Friday, February 21, 2020

Man Cave Art - The Bourbon commission story

A good friend and collector referred her sister-in-law in Florida to me to create something for her hard to buy husband.  She emailed me ideas initially, then we had a phone conversation where she told me a bit about him, what he likes, and where she envisioned the piece going.  I also like to have clients go through my website and tell me what pieces they love, ones they hate, so I can get an idea of the type of work they like.  His "office” housed his bourbon collection and tables made from old barrels.  He loves bourbon and so her thought was to incorporate one of the collectible Blanton corks into the piece somehow.

I asked her to send me some pictures of the room, and there was lots of wood, black accents, and little burgundy leather-a very masculine feel. Walls were light beige so the piece had to be darker to contrast it and show up. A plan started formulating in my mind….. I related it to my client, and she liked all the ideas.  Those things she wasn't sure about- she said- "you're the artist!" and gave me the freedom to make some decisions along the way. I have to say a vote of confidence like that goes a long way in keeping a positive approach to a commission, which is always harder than work you make for yourself. In my experience- those pieces turn out best!! So I emailed a contract, listing all the things we had decided on, she signed it and sent me half to get things started. 

So the front of the piece would have the cork, and logos for the two types of his favorite bourbon. Columns of numbers to represent his accounting background run throughout, and we had agreed to leave some wood surface exposed to relate to the bourbon barrels, and also all the wood in his office/man cave.  The hobbies  and childhood home address would be relegated to the sides of the piece, supporting but not as important as the bourbon!!!  Since we wanted to have some wood show, I opted to work on the raw wood with watercolor, staining the wood, but still transparent enough to see the grain.  The concept dictated the medium here!  So did some tests to try out the palette and transfers on wood. 

Next step was researching images that weren’t provided for me, and spending as much time as needed in photoshop scaling them and playing around with the alignment on the piece.  I like to “audition” the images on transparencies before committing them to the surface.


So I learned a lot about bourbon during this.  I did some research on the barrels themselves, and those guys who make them are expert artisans/craftsman! The strips that make up the barrels are called staves, and they’re aged outside, and then they carefully assemble the whole damn barrel without any glue, screws, or nails because that  would affect the flavor of the spirit aging inside. I also learned that they torch the barrels to caramelize the sugar’s in the wood. So..... that gave me an excuse to use my blow torch! Corners of the piece are torched and singed. The simulated staves I initially inked in, but that wasn’t enough so I went back and gouged them in and then re-inked them so they look like separate panels.. Then there were the “hoops” or black metal strips on the outside of the barrel holding it together.   I dug through my supplies and found an old etching using grays from a metal plate. It’s beautiful. I added paint and inks as needed, then sealed the heck out of it. I searched for brads the perfect size to simulate the "Stave Grommets"(as I learned they are called), and positioned them as they are on a barrel.

And then there was the niche to hold the cork. I wanted the cork to “float” (or appear to) in the niche.  I wanted the interior to contrast the texture of the smooth wood. They use flocking to line boxes of things that are precious or important, so I thought it worked for the piece compositionally  and meaning wise as well. However, getting a metal rimmed object to securely float on a flocked surface was challenging. There’s always some sort of unanticipated challenge!   But this is one of these times when I am very happy that I have a million tools and materials in the studio to tackle just about any situation that crops up!!  

So normally at this stage of the game I invite my patron over to the studio, and we unveil the new piece and drink a toast to the artwork. Since this was long distance, I had to figure something else out- and I wanted to make sure she was thrilled with it before shipping it out.  My friend (clients sister in law) came over and we did a long distance video unveiling with the client, and she thought it was “fricken awesome”!  And then- we had a glass of bourbon to toast!  That is one of the best parts- delivering a piece that the client is thrilled with.   So far, I've never had a client that wasn't thrilled with their piece!!

Below are some shots of the finished piece.....


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Is the mural done yet? NO!

So I have explained this more times than I can count, so thought I'd put it in writing somewhere to refer to.... Although there is vinyl covering almost the entire back of the studio/ Aurora Fastprint, there are still more steps to complete the mural project "Aurora: Cultural Context of the Fox."

So here's what it looks like right now....

Here's notes of what else needs to be done: 


  • wrinkles in vinyl smoothed out
  • PVC poles wrapped in vinyl
  • lower door covered in vinyl
  • screening wall for dumpsters built, with matching vinyl to blend in
  • 46' x 33' skyline panel , with CNC router cut skyline floated above it, and 3D monarch 
  • 30' x 60' prairie panel with CNC router cut prairie plants silhouette floated above it
  • stainless steel water jet cut dragonfly perched on it
  • whooping cranes silhouettes cut and attached
  • "Aurora" word cut and attached

So here's what the finished piece will more closely resemble...when will it be done? I don't have an answer for that right now... 

