Thursday, August 17, 2017

string arrangement

The theme advances in the art room of Carrollton Elementary School, in Carrollton, Missouri. The classes that began on Wednesday in Ms. Jan's art room have something NEW to enjoy. Compare Vertical Color Tab #1 (2014) and Vertical Color Tab #3 (2014) to "String Arrangement (2017)." You will observe similarities. This time I am interested in putting thin colors end to end. Diagonal strands floating across vertical lines appears again.


Two minutes. First strand was red. Soon a dozen red strands. Then a yellow. A second yellow. Thin tied around thick. Standing back to see the whole arrangement. More trips to the bin of yard in the supply closet. Some lines attached with Tacky Glue. Sticks fast, quick. Easy. Then strands placed up high as I could reach while standing on a chair. Creating depth - placing some close to the wall, still suspended. Others hung from the ruffles of weaving that leaned outward. A gentle embellishment.

North wall behind the teacher's desk. Kraft paper weaving (2013) 5 feet by 10 feet. String Arrangement (2017) is the lower fringe.

Will the students notice it at all?
Ms. Jan tells me they will.

Excuse me. 
She has asked me to
dangle the cloth fish
and the colorful paper fish
from the ceiling in her art trailer
over at the second building.

Yes, I will.

Friday, August 11, 2017

University of Nebraska Art Alumni reunion

You were in the same sculpture class I took under Thomas Sheffield.  Duane Grosse
Friday night at the closing reception Duane Grosse remembers me. He has a sculpture, a cylinder of carved marble on a large organic section on tree. The bottom of which is gnarly bumps and twists and the table side up orange polished wood. A lamp crowns the marble tower. It looks solid and heavy and I know immediately Grosse approaches his materials with an engineer's mind. 

I remember doing a bronze in Sheffield's sculpture class. The bronze lady bent over with her hands on her knees and her chest hanging down. I shared with Grosse how it took me more than a dozen fitted section of plaster to make that bronze come out so well. Five inches tall by five inches wide - a bald headed female. These years later I have not ground off the unwanted metal. Not knowing what exactly to do with it. It has not seen the light of day - anywhere. Nude subjects are acceptable in college, but not for elementary grade school art.

The names listed on the wall are not familiar to me. Alumni participants my age, the ones who agreed to submit one work for viewing, mill from room to room in the Eisentrager- Howard Gallery wearing name tags, their graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln some thirty-seven years ago. Conversations revolve around the classes we took in 1978 and 1979. Teachers like: Thomas Sheffield, James Eisentrager, Keith Jacobshagen, Michael Nuschawg, and Gail Butt. 

Brad Krieger was a teacher aid to Professor Gail Butt. The instructor who had him paint all the still life bottle white. Reflections on glass bottles were a distraction to the students, Krieger recalled. Later Krieger did the same thing in the art classes he taught. It helped students to focus on the forms.

Bradley W. Krieger work (double click to enlarge)

In 2002 when I drizzled glue and paint over oyster shells for a painting I loved the dispersement of pigments. (See next detail.) This is why I REALLY ENJOYED the surface treatment of Brad Krieger's painting, ABOVE. Nuanced. His patience and careful produced an exquisite variety of patterns. The rinsing off of pigment using mineral spirits. Wow.

 More on 2002 painting here 
 And HERE.

Krieger recalled hearing my father speak once on the second floor of Richards Hall in the auditorium. The art professor from Seward spoke on serendipity, he said. Listening to the story just blew me away. Thanks Brad.

Me and the person I am talking to, we have both had Keith Jacobshagen in Illustration and Design classes. Though he painted he never taught a painting class. The oddness of teachers being older people. Can I call them people? Telling us what to do. Never seeming to "have a life." Now as grownups ourselves, look at the amazing artwork these "teachers' have created out there. I told her how I loved observing the passages of color Jacobshagen used in a skyscape at the O Street Kietchel Gallery.

One gal who had once modeled for art classes - told how the watercolor teacher was kind and gentle to the younger female students in class. But she had seen him bark at older females, telling them how to watercolor by making a scene about it. She was glad that she remained neutral.  She had no troubles in watercolor class.

