Friday, June 26, 2009

On music, painting and makeovers

It’s been a busy week!

It started with a hot, sunny weekend at Apple River Country Splash, a three-day country music festival that featured Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker and others. We enjoyed the music, a few brews, and some great people-watching! Especially cool? The tickets were free; my wife won them on K102 radio!

Then a week off work, allowing me to listen to the daytime radio programs that I seldom get to hear. As much as I enjoy country music, I am a greater fan of talk radio, with the information it offers and the dialogue it generates. I come away from it at once more educated, more indoctrinated and more frustrated. Enough said.

I put the final brush strokes on an oil painting that I will talk more about in a couple of weeks. A print of it is being given as a wedding gift.

I started a new, large oil painting that is planned to hang above our fireplace mantle. This one is of the golden autumn hills of South Dakota. With the necessary drying periods, it may take a month or two to complete. More to come on this one, too.

Two years ago, I started an acrylic painting while sitting at a campsite at Willow River State Park near Hudson, WI. (It's number three on my Unfinished 16 11. By the way, the list has been whittled down to five.) I am working on it this week, which also includes a little cleanup of the tree sap that fell on it during the initial sitting.

A photographer friend has given me permission to use her shot of a foggy Duluth harbor scene for a future painting. I’m really excited about this one, and anxious to get started!

I’ve been photographing the studio and contemplating my personal statement in preparation to enter Art Calendar's Studio Makeover Contest, sponsored by Blick Art Materials. Grand, Second and Third prizes include items to upgrade artist studio space with supplies, furniture, and services, and include more than $10,000 in prizes. It would be amazing and mega-energizing if I would win one of the prizes!

Cutting grass, reading, enjoying the pool, running errands, paying bills (yuk!) – all part of the week. But, ahhh, our hot Minnesota summer has finally arrived and I love it. What a great place to live!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Men of Few Words

Father's Day is Sunday, June 21. The following is in memory of my father, and my father-in-law, two men who have greatly influenced me.

Men of Few Words
At first they must seem
an unlikely pair,
a Swede and a Norsk you see.
One who washed dishes,
one who would not,
but both of them influenced me.

One struggled through life
in good times and bad;
eventually his collar turned white.
The other was steady,
with patience and drive,
and worked through both day and night.

They were always around
through thick and through thin,
when a friend was all that we needed.
Their support and wide smiles
helped bring us through trials,
with love and respect we were treated.

A necktie to mow lawns,
a joke worth a yawn,
a pipe that always smelled fine.
A limp in his walk,
and a fire in his talk,
are all fond memories of mine.

A farmer at heart,
who never could sing,
and lived his life with zest.
From the sea to the shore,
across highways and trails,
his toys were always the best.

A wink or a stare
or an angry cold glare
spoke volumes from the eyes of a dad.
With so little said,
we knew what they meant
when we were being good or bad.

No one is taller
than those who will rise,
when a young voice cries in the night.
And listen to fears
or troubles or cares,
with answers that always seem right.

Skills and abilities;
one many, one few.
They always did their best.
From pounding a nail
to baiting a hook,
at last it’s their turn to rest.

As years have gone by
we have learned to understand,
the words that so seldom were spoken.
We remember their best
with pride in our chest,
though now sometimes our hearts are near broken.

With favorite old chairs
and newspapers near,
they hardly got to know one another.
It’s comforting now;
their unspoken words
will always be heard by the other.

The memories we treasure
of grandpa and granddad
are those that will never depart.
Kind words and blue eyes
will always be warm
in the depths of nine young hearts.

And so we remember
while each their own kind,
with few common bonds week to week.
Their volume is sure,
their wisdom is pure,
when men of few words choose to speak.

Father's Day 1982

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Here fishy, fishy

A Minnesota version of “The Deadliest Catch” took place this past weekend, as I traveled north with friends to Lake Vermilion for the annual walleye challenge. The fishermen are challenged in many ways, while the walleye are only challenged by how best to avoid us, and insure that we’re cold, wet and frustrated.

