Tag Archives: technique

Trevor Hollins’ Giving Tree Mural

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Trevor Hollins decided he wanted to paint a mural in son Logan’s bedroom in their West Omaha home, he found inspiration in a favorite read from his own childhood: Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The book’s cover illustration features a young boy catching an apple being dropped by a large, leafy tree.

“I liked reading Shel Silverstein books growing up and going back, reading the story as an adult, I became aware of the deeper themes of these books—selflessness, the human condition, cherishing the earth…” Hollins says. “Everyone is both the tree and the boy at some time in their life.”

To create the mural, Hollins used a technique his mother, an artist, had used to create a mural years ago. “I remember her using a crude image projector, which was basically a box with a mirror that would project whatever image was placed into the box onto a surface,” he says. “I got to thinking, I could have a lot more control over the image if I used a digital projector, so I used a digital camera to take a picture of the cover of the book. Then, using a laptop, I was able to scale and orient the image on the wall. Once I had the image projected, it was simply a matter of tracing over the lines of the image.” No problem for Hollins, an electrical engineer with HDR who works with computer-generated images daily.

With the help of his brother, Greg, Hollins traced the outline using paintbrushes and black latex paint, then filled in the apple and the boy’s overalls with red paint to replicate the color illustration. In all, the project cost him and Greg about six hours of their weekend and less than $50 in supplies.

One lesson the Hollins brothers learned the hard way was that the right tools make all the difference. “Having the correct brush type for this project is important. My brother and I originally started the project with some old paintbrushes I already had. We realized early on we needed fine brushes to do the job right, and so we spent a good amount of time wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby searching for the perfect brushes,” he confesses.

Since the completion of the mural, Hollins and wife Alicia have decorated the rest of Logan’s room with other storybook themes: Curious George sheets now dress his bed, and an artwork purchased on Etsy creatively displays a whimsical illustration from the Dr. Seuss book And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Hollins says he hopes The Giving Tree mural will instill in his son an appreciation for Silverstein’s books. “Right now, [to Logan] it’s just a cool picture of a tree handing an apple to the little boy, as it was to me when I was his age. Hopefully, years from now, he will find the message meaningful.”

Two Perspectives

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nancy Lepo and Corey Broman are expert draftsmen. Both use the tools of their medium to create precise markings which address color, the movement of light, a sense of direction and shape, and the nuance of mystery, depth, and genesis. She carries her tools in a canvas lunch sack; his require a studio. Lepo uses traditional pen and ink on paper; Broman draws with a diamond wheel on glass.

Both artists’ work will be on view in a dual exhibition at the Nebraska Arts Council’s Fred Simon Gallery this summer. NAC staff, who determine the exhibition schedule, found the work of both applicants compelling and promising interplay.

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Broman has been blowing glass for about 15 years, following a spark lit when he was a child on vacation, “watching an old man crafting a glowing ball of molten glass.” That spark was reignited by an exhibition of Chihuly glass at Joslyn Art Museum. Finding a glass studio in the phone book, he went immediately to Crystal Forge (hotshopsartcenter.com/crystal) and knew with certainty that “that’s what I want to do.” For months he watched, took classes, and assisted. Owner Ed Fennell encouraged him. “He referred me to Hastings College,” says Broman. “He gave me hope.”

Today, Broman is a full-time glassblower with a growing online business, Corey Broman Glass. In contrast to most studios, where a master works with a team of specialized assistants, he works solo, adapting and improvising his unique system of handling glass heated to 2,000°F. Molten glass is a thick, viscous material, constantly changing temperature and plasticity. This calls for a calculated choreography of gathering, blowing, rolling, and swinging a blob of hot glass on a 7- to 10-pound rod. He also does all his own cold work—the design and finishing of cooled glass—switching the emphasis from the physicality of sculpture to the precision of surface detail.

Lepo’s attention seems always to be on a small scale, but one can find infinity in her intimate landscapes. There is the expanse of a Southwest sky, opening over the canyon to our view just as surprisingly as it did to hers. Or sensing in the density of a spinning planet the cold vacuum of the surrounding void. “Drawing,” she says, “is a means of looking at something again for the first time.” And how better to really see than to map a landscape with tiny dots of ink, to define a tree branch or the trace of wind across sand by the proximity of one dot to another?