Matt was a current second year undergrad. He told me about working with resin epoxy. About the dusty free room and the two filter mask he wore to keep the fumes out.

One gal had nine small square canvases. I enjoyed the thin white veil over portions of the red. And the mark making she did that tied the sections together. 

Portions writing on notebook paper created ambiance for one work. Tiny hangers with sewn garments in a doll house closet. Two dozen folded notes with bright-colored ribbons on the spine. The details of the crafter exhibit so much care and precision. The name of which I do not recall.

The seven I listened to made remarks about my painting. Calling it "plein air." Noting that it was spatial. How it was done quickly. Michael Villarreal said that the acrylic work had passages that read like oil. Matthew Sontheimer said it was well observed. Soundbites I that appreciate.
Passages read as oil.  Michael Villarreal, MFA grad student at UN-L.
It is well-observed. Matthew Sontheimer, Associate Professor of Art Painting, UN-L.
This encounter was worth driving up for. Though home for me is in Carrollton, Missouri - I have seen that those who submitted artwork - continue to find satisfaction working with materials in 2017. Many live in Lincoln and have their support communities. I am glad to be counted among all of these artists.

Alumni from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s School of Art, Art History & Design showed their work this summer in the exhibition “Nebraska Alumni Artists 1979-1982” in the Eisentrager-Howard Gallery in Richards Hall.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

underneath brace

When the wind took down the two hack berry trees in May, large limbs were permanently pressed against the earth. I have harvested these long thick limbs with handsaw and hatchet. The one by four planks I am using require a brace underneath for the span they cross. 

Accessing the limbs I have, and figuring out how best to butt it and nailed together. I've been pleased how particular parts have fit. Grateful to Jesus for his help. The energy to hold elements in place, the endurance to hammer and nail, the balance to chop with my hatchet, to sweat and persist and succeed. 

With ground limbs out of the way there is more freedom for my tall 62 year old frame. Fewer protrusions above my head to run into. Ha. Ouch.

At first I only focused on a high platform on the north end. Dreaming that one day I might perch up there myself. The steel ladder is too clumsy and too large to maneuver from within. But I did manage one day and carefully rose the steel rungs to view the "said platform." And guess what? The space was much smaller than I imagined it to be. A six-foot man does not belong in that space. The younger version inside me says to hold out hope.

  Those are one by fours from the local lumber yard.

From the beginning I've been trying to figure "a path up" to the "high platform." The fallen trees lie on their side in my yard. Everything is parallel to the ground and inclines go this way and that. I shared my dilemma with Tad. The third grader-to-be pointed straight up. He likes the idea to make the ladder go from the ground straight up to the platform. The next week I located one solid branch to fit that bill. The other vertical had many smaller branches on it. I hog-tied the smaller branches in next to the core with clothesline. Got the entire package jigsaw positioned vertical, threaded upward between the fork of other lofty branches. IT WORKED.

The jury is out on the "ladder rungs." I nailed one inch branches that I could not bend. The boy will test that out next time he visits. Am hoping he is lightweight enough to successfully rise.

Last week I turned my attention to the south end. My goal: a platform just three feet off the ground, between the two hack berry trunks. A place to be within his capacity and mine, and anyone else for that matter. It is not shaded. The sun makes that area very hot. Working towards that solution.

Still under wraps is the short path, above. My hope is to see what ideas come out of the boy.

No power tools here. My short hand saw, the hammer, and the hatchet.

Friday, May 26, 2017

fort god dropped

"Help me down Uncle Karl," he asked.

His flip flop had caught in the crux of the tree where he was standing. I pulled free the pinched sandal and slipped it on his extended foot. Once on the ground and free from my arms, he already had the redbud sized up. His young hands tight around the narrow limbs, muscles tugged and hoisted up legs and feet as he had before. He appealed and I lifted him down a second time to the ground. Flip flops were stuck in the crux.

His aunt Jan Jan suggested he try a young maple in the backyard. Our great-nephew found more room this time and was able to lean his back against the ascending trunk. 

When I was in grade school, my parents had let me climb the oak tree in our yard. I discovered back then there was nothing like being up in a tree, confident, knowing how to go up and down the ladder-like branches. To feel the drift and sway of branches in the breeze. I felt this boy lacked that joy, a cautious parent kept him indoor too much, he was not given free reign to make forts for himself. 