....and an explanation of all of the imagery in it....

 Fastprint owner and Aurora Downtown president Kim Granholm has sponsored and collaborated with local Aurora Artist Cheryl Holz to create the art installation Aurora: Cultural Context of the Fox, their public contribution to the growing art scene in downtown Aurora. 

Aurora Fastprint (54 E Galena Blvd, Aurora) has provided leadership and print services to the business community for decades and is now pioneering new technology to bring art to the exteriors of downtown Aurora.

The art installation going up on the building’s Northern face illustrate the building’s function and location downtown on the banks of the Fox river.  The 2nd floor houses Aurora Artists Studios, which has provided affordable studio space to local artists since 1998. 

·       The painterly washes and splatters on the installation represent the art-making happening on the 2nd floor studios inside the building.  The rest of the imagery reference Aurora’s rich cultural, artistic, musical, literary history and the beautiful Fox river that runs through it.
·       The text running though the center is a poem called “Aurora” created specifically for this installation by Susan Schubert, a member of A-Town Politics, a local poetry group. 
·       Aurora’s rich musical history with the Blues is represented by a musical score of 12 bar blues that float through the river and appears in the upper left-hand corner as well.  An electric blue guitar represents the ongoing support of the contemporary Blues by the city. 
·       The lower right-hand corner includes a portion of the Aurora Artwalk logo, which was the predecessor to Aurora’s First Fridays, a monthly celebration of the arts.
·       The new Aurora downtown logo is slightly skewed to float across the river at sunset with the constellation “The Great Bear” in memory of Bear, Cheryl’s beloved canine companion coming to the studios since he was a puppy 13 years ago.  
·       The abundance of wildlife the river brings will be represented by their most handsome representatives:
o  Monarch butterfly perched above the Downtown skyline
o  Stainless steel blue darner dragonfly hovers above a section of prairie
o  Cedar waxwing perched on the 12 bar blues.  (I was fortunate to witness an entire flock one day from the studio window!)
o  Silhouettes of sandhill cranes break the roofline of the building
o  Softshell turtle making his way up the river
o  Orange spotted sunfish and smallmouth bass flash their colors in the river
o  Northern Leopard frog hovers near the edge of the river
o  Cormorant’s head pops up out of thee river before diving down again
o  Army of tadpoles clustering near the bottom of the river
o  Duck tracks imprinted along the shores
o  Pressed leaf specimens from the Linden trees in Rotary Park situated right outside our building float throughout the background of the mural. 
o  Silhouettes of native prairie plants float above an abstract prairie sky. They are, from left to right: prairie dropseed, white wild indigo, false boneset, missouri goldenrod, porcupine grass, Pale purple coneflower, switchgrass, big bluestem

The original scale painting, approx.. 7’ x 11’, is available for purchase for your downtown Aurora location!  Please inquire at

Cheryl Holz’s artwork and other commissions can be found at

To have a vinyl image applied to your building, vehicle or? contact

Friday, February 9, 2018

Sharing Winter Work on a Snow Day....

( I have not blogged in …..a very long while. Sometimes it felt like i was just shouting into the void. Feel free to shout back in comments if you like....)

I told myself I was going to spend the month of January in the office getting my sh*t together, organizing, purging, and catching up on ginormous piles that have a accumulated in the office. Taking photos on my exercise breaks at the forest preserve and cooking have been my creative outlets.

Even though i did get a lot accomplished, turns out I couldn’t make it a month…

The Midwest is experiencing a lovely winter storm right now- this is our view out back!

Although I’d rather be in the studio making paintings with my blowtorch, i thought a snow day was a fitting time to share my new winter works with you. it’s always fun to hunker down with my honey, my animals, and big pot of soup….