I have fished Vermilion with my friends, Ed and Gary, for many years; you would think by now we would be experts. Well, we may know our way around the lake, but we sure can’t seem to hit the right weekend, nor find hungry fish. I remember when we first started fishing Vermilion, over 25 years ago, and arrived in the Iron Range town of Tower to visit our friend, Ol’ Johnny. That year, and every year until he moved away, he would greet us with comments like, “You shoulda been here last week, eh.” Or, he’d offer this opinion, “Weather’s bad, eh. I bet they’ll be bitin’ next week, eh.” We always seemed to miss the best fishing by a week. Eh.

In those early years, there were as many as 14 of us, in 5 or 6 boats, equipped with CB radios, plenty of gear, and as many cases of beer as we could haul out to “our island.” Camping in tents, we fished as much of the day as the sun would allow, cooked our food over fire or camp stove, and slept soundly each night lulled by rolling waves, just a few feet away. They were great trips, and to this day we still reminisce about the many adventures we had. There were sunburns and snowstorms, flipped boats and broken props, drunken sailors and constipated newcomers. We saw it all.

Slowly, over the years, many of our fishing friends dropped out. Family demands, career moves and personal priorities took their toll. Camping on the island eventually gave way to the local park campground. Then, as the group shrunk down to just the three of us, we first tried a couple of different cabins, and for the last 4-5 years have been staying at the casino hotel. Instead of parking the boat among the jagged rocks that line the island, it now gets safely tucked into a slip at the marina each night. Instead of planning meals for cooking over a fire, we now simply check the menus at the two restaurants in the hotel. If the weather is uncooperative, instead of hiding in damp tents or huddling around a fire for warmth, we now use the down time to watch a movie, try the casino, or sit in the hot tub. And, instead of determining how many cases of beer we each will need for the trip, we joke about whether the three of us can finish even one case between us!

We have had occasional good years, when weather was on our side and limits were achieved, but I would hate to have to depend on our prowess to provide a steady diet of fish. It’s almost like there is a walleye god who sees us arrive and decides to send in a cold front, or coldly laughs as he sends the word around the lake that the city boys are back – GO DEEP! It seems like the fish we do catch must be the stupid ones who don’t understand, or the teenage fish that don’t listen!

Nevertheless, we always go back. We always have a good time, and we always laugh about how we should have been there the week before. The food is good, the friendships are solid, and it just doesn’t get any better than fishing on a northern Minnesota lake.

Heading for Home, by Dennis Sterner. Pen and ink with acrylic.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lucky Stiff

Because of my propensity for winning, my dad used to call me a “lucky stiff.” I must admit; I have been quite lucky through the years.

My lucky streak may have started way back in 1967, when I won a tube of Brylcreem (A little dab’ll do ya!), and soap on a rope from KDWB Radio. I’ve won radios, a television, concert tickets and, well, read on. 

When the Minnesota State Lottery first started selling scratch tickets, my father-in-law bought some for each of us. We got to pick our own tickets from the group, and one of mine ended up a $1000 winner! (I shared with him, of course.) 

Another time, my wife and I were on a business trip, visiting a trade show, and happened upon a booth that was about to hold a drawing for $500 cash. I quickly dug one of my business cards out of my wallet and threw it into the barrel. Another person’s name was called, but when that person wasn’t present they drew another card – mine! We splurged on a steak dinner that evening and saved the rest toward a family vacation. A couple of years later, I attended the same trade show, and visited the same booth. They were again having a contest; this time the cash winners were identified by lucky numbers found on the bottom of small goldfish bowls. If you picked the right bowl, you won cash and a goldfish. Believe it or not, I won, and happily walked around the rest of the day with a goldfish in a water-filled plastic bag and a wad of bills in my pocket!

My biggest win, about 20 years ago, was an all-expense-paid trip to a trade show in Amsterdam. I was able to exchange the first class airfare for two coach tickets, and extend the trip to include some vacation time. My wife and I first spent 5-6 days in Switzerland, visiting family and friends, and then took a train on to the show in Amsterdam. The entire trip was an amazing experience!

I am pleased to announce the winner of a limited edition print of “Reaching,” from the blog comment contest: #4 - Mary Ann Wachholz.

So, lucky winner, you have three days to contact me (through Sunday), and claim your prize; contact information is on my website. If I don’t hear from you by then, I’ll draw another name and announce it in next week’s post.

Thank you everyone, for leaving comments, and for the many encouraging and complimentary emails, as well. We’ll do this again.

Now, I’m off to do a little fishing. I hope my luck holds out!