt a bit longish, to me, and as I noted before, my feet and legs were not entirely pleased with the day. But then again, if I can’t bicycle every day, long walks are a kind of RAGBRAI training, and I didn’t come to California to spend my days indoors.

The lunch had been late and filling, so we just snacked in the evening and played games. Jon knows how to make pleasant cocktails.

And now we are off to San Diego today. I may try a few quick blog updates via phone, but I am not planning to take the computer with me to the border, so you’ll just have to be patient, readers, for further California updates from sunny San Diego.

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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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