In contrast, I thought of the boyhood activities two brothers did in a Carl Sandburg story:

"They went barefooted and got stickers in their hair and teased cats and killed snakes and climbed apple trees and threw clubs up walnut trees and chewed slippery ellum. They stubbed their toes and cut their feet on broken bottles and went swimming in brickyard ponds and came home with their backs sunburnt so the skin peeled off."  from How Googler and Gaggler Came Home with Monkey Wrenches, Carl Sandburg

THAT NIGHT, after the nephew returned home, the WILD WINDS took down three trees in our side yard. Double click to see images bigger.

The redbud where he had stood earlier that afternoon split under the weight of the bigger tree.

The next morning, I surveyed the mess. Protected by the long sleeves and jeans, work boots, gloves and face mask, I cleared limbs with my hand saw. Out of curiosity I waded head down past the leaves and into the middle of it all. More limbs came down. I cleared a space between the two trunks. It reminded me of forts I had built. That feeling of being hidden from view. That was when THE  IDEA came to me.

Three minutes. Horizontal trunks to climb on. God had dropped these trees in our yard to become an outdoor fort.

Over the next few days I loaded the truck, and hauled debris out to the city burn pile. I carried short stump trunks into the fort space. I climbed up on the lower branches to see if they would support my weight and support his weight. They did. When a week had passed, the boy was able to be with us again all day. Instead of flimsy flip flops, he had strong sneakers on his feet.

The morning started cold. He and I played the matching color matching number game UNO and the Aggravation marble board game until it had warmed up outside. What would he think about the fort? How would he respond? 

He made my day!!!!

"There's the window, there's the back door, there's a room," when he first saw it. He wanted to make walls. Hoped to knock down a broken limb, he whacked it with a stick. He walked on top of the trunk to the uprooted end and peered over the pond water and the duckweed. "There is water below me. I see two frogs," he said. He told me he was a gorilla.

One minute. His souvenirs. 

He was a fort builder after all. "I built this fortress," he said when he was all finished. He called it "The Fortress of the Egyptian Gorilla."

Him, arms clasping a stump trunk to his chest, waddling away. Returning for the next stump. All four ending up where he wanted them to be. "Go find them Uncle Karl."

He selected a wiggly shaped log with spike knobs, where the branches used to jut out. Talked his uncle into helping move the back end of the wonky dead trunk as he managed the front end. I called the log "the prehistoric petrified eel." He made the "pretend eel" a bridge he walked on up to a higher branch.

Beforehand I had made a wide north entrance for him to use. That day he took liberty to hide the entrance with branches from the debris pile. To reach the inner room, he explained... "you had to go in the back door and open the front door. Because the front was hidden to outsiders. Camouflage."


The boy delighted. Singing to himself.

Three minutes. Him fitting branches in place.

Working up a sweat. Making it work.
I was so proud of him.

Thank you god for the fort you
dropped in our yard !!!!!!!

Two minutes. Parting shot. Stump trunks revealed.

Monday, May 22, 2017

turns reading aloud

The day came.

After waiting two weeks for the right moment, it was my turn to watch the boy after school got out. The book lay on the seat beside him in the pickup. It was raining out. I watched as he first picked up the book and thumbed through its pages. He read silently to himself.
We came into agreement.
He would read one sentence aloud and I would read the next. And so on, taking turns, sharing the story. Listening to the sound and shape of the words and imagining the characters we were fond of.

 A while ago, my wife recalled, back when we were dating, I had found a vinyl record at Link Library at Concordia University in Seward. I was attracted to the rich grandfatherly voice of Carl Sandburg as he read his Rootabagga Stories. The stories were transferred to a cassette tape of mine. And last year my great-nephew enjoyed the audio stories on tape at his house. That day he and I were drawing doodles on paper at their dining room table. Hatrack the Horse was telling the night policeman in the Village of Cream Puffs about the Three Wild Babylonian Baboons.
"Soon the baboons, all hairy all over, bangs down their foreheads, came sneaking through the door. Just as they were sneaking through the door they took off their hats to show they were getting ready to sneak through the house........The last he saw of them they were walking away in the rain eating bread and butter. And they took off their hats so the rain ran down and slid on the bangs of their foreheads." Carl Sandburg

Word had come to me that my great-nephew had been talking to his GG about wanting to HEAR that baboon story again. His grandmother mentioned it to her sister (my wife) and I heard of his renewed interest. That was when I ordered the book through our local Carrollton library.