Lepo’s unconscious apprenticeship as a pen and ink artist began with her exposure to a variety of cultures during her childhood, her curiosity, her wondering. Later, as an engineering technology student, she understood the power of a drawing to convey information. “Looking again” is her impetus to move such utilitarian drawing to a deeper level of engagement. With the simplest of equipment—sketchbook, India ink, pens (the nibs rattling around in a small tea tin), water dish, pencils, an eraser—the self-described “nature-centric” artist can create a sketch whenever her wandering says “pay attention.”20130507_bs_4431-Copy_web

Finishing, then inking the drawing in her studio, Lepo employs pointillist techniques to describe form, light, and movement in detail, using only black ink and the white of the paper. The tonal gradation she achieves via stippling, hatching and cross-hatching, and layering is extraordinary—a picture may take up to 100 hours to complete. Working in her spacious north-facing studio at Hot Shops, her attention articulates the relationship betweenherself and a particular moment and place (whether real or imaginary). Surrounding that focal point, the world expands in scale and scope: Wind and falcon’s cry become the voice of the North Rim, the persona of the Grand Canyon, the panorama of the Southwest. Lepo’s anchor is a tree silhouetted by sunset.

Broman’s studio is an efficiently organized cubicle in a busy industrial plant. In just a few steps, he can reach his three furnaces (furnace, for melting glass; glory hole, for reheating; annealer, for controlled cooling to room temperature), his workstation/bench, a cupboard of supplies, and wall of notes, sketches, and recipes. There’s also a sandblaster, which he can use to create surface effects of layered color or a frosted appearance. Glassblowing is a sequential process, and running three furnaces is expensive, so time in the studio is carefully planned.20130507_bs_4464-Copy_Web

Vista embodies several techniques. Three blown glass pieces are assembled in a custom-welded stand. The diamond wheel was used to make thousands of light-reflecting cuts in the stem, and to engrave the disc with its delicate scene. The graceful leaf was treated with an acid bath for a matte finish.

Like Lepo, Broman appreciates the outdoors. He finds peace in moments of stillness and challenge in the variability of light. Both artists use the language of art to express a unique response that, in turn, informs and enriches viewers and bids us to pay attention. Finding the affinities and distinctions between their work, we learn to see again for the first time.

Nancy Lepo, Drawings/Corey Broman, Glass will be on display at the Fred Simon Gallery, Nebraska Arts Council in the Burlington Building (1004 Farnam St.) from June 24 – July 26, 2013. For more information, visit nebraskaartscouncil.org.

Pam Mertz’s Copper-Penny Ceiling

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Pam Mertz expresses her creative side through home decorating. She enjoys watching DIY Network and HGTV, perusing home interiors magazines looking for projects, and decorating her Papillion home of 10 years. And she’s also not afraid of a design challenge.

“I definitely like tackling a project,” she says. “I’m not intimidated by them. I think I have a gift for decorating…I can walk into a room and picture how a space will look if I do this or that with some end tables or paint on the walls. But I admit I’m more of a big-picture person…not as good with the accesssories.”

When a tour through some Street of Dreams homes led Mertz to a fascination with faux finishes on the walls, she put her mind to learning how to do several painting techniques.

“A girlfriend taught me some skills…rag rolling, feathering…and I had a knack for making it look professional. I did it in my home, then I started doing it for friends.”

During some time off work (she works full-time as a UPS driver), she took a week-long class learning about plasters, glazes, and other materials and techniques for wall and ceiling treatments from local decorator Kelly King. The class was not cheap. “It was $1,500, but I figured if I could learn to do it myself, it would save money in hiring a professional,” Mertz says.

Detailing of the copper-penny ceiling.

Detailing of the copper-penny ceiling.

The first project she tackled was her dining room ceiling. It was not an easy undertaking. The process took nearly 30 hours over two weekends and involved plastering cheesecloth to the ceiling in various shapes, then pulling it off, sanding it until smooth, adding a glaze, painting it a copper-penny color, then trolling on a topcoat to fill in the cracks.

“I learned the plaster technique on a paint sample board standing up on-end,” she says, “so doing this on the ceiling, over my head, was much harder. When I was done I looked like I had cake batter all over me, and I thought I’d have permanent neck damage.”

Still, Mertz says the ordeal was well worth the effort. “It turned out beautiful. A lot of that has to do with the products I used (which she special-ordered online), but [they] make a huge difference.” She recommends the Blue Pearl metallic and pearlescent paint line.

Since then, Mertz has gone on to apply textured finishes and faux paint to walls and ceilings in many other rooms—“I used a metallic copper in my kitchen, a paint technique in the master bedroom, a suede finish in another…[The finishes] give the rooms a depth and warmth I love.”

While Mertz gets a lot of requests from friends to do their homes, she admits she doesn’t have much time. “I may take up more projects when I retire, which I hope to do in less than three years.”

She admits faux finishing is not a home project for just any do-it-yourselfer.

“If you are not a patient person or detailed person, it’s not for you,” she warns. “You have to be willing to do it just so or it won’t turn out the proper way.

“And you can do too much. There are ways to do techniques more subtly.”