i have always had a fascination with and affection for the night sky.  in winter there is less to look at on the ground, so my gaze turns upwards. (Plus I have a thing for blues of all shades and tints...)
I have done work celebrating it in the past-  a Night Sky series came out of work commissioned by the Sisters of St. Francis, like minded women who value our environment.  “Sister Moon”, as St Francis referred to her.  I hadn’t done any night sky paintings in a while, but was kind of itching to go back. I posted this video on my business fb page a hill back -

so….with all the hype surrounding the event of a Super Blue Blood Moon, i was excited to view it- but unfortunately we did not have clear skies and wasn’t able to get  a good look.  however -  I found myself up at 4 AM the next morning (which if you know me at all – never happens willingly –) and Hershey and I headed out to try and get the best view of the eclipse. In an effort to find a view unobstructed by powerlines and buildings, i kept driving and found myself pulled to my favorite forest preserve,  which i realized after i got there-  has a high hill making a good vantage point for viewing. I really was there just to see and experience it, but then found I wanted to capture it in a visual.  I snapped away photos with my iphone- a camera not equipped to photograph the moon. However, as the sun rose, I  was delighted with the gorgeous pastels of sunrise acting as a background to the silhouettes of many trees.  this familiar forest preserve took on a new light  for me- literally.


That day I abandoned  the office and headed to the studio where I created many studies of the night sky in encaustic, incorporating my tree silhouettes here and there.  I haven’t made any night sky paintings in over a year, and was feeling the itch to do it. Although I like to make art celebrating the season I’m experiencing, my winter pieces are few and far between.
Here are some of the pieces that have come out of that. 
Many have phosphorus pigments that will have a subtle glow when the lights go out. 
None are done. 
Most will become the focal point of assemblages that incorparate limbs of trees, birch bark, torched wood and ecoprints. 
….or at least that is what i am thinking this week. 

that is always subject to change……


in the light....and the dark....

...and the snow parts!  tracks coming next....

Thursday, November 16, 2017

SORRY! This giveaway is now closed.


You can still donate to the Aurora Humane Society by visiting 


YES! I want to support homeless dogs and cats- AND hang this painting in my house! 

23" x 24" x 3" 
A butterfly from Madagascar is surrounded by falling leaves and plastered surfaces. 
won the Facebook vote to be this year's giveaway! 

Background on the Piece:  This was a commission for Sue Voss, who was a cultural force to be reckoned with in Aurora! This piece was returned to me after she passed away a couple of years ago.  I believe Sue would approve of its cause... When she came to my studio to talk about a commission, I had both dogs there- at that time Bear was a very young and exuberant pup, and his much older sister Chelsea,  who was not very happy about the whole puppy situation.  Sue ignored the puppy, and sat down and had a good long talk and petting with Chelsea, ignoring pushy Bear's pleas for attention.  I knew this lady and I were going to get along just fine.... 

You can enter online here (click on the Buy Now button below) until Wed. Nov. 29th at 10pm, or in person at open studio on Friday Dec. 1st from 5:30-8pm.  Suggested donation is $5 per entry, and no you don't have to contribute- but you don't want to be THAT person do you??

YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE PRESENT TO WIN! Each entry will be put in a box and we'll do 2 drawings at 6, 7, and 8 pm on Facebook live at the First Friday Open Studio on Dec.1st, with the final one being the painting!! If you are not present or watching on Facebook, we'll contact you afterward via the email you provided upon entry.

The first 5 names drawn will win prints, hand painted ornaments, or greeting cards. If you're present, you get to choose your ornament, print or cards- if you are long distance,  I'll choose for you, and try an accommodate any reasonable requests if inventory allows! and of course the last name drawn wins Madagascar Drift!!

Local peeps- If you are not there already, I'd appreciate you stopping by and picking it up!
Long Distance peeps-I will ship your winnings anywhere within the contiguous United Sates.

Because abandoned animals are a cause near and dear to my heart, and most dogs I know (and some cats) are better than people!   They deserve a shot at the good life!!!!! Lets give it to them. I hear all the time how people LOVE my work, but can't afford it. If I had a $1 for every time someone said that, I'd be rich and living on 10 acres with a barn and could rescue as many dogs, cats, goats, sheep, chickens as I wanted!  So throw your loose change into the "kitty", get a piece of work, and help fund our homeless dogs and cats!!!


THANK YOU!! for supporting those who don't have a voice.

Want to be there in person? I'd love to hand you your new work in person!!

Friday Dec 1st, 5:30-8 pm
Aurora Artists Studios
50 E. Galena, #201

Click here for more info on my First Friday Open Studio...

Click here for info on all the First Friday Happenings!

Click here for more info on the Aurora Humane Society and how to adopt today!

 ....and PLEASE- the next time you consider adding a furry member to your family- check out those who are up for adoption!   They are usually there because some person was irresponsible, NOT because they are defective.  Below are 9 stellar examples of alumni from Aurora Animal Control, ADOPT, and West Suburban Humane Society.