The second grader was surprised that I had to WAIT a whole week for the book to arrive. He asked me where CARTHAGE was. The book was on-loan from the Carthage Public Library. It was a city near the bottom on our state of Missouri, I replied.

What astonished me was that there were OTHER tales in the book that were not on the vinyl record. More stories with new titles to explore.

When we got home to the yellow house with dark green shutters, he and I read one of these. One we had not heard of before. "Many, Many Weddings in One Corner House." "... bug games bugs-up, bugs-down, run-bugs-run, or beans-bugs-beans."

I was so glad this opportunity was fulfilled. WE  DID IT and the idea worked.

The boy told me he scored high on the reading chart in his class. Great. Here are two audio files I found on Youtube. Both stories are on my cassette tape.

Four minutes. Carl Sandburg reads aloud. (courtesy of Youtube,, accessed May 26, 2017)

Seven minutes. A second story from that audio file.
(courtesy of, accessed May 26, 2017)

Rootabagga Stories

- + - + - = - + - = +

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

handrail to daily nebraskan

With the delivery done I walked the length of the campus to the student union.

I felt out of place. There were thirty- eight years of change.

Out in front
the water fountain 
with jutting slabs of rock 
were alien to me. 
Just like the movie Back To The Future
Sigh. Being an alumnus....

Now that I have seen 
and it should look familiar 
when I come back. Ha.

The Nebraska bookstore was still inside. There were no food courts when I was a student. You ate at a dorm cafeteria or off campus restaurants. That said, I enjoyed having a Valentino's lunch.  

On the north end of the Nebraska Union were the granite steps I remember from years ago. A brass handrail led me down to the basement and the vacated office sprawl of the Daily Nebraskan newspaper.

Fluorescent lights blared. Desk stations were devoid of journalist students. It was the silence of summer break. I waited, listening. A wee distant voice drew me across the place I once knew.

Last man to stay behind, general manager Dan Shattil waved me into his office. 

Black hair combed to the side, glasses, and knowing eyes, yes, he remembered Amy Lenzen, the editor I worked for in 1979. There used to be a photo and plaque that hung on the awards wall, he said, that honored her leadership. Today that plaque was absent, others in its place.

Back then I lived at Abel Hall on campus, I told Shattil. Beginning in September Lenzen printed my cartoons in her paper. Students called it the campus rag. 


Original artwork from my scrapbook. Published Thursday, October 25, 1979 issue. Double click to enlarge.

Friday, September 7, 1979 issue

Wednesday, September 19, 1979 issue

October 31, 1979 issue

My parents recycled paper and aluminum cans. My mother followed the Bottle Bill legislation. In October of 1978 I did an editorial cartoon for my hometown paper the Seward County Independent.

The Daily Nebraskan ran the Bottle Bill issue in September of 1979.

The State Fair was then held in Lincoln, Nebraska. September 6, 1979 issue


After I graduated from the University of Nebraska, I lived in Seward, Nebraska. The 11 pm to 7 am Pinkerton security guard shift  paid my bachelor bills.

Self-employed art came out of my bachelor apartment, aptly called Studio Four. My cat cartoon hung by the front door. Book cover and bio page from self-published book, Seward Drawings: a beginning.

The work I did for the Daily Nebraskan helped open the door to do editorial cartoons for my hometown paper. The managers Dennis and Charlene Behrens agreed to pay me eight dollars for each cartoon which appeared in print. The paper came out once a week. My cartoons ran August 1980 to June 1983.

September 21, 1981 issue

 June 15, 1981 issue
That one shows my whole family. My father, mother, me, and my brother.

#  #  #  #
Back to the present. I thanked Dan Shattil for being around. He told me the paper was coming out next semester on-line only, no more paper and ink.