See the Creating for a Cause page to find products to benefit:
- The ALS Association Iowa Chapter (“Family and Friends” set of notecards)
- Clubfoot Solutions (the book “Lucky’s Feet” featuring my illustrations)
- Lila Mae’s House (notecards, scarves, and bags)
(This post is “stickied” to remain at the top of the blog; newer blog posts may appear below.)
Friday, October 14, 2022,
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.:
Join us for my workshop Imagination Unbinds Hope, at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat near Wheatland, Iowa! We will be painting intuitively, finding shapes in clouds and our imaginations, finding our voice. This is a day of discovery, meditation and release, enjoying the beauty of the Prairie.
Cost is $45.00 per person including lunch and art supplies. You can register online at the event page on the Prairie Retreat website.
Sunday Conversations, 16″ h x 20″ w
I’ll have this new painting, “Sunday Conversations,” at the Octagon Art Festival this Sunday (September 25, 2022, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) along with other original watercolors, prints (including my illustrations of “Rufus Rutabaga Flicktail Finds His House”), and cards (including ones from my Improvisational Fabric Wall Hanging). The Art Festival web page now has a list of this year’s artists and a map to our booths.
These rocking chairs were inspired by the front porch of Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat near Wheatland, Iowa. I’m looking forward to returning there to lead a workshop on October 14 called Imagination Unbinds Hope. More details at that link, and in an upcoming post!
Previously: Octagon Art Festival 2022
Postcard announcing the Festival
(click image to view larger)
I plan to be at this year’s Octagon Art Festival on Sunday, September 25, 2022, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m in downtown Ames. This is the 51st year for this tradition and the Main Street area will be full of artwork, music, and food.
My assigned booth is across the street from the Octagon Center for the Arts building on Douglas Avenue, if you’d like to stop by!
(Iowa City scene)
I’m especially honored to have my painting included in the Traveling Show! Keep an eye on that page of the IWS website for when they post the 2022 – 2023 schedule and preview.
I’m honored to have one of my paintings, “After Finals,” included in this year’s Iowa Watercolor Society (IWS) exhibition. All of the exhibition paintings will be on display for the IWS Annual Meeting, luncheon, watercolor demo, and award ceremony on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at beautiful La Poste in Perry, Iowa.
This year’s judge for the award ceremony and guest artist for the demo is noted watercolorist Sarah Yeoman, who will also teach a workshop at La Poste from September 12 through 14, 2022.
A number of the exhibition paintings, selected by the judge, will travel on and become the 2022–2023 IWS Traveling Show — keep an eye on the Traveling Show page of the IWS website for the new year’s schedule and a preview of the show! (At the time of this post, you can see paintings from the 2021–2022 show on the Traveling Show page.)
IWS membership is required to register for the Annual Meeting event and for the workshop. It’s a great way to meet and learn from other Iowa artists, and from a nationally-known guest teacher.
The vision of Remembrance Park is becoming reality! The Remembrance Park – Johnson County website has information on two special events planned to mark the opening of this “Wildflower Park to Contemplate the Origins of Johnson County, Iowa” (described in my earlier post Contemplating our past).
Flyer about the Sept. 5 dedication
(click image for website with full-size
flyer and more information)
Friday, September 2, 2022,
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.:
Meet the Phelps Family Day
Drop by the State Historical Society Research Center (402 Iowa Avenue, Iowa City) to meet Marybeth Slonneger, author of the book “Remembrance Park,” and see a one-day-only display of family heirlooms from the Phelps family, whose ancestors include fur traders who worked closely with Native Americans in what is now Johnson County (more information, plus photos, at the link above).
Monday, September 5, 2022 (Labor Day),
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon:
Dedication ceremony for Remembrance Park, south of Iowa City — see the Remembrance Park website for location and more information about the program.
Cover of the proposed booklet
The Remembrance Park Committee has also put together a proposed 12-page booklet for children, featuring my watercolor illustrations, to describe life in the area around the time that Johnson County was established. You can read the digital version on The Children’s Book page of their website. It has been fun and very interesting to be part of this history telling!
The church’s namesake,
St. Thomas Aquinas,
starts us on our Biblical journey
(The wall hanging commemorates the 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames, Iowa)
Scenes in my improvisational fabric wall hanging tell the story of Easter, following a path from bottom to top. Just like a painting, this artwork required planning, and especially so because of its size and complexity. I started with sketches to experiment with the layout and people’s gestures.
Some of the sketches are shown below, alongside those sections of their final fabric design. Poet Phil Kemp wrote “The Meeting Place” to accompany the wall hanging, with stanzas for each of the Easter scenes, included here in the captions.
The wall hanging will be on display at St. Thomas Aquinas Church until Pentecost (June 5 this year), the conclusion of Easter season. The STA Art page is a guide to artwork you may find on regular display around the church and Student Center.
THE MEETING PLACE
Did you meet Him that first morning
when John baptized him in the Jordan
when the dove descended and the
voice thundered: “this is My Son; listen to Him”?
Did you meet Him on that sad morning
outside Jerusalem where around the cross
faithful women stood and wept at the
slow death of their beloved?
Did you meet Him in the women
who went to perform the sad duty
of perfuming the body of the man
who had shown them the fullness of love?
Did you meet Him with those
who gazed upon the unbelievable
sight of the emptied cave, the ones
who heard, “He is risen; He is not here”?
Did you meet Him on the stony road
running away from the failure of dreams
and not recognize in the stranger who walked beside
the object of your desire?
Will you meet Him here in
the breaking of the bread?
Will you open your eyes and see
that He is with you always
even to the end of the age?
“The Meeting Place” poem © 2022 Phil Kemp
Wall hanging photos excerpted from a larger photo © 2022 Bobby LeBlanc
(Click image to view larger)
I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with family members on Easter weekend and see my “Improvisational Fabric Wall Hanging” on display in the space it was designed for. The work commemorates the 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames. Its size (8′ x 12′) reflects the scale of the church wall, and allows room to tell the Easter story in a series of scenes created from fabric shapes.
The wall hanging will be on display at St. Thomas Aquinas Church until Pentecost, June 5. The church’s e-bulletin from May 7, 2022 has some of my reflections about the artwork and its meaning, along with a larger, head-on photograph:
I plan to focus on the individual scenes in an upcoming post!
Expert hands assist in assembling
this complex piece
The peacock symbolizes immortality (link is to Wikipedia article on Christian symbolism)
A nice turnout for this year’s class
I always look forward to being part of the Art Iowa Workshops, and this year’s was a huge success. The workshops provide continuing education for educators in cooperation with Grant Wood AEA. My class this year had an emphasis on writing and illustrating children’s books.
Writing and illustrating are rather similar. There is a protagonist or main character and center of interest, a little drama, humor, and a moral, always with a happy ending. We looked at the character from several points of view and maybe “became” the character for authenticity.
I really enjoyed helping class members develop their storyboard illustrations. They started out by doodling and then the ideas began to surface. Some of the teachers took their storyboards back to their classrooms to have their students help with the ending.
A pop-up book and watercolor pages created by educators
attending the workshop. Students were encouraged
to use their medium of choice for their illustrations.
In these watercolors I tried to envision life around early trading posts in what is now Johnson County, Iowa. The paintings were commissioned to help publicize plans for Remembrance Park, a small area with prairie grasses and wildflowers south of Iowa City, near the historic site of the trading posts. The park will be open to the public for quiet contemplation and enjoyment of the beauty of the land.
Cover of the Remembrance Park book
(click image to learn more)
The idea for the park was put forward in the new book “Remembrance Park: The Fur Trading Era in Johnson County, Iowa and a Proposal for a Wildflower Park to Contemplate the Origins of the County,” compiled by Marybeth Slonneger. (My paintings are not in the book, but it is well illustrated with photographs.) You can read about the project and the book on the website Remembrance Park — Johnson County, and many more tales of Iowa history on the website Our Iowa Heritage by Remembrance Park Committee member Marty Boller.
Dick Hakes of the Iowa City Press-Citizen wrote a wonderful article about the book, the history, and the park, which Press-Citizen subscribers can read here:
(The story is also currently on the Remembrance Park website here.)
Paintings require research, like a novel does; besides reading, for inspiration I visited two newly-restored cabins in Iowa City’s City Park which were built to replicate the cabins of the era. The City of Iowa City’s YouTube channel has some interesting videos about their restoration:
I imagined the scenes and tried to recreate a typical day of trading. What struck me from the history was how people of different cultures got along peacefully for a time, living side by side, something we could learn from today.
The watercolor sketch provides a guide
Large easel for a large project
Detail of part of the pencil sketch
I’ve been working on an 8′ x 12′ fabric artwork as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, which I attended for many years and still stop by when I can. According to the church’s website, “St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center was incorporated on April 8, 1947,” with Rev. James Supple as its first pastor.
The church left it up to me what to include and I prayed about what I wanted to say. It’s an educational piece, with its Biblical scenes telling the story of Easter. I did a lot of research and looked at Old Masters paintings for reference on theologian St. Thomas Aquinas, who is gesturing to us from the bottom right. I started out with a watercolor sketch to plan out the composition. The watercolor served as the basis for a full-size pencil sketch, which could then be translated into “painting” using fabric.
Many hands helping with
placing the doves
The scenes are created by sewing the shapes out of different fabrics. I knew I couldn’t work with the full size of the piece on my sewing machine so I broke the design down into four sections, with attention to matching up shapes between the sections. There are many different textures of fabric, from kimonos, scarves, and purses from all over that were donated, and scraps from a quilting friend. It’s not sewn completely tight, so some of the edges pop up. My fabric-artist friends decided that the work would fall into the category of Improvisational Fabric Wall Hanging.
People have asked how I knew what to do, and I feel that I was guided — I was only a participant. The project was overwhelming — too huge — so I was trusting God to guide me. I would dream a section and the next day look at that section and know what I was supposed to do. I’m looking forward to sharing more pictures of its progress!
At the trusty sewing machine; adding another piece of the puzzle